Reference Interview – Edwin Qobose, Acting Director, Library Services, University of Botswana

Edwin Qobose Photograph

Name: Edwin Qobose
Title: Acting Director, Library Services
Institution: University of Botswana (UB)

How long have you been at your current library and what do you do there?

I have been at UB for the past thirty two (32) years, starting as a junior librarian to the level of Deputy Director in 2000; and then in the current acting position, at which I provide strategic leadership for the development of library and information services to support the University’s strategic plan and core business.

Why did you decide to become a librarian?

You know this actually came by chance, because as a history major at my undergraduate degree my passion was to be an Archivist. But of course, I landed into library school and I guess this is a very ‘close cousin’ of Librarianship. But I must say I don’t regret it and I think it was a blessing in disguise in many ways, I made the right choice particularly in an academic environment, it is always challenging and there is never room for boredom unless one chooses to be. What a great profession!

Tell us a bit about reference and information services at your library

My passion for reference and information services was sparked by my training background in Canada.  Even though at the time it was still very much analogue or manual, we were taught to ‘give them (customers) what they want and not what librarians think they want.' This to me was a fundamental building stone for my delivery of reference for years to come. I actually championed the setting up of a reference desk at UB when I joined them in 1983 and found a very ‘dry’ reader services desk.

We have been operating a separate reference desk attended by professional librarians during the day and evening, and circulation desk under paraprofessionals who issue books in the main, though they do get enquiries. This model has not been that effective because librarians are still operating in that reactive mode – students don’t ask any questions, why should we be here?

What do you think is the most important issue in reference and information services right now?

Though not so new, embedded librarianship seems to be the answer; this has not been embraced here – but I believe it is important issue right now in RIS. The role of ‘embedded librarians', those who are willing to leave the comfort zone, rove around and ready to build relationships with students and academics thereby developing deep understanding of their teaching, learning and research pursuits. In this way highly customized and targeted service is provided according to  David Shumaker & Mary Talley [2009].