From a Language Teacher to a Library Support Staff: the Wikimedia Effect

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As a Wikimedian, I understand the importance and impact of volunteerism. I know that the output of voluntarism is incredibly impressive and manifests in different aspects of societal life including community engagements to address social issues, the needs of marginalized people etc. Voluntarism also provides numerous opportunities for personal growth and development and could have a global impact like the Wikimedia Foundation. I am a language teacher and the head of studies Igbo Language and Culture at the Federal Government Boys College Abuja (FGBC), Nigeria. I championed the introduction of Wikipedia in several secondary schools and other educational institutions in Nigeria through different programs and projects. 

However, my capacity to volunteer was further tested when my school FGBC needed to establish and expand the library. New hands were needed. The school does not have enough trained librarians. The school asked for teachers who would wish to support in the library in addition to doing their assigned schedule of work. Again I volunteered. A short training was provided with the theme “Organization of School Library in the Digital Age: Strategies and Technologies”.

Making the transition from a language teacher to a librarian came with challenges but was interesting. Things like cataloging, information retrieval, accessioning, classification, Numbering, documentation, acquisition, and shelving. referencing and circulation were some of the new skills I acquired and had to apply on a day-to-day basis.  The transition was not just about acquiring new skills; it was a journey of self-discovery, personal growth, and transformation. It also enables me to connect with different students not just those in my classroom but helping them to seek and access relevant information including open educational resources..

One of the skills that helped me in my new role as a librarian is digital and information literacy skills and experiences I acquired because of the Wikimedia Foundation – having participated in several trainings and organized several projects. Wikimedians are well-trained and well-versed in digital curation, metadata management, a strong commitment to open access, online research tools, and, the principles of free knowledge. all of which are increasingly important in modern librarianship. My linguistic background and Wikimedia mentorship provided a unique perspective that enriched my approach to librarianship. Just as language is a tool for effective communication, so too is the library a gateway to open knowledge and connection. 

One of the first tasks we handled was organizing the library. The principal had earlier solicited for books to equip the library from the Federal Ministry of Education,  The ministry obliged and gave the school over 30,000 curriculum-related books. Since I volunteered to help set up the library, I and one of the selected teachers, sourced funds and renovated the library under the project I initiated called the “He Bay Friendly Space”, so the Library will be very friendly for students to make use of. I also designed a time classification of the subjects in the Library for easy access to the students.

After shelving over 7,033  books, we observed that the books were still many. With the permission of the school principal who suggested that the books be donated. We reached out to a group of schools, and teachers some of whom had earlier participated in the Reading Wikipedia in the classroom program. Over  11,000 books were donated to different schools. 

In appreciation, I was given a Letter of recommendation by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Education and an Award of gratitude by The School Alumni Association.

I am looking forward to enjoying my new role as a Library support staff.

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