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Baby Steps

This post is part of a series of posts documenting my trip to Egypt. To read from the beginning, go to the first post and follow the links at the bottom of each page.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

After a week away, this week has seen a return to some sort of “normality” insofar as work is concerned. I have spent quite a bit of time “cybercommuting,” if that’s the proper term. There is a hiatus in the schedule of workshops until after the first of the year because of vacation schedules and holidays, but the selectors have been sending in a steady stream of collection development policy statements that I have had to edit and revise. That work I could do from home, and I did. Nermin Bahaa would forward the assignments to me, I would check them, make grammatical, stylistic and substantive corrections, indicate where necessary information was missing, offer suggestions for improvements and send them back to the selectors, via Nermin, for revision.

The submissions run the gamut from barely acceptable to nearly ready for publication. Some of the selectors—most in fact—got clued in during the individual sessions Nermin and I held with them and have understood the importance of writing good statements. Others seem not to have got it and need to get with the program. Fortunately, these latter are few in number; even fewer in number are those who haven’t even bothered to submit their plans. All I can do in those cases is to let their boss know they’re not doing their work.
Each statement takes from twenty to forty minutes to review, correct, comment upon and re-check.

While the English competency of the selectors is generally very good, there are the usual problems with grammar and syntax to deal with. Once those are taken care of, I try to impose a some sort of uniformity of style on the statements; that is one of the editor’s most important roles in putting together a collaborative product such as this. Do we refer to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina as the Bibliothecea Alexandrina every time we write of it, or do we use shorthand? The Library, perhaps (my choice), or the “BA” (not my favorite)? How much uniformity of structure should I try to create in the various “summary statements?” I want each one to reflect the character and aspirations of that particular discipline while at the same time holding true to the aim of the policy as a whole. Not an easy task, I’m finding.

I have also met this week with two of the people from the instructional unit who are working on special projects. One is updating the unit’s web page and wanted my input about how much and what kind of information should be included there. Essentially, the purpose of the page is to provide information about the various information literacy courses offered by the department. The current page is very text heavy and lacks visual appeal. Apparently, the people who are responsible for the overall design and appearance of the library’s web pages don’t want pictures on pages from constituent library units. I suggested to the woman working on this project that she at least lighten up the text, limit her information to important points and generally make the page more useful to potential users by standardizing the entries for each class and class level. She will go back and make some changes and then we’ll meet again.

The second project involves the creation of a brochure containing information about the instructional schedule and courses offered. This will be made available to interested library users at the reference desks. The librarian working on this, Dalia Yousri, and I worked on design and layout. Here, again, I suggested that she include an illustration on the front of the brochure that might give people an idea of what sort of activity takes place in the courses. She will go and work on this and come back in a couple of weeks.
These meetings, in addition to my twice-weekly Arabic lessons have kept me busy enough and later today I’m off to Cairo again for four days to participate in another Fulbright tour and to attend the Commission’s Holiday party at the Lohofs’ on Sunday evening. Egypt Rail is going to see a considerable drop in revenue when I leave.

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