In this edition we speak to Lina Kouzi, Manager of NCBI Library and Media Centre.
Lina Kouzi, Manager of NCBI’s Library and Media Centre says she knew she had found her calling when she began working for the organisation in 2000. She says “The minute I walked into the NCBI Library, I knew that I had embarked on a career that I was passionate about! It is a hugely rewarding job and we have a great team here.”
Career in Librarianship
Lina graduated from Strathclyde University in Glasgow with a Postgraduate Diploma in English and credits this for her decision to pursue a career in Librarianship. She completed an apprenticeship with Kent County Council working in the Public Library Sector for 1 year as a trainee Librarian. Lina says she was placed in Chatham, Rochester and Gillingham Public Libraries, places she describes as “giving me excellent training in dealing with enquiries and working within a very busy public service.” She then attended the University of Sheffield and completed an M.A. in Library and Information Studies.
It was during her studies at Sheffield, that Lina was introduced to the area of Specialist Libraries and found herself drawn to the expert knowledge that Specialist Librarians gain from working in a particular field or area.
Forward on a number of years and it is clear to see that Lina is now the ‘specialist’ in her field. As NCBI has grown over the years, Lina’s role has also grown and developed in tandem.
She recalls that when she started with NCBI, the Library had 1 part-time assistant helping with the enquiries and 5 volunteers helping with the checking- in and issuing of the 4- track cassettes and Braille books. The collection included 750 audio titles and 2,000 Braille books.
Lots of positive changes
The service has increased hugely with a collection of over 600,000 titles in accessible formats now available as well as over 4,000 clients registered with the Library Service. Lina also credits technology as having made lots of positive changes to the way the NCBI Library and Media service is being delivered.
She explains “We have a fully functioning Library system with a MARC catalogue. We also have downloadable audio books and we are working towards making our Braille files available on demand. The Library now has 8 staff (part-time and full-time) and 8 Library volunteers. We also have 12 staff from the Drumcondra Project, which is a community employment scheme, working on the production and distribution of the magazine service. Our Library and Media Centre converts standard printed materials to accessible formats, including Braille, audio, large print and digital audio. In NCBI we are passionate about equal access to information and services to all. We work with all levels of Government, public libraries, educational institutions, banks and utility companies to ensure that their services
and information can be easily accessed by people with sight loss. We can also advise on improving the accessibility of standard printed material, through the use of clear print design principles. Clear print is a design approach for written documents which makes the overall text easier to read for everyone, including people with low vision.”
The most rewarding part of my role is retrieving or producing a book in accessible format for our Library members.” Given that only 4% of all printed material is accessible to people who are blind or vision impaired, Lina reiterates NCBI’s commitment towards working to change this, ensuring that people with sight loss are afforded the same accessibility to material as the sighted community.
As with all jobs there are challenges, the biggest being the constraints imposed by finances. Lina says that this is a commonality faced by lots of charities “The most challenging is budget restraints and trying to develop a modern library service similar to other library services for people with sight loss in Europe, with little or no funding.”
However, Lina says that she and her team are not daunted by this, and are instead more determined to go on and provide the best service they can with the resources they have. She has many plans for the Library in the year and years ahead which include the digitalisation of the Library service, increase accessible book production and distribution and liaising with providers to produce accessible technical solutions.
“It’s all go and I love it, it’s a wonderfully satisfying job.”