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Pickle Me This

July 17, 2011

Wild Libraries I have known: The Southern African Wildlife College Resource Centre

The Author and a LionIn what is no doubt the wildest installment in the series yet, Valli Fraser-Celin brings us The Southern African College Resource Centre (and a lion):

The idea of a “wild library” has extra meaning for me, since since I work in a library that is literally in the wild. I work at the Gold Fields Resource Centre at the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC), which is situated in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. We are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of hectares of wilderness and a large quantity of wild animals including lions, elephant and rhinos (amongst many more). The SAWC trains natural resource managers from all over Africa by developing their skills in areas such as anti-poaching, animal studies, conservation management, ecology and environmental education. The extensive range of courses allows students to return to their workplaces with a greater knowledge of how to protect the valuable parks and reserves they work in.  The Resource Centre supports their curriculum through conservation management focused materials and provides a space for students to work and study.

So, how did a Canadian librarian end up in this African wilderness?

Shelves at the Gold Fields Resource CentreWell, I’ve always loved traveling and after having traveled to Africa a couple of times, I became obsessed with returning to this beautiful continent. While completing my Master degree in Library and Information Studies at McGill University, I continually searched for ways to combine librarianship, travel and opportunities to experience different cultures. One of the ways I did this was by joining the Librarians Without Borders McGill student chapter, of which I became the President in 2009. In 2010, the first service learning trip to Guatemala was organized to help the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy develop their school library. This was my first experience with international librarianship and just as I imagined, I really enjoyed it! Although I loved volunteering in Guatemala, I desperately wanted to go back to Africa, so when a volunteer opportunity became available at the SAWC, I grabbed it.

Living in the African bush is such a special experience; I never get tired of hearing lions roaring and hyena and jackal calling at night, seeing beautiful African sunsets and starry night skies. The Resource Centre is really a pleasure to work in: we have huge windows that look out onto the bush, we can hear birds singing outside everyday and we have bush babies living in the roof. Not only is our collection full of materials about the environment and conservation but we also have novels and games for those who need down time from their intensive work schedules. We also have a movie area with beanie bags so that students can watch educational movies and a computer lab where they can work on their assignments.

Working in a “wild library” has made me want to enter the field of environment and conservation, but through establishing environmentally oriented resource centres for organizations that focus on environmental education and research. I doubt that after this experience I’ll ever be able to work and live in a big city again. Being in a place where nature surrounds you and is a part of your daily life becomes addictive and I know I’ll always be striving to work in another “wild library”.

My blog: http://whereisvalli.wordpress.com/

Blog posts can also be read at A Hopeful Sign: http://ahopefulsign.com

Librarians Without Borders: http://www.lwb-online.org/

Twitter: @vallifc

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