June 20, 2018

Going International!

An experienced expat librarian shares what to know about working overseas, how to go, and why you should do it!

Do you have a yen to see the world? Help people? Experience other cultures? Perhaps your career needs a recharge? Would you like to feel you are making a difference? Do you believe that libraries are key cultural institutions, as necessary as food and health care? When you read this, is your heart rate picking up? Are you ignoring your coffee and cheese danish? (Well, that might be too much to ask….)

These are all excellent reasons to consider going international: for a short-term volunteer stint, an exchange, a two-year contract, or a lifetime career. The opportunities are there and growing. While exact numbers are not available, according to the American Library Association (ALA) member list, there are currently 497 American librarians employed outside of the United States. Unfortunately, there are no concrete numbers regarding which types of libraries they are employed in, but there always are positions listed on the academic recruiting web sites, and at least 85 school librarians are recruited annually through agencies.

Yes, but how? In this era of knowledge at our fingertips, information about international librarianship should be easy to locate. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Most of what can be found is in the form of academic papers from organizations that support international cooperation and librarianship. Though interesting to read, it is not practical information, e.g., current opportunities, employee reviews, or advice on how to obtain a position.

As an international librarian with 11 years’ experience in six different countries, I have spent considerable time researching and living the expatriate life (expat for short) as well as answering questions from others who would like to try it.

However, before I launch into how, I believe it’s important to briefly discuss why.

A good reason to leave home

Success overseas depends on many factors, some of which lie outside of your control. If there is a common denominator for those who have positive experiences, it is that they began their journey knowing what their goal was when they left home (to help others, make money, see the world). This knowledge will sustain you through those inevitable difficult days when all you want to do is speak English and eat a cheeseburger.

When pondering reasons, I like to remember the definition from Peter Johan Lor, former Secretary General of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA): “The practice of international librarianship involves a mixture of good intentions, ignorance, and self-interest.” Thus, task one in the road to international librarianship is to list your good intentions, admit your ignorance, and declare your self-interests.

As I sift through all the stories I could tell you from my overseas school and college library days in Brazil, Saudi Arabia, England, Oman, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the United Arab Emirates, there is one that stands out. When I was a librarian at a school in Oman, we had many Nigerian students, mostly owing to oil companies relocating their key personnel because of the deteriorating political situation in Nigeria. One day, my Omani assistant came to me complaining about a new Nigerian teenager who daily checked out the limit of five books. She always returned them the next day.

When I sat down to speak with the student, she told me that there had been only one library in her home city. She had rarely been able to visit because it was across the city where it wasn’t safe to travel without an escort, and one day she arrived to find that it, too, had been closed. Her answer to my question about why she checked out so many books was simply, “Because I can.”

That is the reason why you need to go.

What’s out there

The majority of international opportunities available fall into the category of traditional long-term contracts (two to three years) or short-term volunteer commitments. The need for school media specialists has in the past offered the widest range of available positions, in both numbers and geography. However, in recent years the need for academic librarians has risen sharply.

Please note that if you wish to obtain a paid international contract, an MLS/MLIS degree is a must. This requirement is directly related to the need for your sponsor to obtain a work visa for you. In order to do that, the institution must prove to the local government that the position cannot be filled by a native. A degree immediately and easily solves the problem. (Do not despair if you lack a master’s degree in library science. There is still a need for those who have experience in libraries. Please read the volunteer opportunities section.)

A word of advice: I recommend looking at all the opportunities listed here even if your experience and training are only in one area. Owing to the rising number of opportunities, it is possible to switch. For example, if you are a public librarian, where there are few international posts, you might want to consider taking some education classes and becoming a certified school media specialist. It might not be your long-term career goal, but it could be a ticket to spending two years in Ulanbataar, Mongolia, riding yaks, something you have always dreamed of doing. The same is true for other categories as well. I was able to switch from school to college librarian, for example, a feat made easier by my previous international experience.

In any case, an open mind as to what you will end up doing overseas is necessary. For my last contract, I was hired to do technical services and manage a small niche library. I arrived to find out that my job had completely changed. I was supposed to open a new college library and guess what? It was for a medical school! You can imagine the learning curve.

