Kate Davis is the 2017 recipient of the Gordon M. Conable Conference Scholarship. The Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) annually awards the scholarship to a library school graduate student or new library professional, and the scholarship financially supports the recipient’s American Library Association (ALA) conference attendance. I met Kate in Chicago during the 2017 ALA Annual Conference when I served as her FTRF mentor. Learning that she was soon to become an international school librarian in Nigeria, I asked to interview her after the school year began. Kate’s answers appear in blue.
HA: Tell me about your previous experience as an international school educator.
Kate: I began working abroad in 2008, when I taught English in South Korea for two years. Next I earned my Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) in Vietnam. After that, I taught in the United Arab Emirates for over 2 years, before returning to the US to earn my MLIS from the University of Denver. Now I am working in Abuja, Nigeria.
HA: Introduce your school, student population, and the area in which you are located.
Kate: I work at the American International School of Abuja. AISA is a K-12 day school with about 450 students located in the Durumi district of Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria. Most of the students are from wealthy families by Nigerian standards. Many students are children of diplomatic families, mostly American but also from other countries. There are approximately 40 countries represented in our school. When I arrived, the school was expanding the library.
I support students in all grades K-12. I teach library classes to the K-5 classes, so I am embedded into their schedules. I also teach one-off sessions for the secondary (6-12) classes on topics like using sources or creating an annotated bibliography. I have to make arrangements to speak to the secondary classes, but many teachers have taken me up on my offers to work with them. I have also started offering “Secondary Story Time” for secondary students so that I can have some fun with them, too.
HA: What types of resources does your library offer?
Kate: The current focus of the library is on the print collection. Most of our books are in English, but there are some that are French, Spanish, and Chinese. We also offer access to a few hundred ebooks. In addition to books, students can also check out iPads, a green screen, cameras, and other tech items through the library.
HA: Do you have a library resources selection policy approved by the school’s governing body?
Kate: We have a Collection Development Procedures (CDP) manual that was created by a former librarian and the Library Committee. The CDP manual adheres to US professional library principles of intellectual freedom, access, and diversity of collection. It also includes the ALA Library Bill of Rights and a statement on libraries and intellectual freedom that aligns with the International Federation of Library Associations’ (IFLA) principles.
HA: What services do you provide? Is there easy access to all types of resources on a variety of topics with diversity of viewpoints?
Kate: The library provides lending of materials; access to reference materials inside the library; a computer lab; access to online resources (e-books, e-magazines, etc.); photocopier, printer, and color printer/scanner; tables and carrels for work or study; comfortable sitting area; and a venue for special events. Unfortunately, I cannot say that there is easy access to all types of resources due to the limitations of our location. For example, internet access is not consistent, so our online resources are sometimes unavailable.
Because it is not easy to receive shipments of new books, our collection is not as up-to-date as it should be. I have to order books in November of this year for the next school year. This means that whenever we get our “new” shipment of books, they are already almost a year old. While we do offer some ebooks, students seem to prefer physical books.
HA: Describe the library’s technology and its use by students.
Kate: We have 8 iMac computers for student and public (parent) use in the library, as well as access to about 24 iPads. Most students have their own MacBook (or iPads for the elementary students), so the technology is mostly used by parents or young (Early Childhood Education) children after school. Sometimes students will check out the iPads, camera, and green screen if they are working on a project, but that hasn’t happened often yet.
HA: As a new school librarian, are you able to adhere to and apply the core values of the profession to situations in the library?
Kate: I would say that in general, yes I am. The culture here is more conservative than my experiences in the US, so I have heard about some issues with intellectual freedom (although I do not have any firsthand experiences to share). Parents may be upset about books that they find inappropriate are available to their students. The library staff try to circumvent this by labeling books that have mature content with an “M” and asking parents to fill out a form that gives students permission to check out those items.
HA: What else would you like KQ blog readers to know about your school, students, and early experiences as a school librarian in Nigeria?
Kate: I would like to encourage other educators to explore working abroad. I find it to be the best way to learn about new cultures and see parts of the world that the US media might present in a somewhat unflattering light. I had several people beg me to stay in the US when I moved to Nigeria—they were scared for me. While moving here certainly brings a culture shock, I am so grateful to see the warmth and beauty of Nigeria firsthand. It is an even safer and friendlier place than I was expecting.
Learn more about Kate, her first week on the job, and the world of international schools in a recent article she wrote for SLJ.
Davis, Kate. Email message to author, September 27, 2017 and October 1, 2017.
Images provided by Kate Davis, used with permission.
Author: Helen Adams
A former school librarian in Wisconsin, Helen Adams is an online instructor for Antioch University-Seattle in the areas of intellectual freedom, privacy, and copyright. A member of the AASL Knowledge Quest Advisory Board, the ALA Nominating Committee, chair of the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, and a KQ blogger, she is the author of Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library (Libraries Unlimited, 2013). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.