Madam Fawziah Abdul Rahaman has worked in libraries for the greater part of her career, but dusty books and rusty shelves don’t dominate her working hours.

Rather, a good part of her time is spent on guiding library users to hunt down crucial information and providing quality customer service.

Madam Fawziah, 50, is a library manager at the PSB Academy and has been with the institution for 25 years. Her greatest achievement to date is having started the library from scratch.

In 2007, she took up her current post to set up and manage the libraries in the Delta and Henderson campuses. In the process, she sourced for and implemented the right library management system and built up the library’s collection.

Within five months, the library had become fully operational, complete with book loan and reservation facilities, computers with internet access, printing and photocopying services, quiet spaces for self-study and rooms for group discussion.

Keeping students in check

Today, her main responsibility is to ensure that the students — aged between 16 and 40 — enjoy a fully functional resource library in a conducive learning environment. She also maintains and updates a comprehensive collection of books and academic resources and keeps students and staff informed of the newest additions.

On a typical day, she ensures that the spaces for leisure reading, self-study and group discussions are neat and that equipment such as computers, printers and photocopiers are working. She also catalogues dissertations and final-year reports.

She also researches new initiatives introduced in other libraries and participates in talks and workshops organised by the Library Association of Singapore.

“While a public library caters to a wide range of ages and interests, the profile of library users in an educational institution is vastly narrower. Our library focuses on serving students with resources that are most relevant to the courses we run, namely, business and information technology, engineering, and life, sports and physical sciences,” she explains.

Hence, she is busier just before the new academic programmes begin in March, April, July and August. These are times when all library staff are roped in to ensure that the course textbooks for PSB Academy’s over 70 diploma and degree programmes are catalogued, processed and made available on the shelves before the new terms start.

Hyperactive and recalcitrant students, however, prove to be the bigger challenge.

She says: “My staff and I struggle the most with controlling noise levels and prohibiting food consumption in the library. I understand that students can be boisterous at times and some need to snack often to keep their energy levels up, but these behaviours pose a nuisance to most library users.”

Madam Fawziah, who has three children aged 24, 22 and 19, says. “I am stern in this respect. Students get only two warnings and if they persist, they are asked to leave the library.”

A perfect fit

Beneath her disciplinarian demeanour lies a strong desire to help students succeed in their academic pursuits.

She finds that many students are unfamiliar with the e-book resources.

In particular, she remembers a student who had trouble finding some journal articles. As the library did not have them, she guided him in checking the National Library’s eResources where he eventually got hold of what he needed.

“With this new discovery, he would be able to search for other items on his own the next time. It gives me a sense of satisfaction knowing that by teaching students how to find information, I am actually helping them to embark on a self-guided learning journey.”

Her commitment to help students is fuelled by what she describes as an ideal job fit.

“Librarians are often portrayed as bookish introverts but this is far from true. One actually needs a lot of people skills in this job. Being a people-person, I enjoy interacting with them and strive to go the extra mile in assisting those who need help. Thus, this job suits me perfectly,” she adds.