School media specialists

School librarians are hired by international schools. These schools are normally U.S.-accredited and offer an American curriculum although many are switching to the acclaimed International Baccalaureate program. Faculty for these schools are normally chosen through agencies that vet both schools and candidates. These agencies charge fees to both parties and require that you attend a job hiring fair in late winter/early spring of each year (to begin the following school year).

Walking into a hotel filled to the brim with 750 or more educators, many of whom have flown in from the far corners of the earth, can be a daunting experience. Being prepared is the key to success. The good news is that librarians are in short supply. This was always the case when I attended the fairs, and Cheryl Baldwin of ISS (one of the largest and best-known agencies) recently verified this by stating, “there is definitely a need for librarians.”

That is a large green flag waving in your face saying GO! If you’re intrigued enough to wish to find out more about how to choose an agency, which fair to attend, and more, please read “Strangers in Paradise” (School Library Journal) [http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA83673.html], an article that specifically addresses how to become an international school librarian.

College/ academic

International opportunities used to pop up occasionally in places like The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Libraries. The advertisements would normally be three or four paragraphs long and require the “successful candidate” to speak Swahili, Mandarin Chinese, and Inuit; have a Ph.D. in Anthropological Outhouse Literature in addition to an MLIS; and a minimum of 85 years’ experience. Fortunately (for me anyway), there now exist some more mundane opportunities where mere mortals can apply and hope to get the job.

The sharp rise in the number of positions is directly connected to the exporting of American education. This trend was already in place in the 1990s with more and more American universities opening campuses overseas. Then came 9/11 and the increased difficulty of foreign students being able to obtain visas for study in America. The obvious result was that many universities leapt to export their programs and thus not lose potential students.

There are a number of sites that list international academic opportunities, but the two best known are the traditional Chronicle of Higher Education and the newer HigherEdJobs.com. Five years ago, I would have said that the Chronicle lists, shall we say, the more Ivy league opportunities. But in the time I have been monitoring Higher EdJobs.com I have seen better and better jobs -offered there. (And it is how my husband and I ended up in the Marshall Islands.)

The hiring for college faculty does attempt to follow the time line for the U.S. hiring process, with more jobs listed in the winter and early spring. However, speaking from personal experience as well as feedback from other colleagues, it should be noted that faculty are hired year-round, and it is often an incredibly slow, drawn-out process. I can not count the number of times I have heard the line, “I applied for the position and then, when five months passed and I had forgotten all about it (or given up), they called wanting to interview me!”

Interviews are normally conducted via video. This is an interesting experience in itself. Wear plain clothing, and speak slowly as there is often a delay with international connections. The advantages are that you will be sitting at a table, which means you only have to worry about dressing your top half (shoes off!) and you can spread your notes out on the table where they won’t be in view of the camera. You can also take advantage of the time delay to draw in a deep breath before having to answer questions asked by a panel of librarians that might consist of Americans, Canadians, Australians, Brits, Europeans, South Africans, or Indians, among others.

Contracts for college librarians is commensurate in pay to the United States and are generally for two to three years, and spouses are not normally required to be part of the team. Depending on your spouse, this can either be a positive or a negative. If your loved one wants to have a break and enjoy a new experience, great! However, if for financial or other reasons your other half needs to work, opportunities will depend on location and the type of position sought. Asking for employee references during the interview process is an excellent way of connecting with people who can supply you with needed information regarding local employment markets.

Special and public libraries

Special library positions are showing themselves more frequently. The institution will typically post an ad directly in the publications pertaining to that group as well as on academic web sites. Medical librarian positions top the list number-wise. Law Librarians Abroad is a resource written specifically for law librarians. Recently, I have seen a few positions for archivists. Many librarians who work in the Gulf (meaning the Arabian Gulf in the Middle East) belong to the Special Libraries Association¾Gulf Chapter. It’s an active group and well worth following as the Gulf is a place where there are a growing number of opportunities. Particularly of interest is the development of Qatar’s Education City, where Weill Cornell Medical College, Texas A&M, Virginia Commonwealth, Northwestern University, and others have opened campuses.

