There are 2 librarians assigned to working in the library. One of them, Rothavy, is the winner of today’s Awesome Person Award.
Rothavy is a middle-aged married Khmer woman with a young daughter. She is both a teacher and the school librarian. She was the librarian before I even came here. Her responsibilities included organizing and lending out the national textbooks at the beginning of the school year, and then collecting them at the end. Now that we have a real library, she was also given the responsibility of helping to run it. In addition to her teaching hours, she is scheduled to run the library for 5 hours every week.
Rothavy is an Awesome Person because she does her job, she does it really well, and she even does MORE than what she is supposed to. She is never late, and the only time she is absent is if she is really ill, or if the school director makes her do something else. I can count on her going to the library when she is supposed to every day.
There are so many responsibilities the librarian has to do- sign students in and out, return books to the bookshelves, sweep, stack chairs, distribute library cards, keep an accurate inventory, log borrowed and returned books, fine students for late and lost books, keep students quiet and following rules, and keep an eye out that students aren’t sticking books up their shirts and trying to get out the door with them. Well, she does it all and never complains once.
Maybe it doesn’t sound that impressive. After all she’s just doing her job. Well, here in Cambodia, I know very few people who actually do their jobs like they’re supposed to. Practically all of them- except farmers and maybe shopkeepers- would be fired within their first week if they were living in America. Anyway, what’s more impressive is when I catch her adding to her responsibilities.
Students are often rough with the books, and the light paperbacks can’t really handle that kind of treatment. Rathavy has taken it upon herself to tape the covers of all the weak books so that they last longer in the library. That was all her brilliant idea.
Rathavy very often does more than her 5 hours in the library. If she has free time, she will come to the library if the other librarian does not show up. Also, she keeps the library open late a lot. She sees that students are engulfed in their books, and at least once a week, she keeps the library open an extra hour to let the students keep reading. She will even open the library extra hours if she notices a class or two where the teacher did not show up.
When things are slow in the library, she takes that time to pull out the log books and a ruler and label the sections on the upcoming pages. The other librarian never does that.
Once she convinced the school director to give me almost $40 to buy more books for the library because there wasn’t enough Khmer books. THAT was impressive.
She is a hard worker, and also very smart. She just learned all these library skills a few months ago, and now she’s a pro. She can even shelf the English Fiction books, even though she doesn’t speak a word of the language.
In Cambodia, the most commonly given reason for not doing your job is “I’m busy.” Rothavy is no less busy than other people. She has 2 jobs, a young daughter about 5 years old, a husband to care and cook for, and a house to clean. Sometimes she even brings her daughter to school with her. She is a wonderful role model to the students, and I hope they see that.
I also really like Rothavy because she is my friend. We hang out in the library together a lot. We talk about our problems and our successes, and she is very patient with my Khmer. I can tell we’re really good friends because she sometimes pets me or touches my butt. I dig it.
This library is very much like my baby here at site. It took me a whole year of hard work and a lot of headaches to put it together. It’s scary for it to be open without me there supervising. What’s even scarier is me leaving this home forever in just a few months. But I’m much relieved knowing that Rothavy is in charge. If anyone can keep this library going after I’m gone, it’s her.
Unrelated photos from Khmer New Year last April with my training host family:
me and mommy
Jimmy (16) pretending to eat a fish head, Bunyavon (22) making a face, Titi, (14) making a better face
Titi and Diana