Rough guide to Library Tours: tips for Library Science students

If you are a Library Science student, whether in the graduate or undergraduate degree, a library tour might be part of one of your subjects. In my undergrad BLIS, our tour for the Management subject was in Cebu City. I decided to take a graduate degree in Library Science, and in my first year we toured around libraries in Iloilo City and notable university libraries in Manila.

If you are in the Philippines, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) now has stricter policies regarding educational tours due to some recent accidents involving students killed during travel and during their tours.

The proposed tours for the subjects must be approved by CHED first before the school year. This is the reason we had a difficult time securing permits for our own tours (even local ones), but we still asked permission from school authorities. We took their advice and travelled on our own risk since we are in graduate school anyway.

Though, these strict policies also apply for graduate school. During our tour to Manila, the Tanay Bus Accident happened and CHED issued a moratorium suspending all tours. But since all our tickets were booked, we decided to go because the tickets would be wasted.

Though with the strict CHED policies, library tours are very important in library science education. If we study libraries, it is obvious that we must visit and learn from actual libraries and working librarians. We can learn from tours better than if we just learn through lectures and books. If we only learn from our own school library, our learning is limited.

Library tour is also a good way of benchmarking. This is where we try to see new library technologies and research if these are also applicable to our own libraries. I learned a lot from visiting libraries about the latest technology libraries use. Different libraries also have different ways of doing things and we can learn from them as well.

Library tours are important, and for Library Science students to get the most out of it, we must plan them well. Months before the proposed tour dates, you must have already planned almost every aspect of your tour. Your classmates or tour group should have planned about plane tickets, travel, hotel bookings, and other practical things. Permission from your school approving the tour and also approval from the libraries you will be visiting should be secured beforehand. You can't predict problems you will encounter in these important communications.

Here are some tips to help you minimize problems as much as possible. They might sound obvious, but often we procrastinate on them and they might turn to problems later on. Often, these tiny conflicts escalate to disagreements among your classmates. This is based on the problems I've seen that pop up during tours.

- Prepare a general budget. Assign people or committees for the travel arrangements, communications, food, and some tokens for the librarians thanking them for their time and effort in touring you in their libraries.

- Prepare a general itinerary, and it must be flexible for unexpected delays or cancellations.

- This is from my own experience: promo flights may be tempting, but I suggest that if you can afford a daylight flight, do so. Our last tour in Manila was hell for my anxiety, our flight was midnight and due to lack of sleep I couldn't concentrate on the places we were going to! I found it a waste, because no matter how hard I try, I need actual sleep and rest. Trying to stay up for more than 12 hours straight and unable to rest in planes and vans - I almost lashed out and I felt very weak by the end of next day. Library tours should be fun and not become health hazards. This is a lesson, if you have your own preferences that's better for your being, you could have your own arrangement separate from the group. Make the tour a good experience as much as possible for yourself.

- Familiarize yourself with the policies of your school or university regarding educational tours. Securing permissions can take time and often have many requirements (waivers, approval signatures from the teacher, coordinator, dean, vice presidents, and maybe even the principal or president). If your administration says no and there is a good reason they are not allowing it, then maybe its better to follow than risk it. The school is trying to avoid liabilities if there will be unforeseen accidents.

- Don't forget securing permissions from the schools or libraries you will be visiting. Try to get their contact details from other librarians or through their websites. Different schools also have various policies and lines of communication. As for me, I arranged most of our Manila tour through e-mail and the librarians have been very helpful.

- Since most of us didn't have enough budget for the library tour, we solicited a few donations. You may be uncomfortable with this, but it can be a great help as long as there are no questionable deals going on.

This is quite a long list of reminders, but first we must also follow the policies set by the school and governing authorities like CHED and DepEd. We must make these educational tours as safe and fun as we can. They are great educational experiences if we prepare for them well.

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