Public libraries: I wish I could say that there were more positions listed, but the sad truth is there aren’t. Occasionally, I will see a job posted for somewhere in the South Pacific, such as the Marianas or Samoa, but it is rare. If you are interested in sharing your experience as a public librarian, I encourage you either to try to obtain a job as a school or college librarian and then assist the local public library by volunteering, or search through the volunteer opportunities listed in the resources (below). There are some exciting projects such as the Africa Library Project, which is working with Peace Corps volunteers to develop libraries in Lesotho.

Volunteer opportunities

There is currently a boom in international volunteering, with dozens of new organizations jumping on the bandwagon. As a result, an overwhelming array of programs is being offered in an equally incredible number of countries. How to choose?

Being an experienced expat with a now personal interest in short-term library volunteer opportunities, I have spent considerable time in the past year researching them. They tend to break down into three categories (please see Resources for specific sites):

1. Traditional: these are the long-established volunteer agencies that require an 18- to 24-month commitment but do not charge a fee.

2. Do-It-Yourself: these organizations offer short to medium-length commitments. They do not charge a fee, but you are responsible for airfare and life support once you are there. These opportunities are for seasoned travelers who feel comfortable being independent and responsible for themselves.

3. Volunteer Vacations: these nonprofit companies charge a fee (plus airfare) and in return organize everything for you¾what you will be doing, where you are staying, visas, meals, etc.

There is a debate as to whether fees are acceptable. Supporters point out that the fee is tax deductible and the agency makes it possible to be of use if a week is all you have to give. Those opposed argue that you really can’t be sure whether your money is truly supporting the program and that fees open the door to corruption. That is why I would encourage you to check out the two review sites listed in the Resources. [http://www.sarahpgibson.com/for-librarians-educators/int-l-librarianship-resources/review-sites.html]. These new resources do not yet include all the programs but are valuable nonetheless.

My conclusion is that you should choose the style of program based on why are you are going (remember we began with that), how much time you have, and how experienced a traveler you are. You will also need to think about how your skills can best fit into what is available. While there are many excellent programs offered that can take advantage of the skills that librarians have, there are actually few programs that offer opportunities directly related to the support or development of libraries. Therefore, you may have to make a choice between the area you wish to travel to versus supporting a library in a place you hadn’t originally thought of visiting.

Notable details about…

Significant others: Your loved one, in many cases, must be a legal spouse. This again is owing to visa requirements. You will need to check with the agency or the institution that has posted the job. College placements do not require your husband to be employed with them, but international schools prefer to hire teaching couples. So if your spouse is an educator, you will have an excellent chance of finding a contract in a school. If not, is she or he willing to become one?

My husband had a business degree, nine credits of education classes, and six months of substitute teaching experience when we applied to an agency. We were hired to go to a school in Brazil. This lucky break came mainly because the school desperately needed to have a librarian in place for an upcoming accreditation visit. It worked out well for all involved.

If your significant other does not want to teach, then you must be able to make the case that he or she can make a living independently, e.g., as a writer or an artist, or in your ability to happily live on one salary.

Money: There is a wide range of pay offered depending on factors such as length of contract, type of position, and location. How to compare? I have seen salaries as low as $22,000 and as high as $90,000, but in general the offered salary should be equitable to U.S. salaries. The benefit of the overseas life is that your cost of living will often be lower that that of the United States, and therefore you will be able to enjoy a new experience as well as save some money…or have some more for trips or souvenirs.

Items that should be in all contracts, regardless, are:

  • Roundtrip airfare from place of origin
  • A salary paid in regular installments (Ask whether in dollars or local currency and whether it will be taxed. If local currency, research its stability)
  • Furnished accommodation or equivalent allowance (normally an apartment or small house)
  • Health insurance for both you and your family
  • Generous vacation time (minimum six weeks)
  • Assistance with procuring the necessary visa/paperwork for for you and your family

Bonuses include:

  • Vacation airfare (a trip home every year)
  • Fuel/utilities assistance
  • Professional development opportunities (courses, conferences, etc.)
  • Payment of professional organization fees
  • A generous library budget (a wonderful luxury!)
  • Time off/support to do volunteer community duties such as help develop or improve the local public library.

Health care: This is significant for obvious reasons. Full health-care coverage has always been provided for all my contracts. However, be careful in researching exactly what is being offered before accepting the contract. Issues that have arisen in the past few years include:

  • