Posted on November 18, 2011.
by Muhammad Shahid Soroya, PAM International Membership Award Winner 2007
A few years back, I often wondered why organizations give awards to people and sometimes spend reasonable amounts on travelling grants as well. I could understand the efforts behind such activities, especially when the team of volunteers are people working behind the scenes. What is the overall advantage of these awards and scholarships? How does a specific community or public at large benefit from it? Spending time and money to recognize one’s efforts also raises these questions within the minds of other people.
I could easily remember the day when I received an email from Nisa Bakkalbasi regarding the announcement of the PAM International Membership Award for 2007. While sending my nomination, in my mind, I had a very few chances of winning such an award. But I did! The level of my happiness can never be expressed in words as I was getting a chance to visit abroad for the first time, to the USA. Everybody understands that this award is given to a person who is from a developing country and contributes something extraordinary in the areas of Physics, Astronomy or Mathematics. Most working professionals in developing countries are unable to get a chance to travel to the USA on their own because of high expenditures and visa issues, so this opportunity to get a membership in SLA and also a travelling grant definitely fulfills the dream of any person.
The first impression that I got from the PAM family was really unexpected and very positive, when Nisa personally called me. She was very conscious about my Visa from the US Embassy and asked if I required any help in this regard. She remained in touch with me till the finalization of my Visa process. It was quite difficult to leave my son and family even for a very short period. But I must share with everyone that the PAM family provided me hospitality more than I expected. Care, Love and Affection given by the people of PAM Division is an asset for me. I am personally thankful to Nisa, Joe Kraus, Ruth Kneale and all other members of the PAM family who gave their time, shared their experiences and guided me in many ways.
My first professional experience was my presentation, which I tried to prepare at my level best, but I was little confused and again Nisa said, “Don’t worry” and it made me more relaxed. It was a quite satisfactory moment for me after completing my first international presentation. The participants shared their remarks and also pointed out a few areas for improvement.
Many people get such awards, travelling grants, medals and scholarships but very few get true benefit from such recognitions (from my point of view). I had detailed discussions on PAM and SLA structures, its funding and its activities. What I learnt from all these communications was that most important is your determination to do something, and finances never matter. During the stay of one week, the second thing which I observed from the people of United States of America that they are loyal to their country and committed to their nationhood. Individual efforts could be far better when transformed by an organization with clear vision and goals. I came back to my homeland with a decision that I would start my struggle for the betterment of my profession and professionals.
It is important to share with the readers that in Pakistan the Library profession is unfortunately neglected and libraries have never been important for the governments, which has resulted in different services structure in different organizations with different salary packages. The job market is saturated, and exploitation by the private institutions in terms of salary packages is there to disturb and frustrate the young professionals. At the same time the only national body for library professionals, the Pakistan Library Association (PLA), remained dead for a long period, and elections were held in 2007 after a gap of around 10 years.
We had an online discussion group named Librarian Welfare Group for general communication which provided a platform to discuss and share the issues regarding PLA and played a very important role in the revival of PLA. I succeeded in gathering a few young sincere persons together and founded the Pakistan Librarians Welfare Organization (PLWO), taking the responsibility of President of said organization. The basic purpose was to help the professionals in many ways like indicating job opportunities, information sharing, continuing education etc.
Meanwhile the PLA announced elections and my nomination was sent in for Treasurer PLA, Punjab Branch. I succeeded in winning the position with maximum votes cast in the election. Immediately after taking oath I was given the assignment to Chair the Image Building & Public Relations Committee and also joined the editorial board of PLA Punjab Newsletter. The next task was the re-organizing and updating of PLA Punjab website (www.plapunjab.org). During the following two-year tenure I tried to deliver in given areas of the organization by organizing five Talk Shows at Pakistan Television, press conferences, contributed in Newsletter and tried to enhance the membership of PLA. The tenure was completed in April, 2011.
In the next phase, Pakistan Librarians Welfare Trust was established, with PLWO as functional part and we succeeded in forming a team of dedicated persons for PLWO and started our website (www.plworg.com). The first big event organized by PLWO was World Book & Copy Right Day on 23rd April, 2010 in collaboration with US-Consulate, Lahore, Pakistan. We also involved the media (Electronic & Print) and libraries by sending emails/letters to highlight the importance of the day.
In 2011, PLWO focused on continuing education and organized more than 10 workshops and seminars for training of librarians. For the first time, scholarships and Travelling grants for the participants/students were announced. Again April 23, 2011 was celebrated as World Book & Copy Right Day all over Pakistan, and PLWO organized a national seminar in collaboration with Allama Iqbal Open University. Media also highlighted the importance of the day through news and columns/essays. The Prime Minister of Pakistan announced 22nd April National Book Day.
PLWO has started its annual Research Journal titled ”Pakistan Journal of Information Science” with international members on the editorial board including Zari Kamarei from the PAM team. The first issue is expected in January, 2012. A Quarterly Newsletter is also going to start in December, 2011. Membership in different categories has also been offered and people are getting onboard with enthusiasm. A new website (www.librarianswelfare.org) is under process, and a Face book group is there for people using social networking websites.
Although I am leading the PLWO team, everybody is contributing according to his/her capacity, and I have ensured those results and acknowledgement of their volunteer work. Many times I have heard the words “international exposure” but I really learnt from that opportunity given to me in the shape of the PAM International Membership Award and I dedicate all these outcomes, all these successes and standing to my PAM family, who gave me confidence to take such initiatives.