University of Balamand Libraries, Al-Kurah, Lebanon
OACIS Intern, July 2005
The third and last OACIS intern for the year 2005 is Randa Al-Chidiac, Information Technology Librarian at the University of Balamand Libraries in Al-Kurah, Lebanon. Randa spent the month of July at Sterling Memorial Library assisting the OACIS team in building a list of electronic journals available in the Middle East, conducting a survey of Middle Eastern libraries on the barriers to joining OACIS, and adding the records of the Balamand University Libraries to the OACIS database. In between tasks, she graciously found the time to tell us about her background and work experience at Yale.
I am Lebanese, which means I have Phoenician blood in my veins. This ancestral link with a people of sailors and traders can be seen in the way I have lived so far: I was born and raised in Nigeria (Ibadan and Lagos), went to boarding school in England, college in Lebanon (B.A in English Literature and Teaching Diploma from the University of Balamand), and graduate school in Wales (my Masters of Information and Library Studies is from the University of Wales in Aberystwyth).
Then back to Lebanon, where I have been working at the University of Balamand since 1994. But even there I moved around quite bit, in true Phoenician style, exploring various professional paths and holding at least three different positions: that of instructor of English as a second language, followed by a couple of years as Assistant Director in the Office of Development and Public Relations, and, since 2000, as Electronic Resources Librarian. At the University of Balamand I am known as the joker in a deck of cards: wherever you put me I come up standing.
I am a very active person and cannot sit still for long; that is why I have a lot of activities at the same time: currently I serve as Secretary of the University of Balamand Alumni Association and member of the Khalil Gibran National Committee, while in 2000 to 2003 I was Deputy Chair of the Association of Teachers of English in Lebanon.
But it is not always so hectic. I do enjoy quiet moments when I can read classics and detective stories while listening to my favorite music: Lebanese oldies such as the legendary Fairuz, jazz (both western and oriental), and classical composers, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov in particular.
My favorite pastime is swimming, especially when the “sun is shining high above,” which is not exactly New Haven. I also love traveling and visiting new places, meeting people, experiencing their culture, trying different cuisines, and just having a good time.
For OACIS, I worked on a survey of Near Eastern libraries and their periodicals and serials collection. We needed to know who had Internet connection and how far and deep they had gone in cataloging their collections. The first step was to actually draft a questionnaire; then I had to contact librarians by phone, to capture their interest and ensure their participation. It was a fascinating experience; challenging too, as my contacts spoke a variety of Arabic dialects. Another task was to identify electronic Arabic journals, magazines, and newspapers available via the Internet, whether free or fee-based, in order to include them in the OACIS database.
I was also given the opportunity to meet a large number of Yale Librarians. I will be taking back a lot of new ideas and some wonderful experiences, and I hope new friends too. I have extended so many invitations to Lebanon, that I hope somebody, someday will come, because I like showing off my country to visitors.