April 26, 2002 - The Chornicle: Fulbright brings Libya RPCV David Gerhan 'full circle' to teach in Botswana

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Libya: Peace Corps Libya : The Peace Corps in Libya: April 26, 2002 - The Chornicle: Fulbright brings Libya RPCV David Gerhan 'full circle' to teach in Botswana

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, July 13, 2003 - 11:13 am: Edit Post

Fulbright brings Libya RPCV David Gerhan 'full circle' to teach in Botswana

Fulbright brings Libya RPCV David Gerhan 'full circle' to teach in Botswana

Fulbright brings David Gerhan 'full circle' to teach in Botswana

David Gerhan

A mentor of David Gerhan once told him that everything a reference librarian learns will benefit a student some day.

That advice, from Professor Emerita W. Loretta Walker, Gerhan's predecessor as head of public services at Schaffer Library, has proven beneficial to Gerhan himself as the reference librarian prepares to spend his sabbatical next year as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Botswana in southern Africa.

For Gerhan, his experience in the Peace Corps in Libya some 34 years ago was instrumental in developing a proposal to return to Africa as a Fulbright.

"It feels like I've come full circle," he says, reflecting on his tour in the north African country where he taught English to schoolchildren. His Peace Corps assignment was cut short by the revolution that brought Mohammar Qadaffi to power, but the experience developed his sense for what it means to be an American trying to contribute in a foreign culture, Gerhan says.

This time, Gerhan returns to Africa to teach a new generation of students about reference services and library administration at one of the premiere library training programs on the continent. Gerhan refers to the university's library as "proto-online:" users have access to major on-line libraries and selected databases, but evidently fewer books and databases than what most major research universities in the West offer.

The challenge for the University of Botswana is not unlike that facing Schaffer Library: to enhance its access with limited resources. "It takes money to be online," Gerhan said. "The hardware and some of the subscription resources are expensive while other electronic documents are free."

The outlook has improved recently for libraries like the one at the University of Botswana, Gerhan notes. Because major library catalogs are mostly publicly accessible and free-of-charge, they can be exploited for subject bibliography. "If you're in the Harvard catalog, " he says. "You're going to get a fairly comprehensive look at the literature."

"I'm interested in the role that electronic technology plays in libraries internationally and how it will level the playing field," Gerhan says.

The University of Botswana, in the capital of Gaborone east of the massive Kalahari Desert on the border with South Africa, has about 8,200 students in graduate and undergraduate programs. Botswana, a former British protectorate about the size of Texas, has a population of 1.5 million. The standard of living is somewhat higher than other African nations, thanks to the discovery of diamonds in the 1960s. The climate is mostly arid. Religion is a mix of indigenous traditional faiths and Christianity. Setswana is the native language; English, the official language, is spoken at the university.

Gerhan says he expects to learn things in Botswana that will help him in his role as head of reference services in Schaffer Library. "I've always felt that anything a reference librarian learns will help a student sometime, somewhere," Gerhan says, recalling his mentor's advice. "I cannot predict, but there will be a time when the experience will prove helpful in my work with some student here at Union."

"That's the benefit for me and Union," he says. "But more than anything, I aim to train new librarians in a changing world. For all I've been given, I want to pay something back."

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Story Source: The Chornicle

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Libya; COS - Botswana; Fulbright; Library Science



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