In the aftermath of Hurricane María, there were many problems faced by libraries and librarians in Puerto Rico, says Myrna Lee, librarian in charge of the Magazine Room and Databases at Universidad de Puerto Rico en Bayamón. For this installment of our Librarian Perspectives series, she also talks about a project to understand her student’s reading habits and reflects about the daily routines of university librarians.


QUESTION: What is the role of libraries in your country?

ANSWER: This is a very hard question. The role of libraries in my island is to support citizens in their access to information and related services. This would help people with informed decision making. However, in every story there is always an adversity, and in our case that adversity is the lack of public libraries in the country. Even more so after the hurricanes. Puerto Rico’s life and history can be divided in two: before and after Hurricane María. Before this fateful event, we already had a problem of few libraries and the lack of a library culture in the general population.

In a high number of cases, academic libraries have taken the role of helping every citizen to procure information services. The few public libraries that existed did their part with whatever resources they had. In these moments, however, we are still in emergency mode, and trying to normalize the way in which we live. Those of us who have been able to get to achieve a certain degree of normalcy, persevere. We lend a hand to everyone, within the rights and ideals of providing access and information services.


Q: How does a typical day look for you?

A: I am in charge of the Magazine Room and the Databases of my university library. My day starts at 8:00 a.m., checking that every area of the Magazine Room is orderly and clean. I have a moderate obsession with having the space for students who visit us in optimal conditions.

I then continue drafting my to-do list, in my professional-journal-WriteItAll notebook. This list includes every task for the team, which at this moment is comprised of four students and my colleague Christian X. Rivera. He works in the evening and night shift, until 10:00 p.m. We try to complete the list before 4:30 p.m., or we leave most of the tasks well underway.

I immediately go on to read email, answer some of the messages, forward others and begin to research any queries received by that medium. While I am at this process, the task that I adore usually begins: attending research queries from students.

Just like that, lunch time begins, and I take half of that time taking the sunshine at the yard.

When my colleague arrives, by 1:30 p.m., we always have a brief meeting, where we catch up on the day, pending tasks, and rechecking what we already did.

In the evening, I usually do administrative work: work of the committees to which I belong, working on the library’s webpage, or creating workshops and didactic material for my students. I am just mentioning the main stuff, and not including meetings, visits or departures from my area as part of research or reference process.

Myrna Lee, is standing beside to shelves at her university library.Q: Does your library have a special project you want to tell us about?

A: At the moment, my colleague Mercy Delgado and I are working on research titled ¿UPR lee!: Estudio de los hábitos de lectura de los estudiantes de la UPR en Bayamón (UPR reads?!: Study of reading habits of students at UPR in  Bayamón). This study seeks to refute the generalized idea that “young people do not read”, and to know the interests of our students regarding reading preferences, their habits, and if they see the library as a space that promotes reading.

The academic community has identified that that the need for this research originates in the library, and has participated actively and voluntarily supporting us to reach the established 400 student sample. I must happily say that in two days, we have exceeded a representative sample. We are now in the phase of cleaning the data and analyzing it. We hope to finalize this research over the summer. It is comforting to know that the academic community has recognized this research as one of importance that will benefit us all.

Q: What do you think will be the role of your library in the next 10 years?

A: First, we hope to be here in 10 years. After that, one of the things that I always mention, like a mantra, is that the Library should shine within the academic community, it must be the meeting point for all people involved in the teaching and learning process within the University. Therefore, the role of the library is and should be to turn into the cornerstone of the community, leader in offering resources, services, support programs; fomenting research, creation, and development of knowledge development and culture aspects.  All this should be framed in a space of convergence for every learning styles manifest in our students.

Q: What is the greatest challenge that information professionals have for the library of the feature? (Question from Lucía Brito, librarian at UNAM).

A: I think that the task is to assume the multiple challenges that we will face shortly. We might use these examples of challenges:

  1. Assuming new roles without loosing our essence, because our profession is in a stage of transition.
  2. Defending spaces destined to libraries and defending them as an investment in knowledge and social aspects.
  3. Proving with official documents the valuable contribution our profession makes towards forming professionals that will assume important positions within our society.
  4. Developing leadership in a visible way, and changing the generalized vision of librarians as passive entities.
  5. Upholding the validity of the analogue book versus the popular belief that people prefer digital formats.
  6. Supporting the inclusion of digital formats within our collections.
  7. Educating our users, and society in general, in acquiring and using informational competencies in an effective manner, as an essential part of decision making.

Q: What would you like to ask the next person we interview?

A: To the next person you interview, if she is from an academic library, I would like her to answer the following question:

What advice can you contribute with, so that information literacy programs prove to be effective in developing critical thinking and metacognition in university graduates in general?


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