Christina Wilson is living a librarian’s dream – in the middle of Africa.
“I’ve stepped into a library that I’m building from scratch,” says the Western student, who arrived in Mwanza, Tanzania in May 2014.
Stationed at the Tandabui Institute of Health Sciences and Technology (TIHEST), she is setting up a school library and cataloguing materials, which include medical textbooks donated during a book drive at Western. She is also helping disperse charitable funds to the local schools in the northern part of Tanzania.
A library and information science student, Christina received a $2,000 Global Opportunities Award for her Western Heads East (WHE) internship. The funds covered her travel. (WHE is a University-wide initiative to support community health and sustainable development in east Africa.)
“Without this award, the cost of the flights alone may have hindered my ability to take advantage of such an amazing opportunity as a WHE intern, to build and outfit a library from the ground up,” says Christina.
“I’ve always been interested in global development and health information literacy, so working with WHE was an easy fit.”
The library in Mwanza is a large single room that originally housed 104 books and one 10-year-old computer. In early September 2014, 600 books and 250 journals from Western arrived to be added to the collection.
When she started her internship in May, Christina says the library was underused. Many of the 500 students from the Institute came to the library at least once a week, but she noticed only 15 regular users.
“It’s heartening to see that the school is willing to invest in the library and it has shown interest in improving, including ordering cataloguing supplies and new furniture. This work will inevitably increase the library’s use – and student learning.” Two librarians, graduates from a library certificate program in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, are assisting the project, and often look to Christina for advice because of her educational experience from Western. The whole experience has been transformative for the school – and for her.
“Time spent abroad has empowered me to set larger goals and see that great things can happen when I step out of my comfort zone,” she says. After Christina graduates in December 2014, she hopes to work in global information development or the information side of disaster and emergency management.
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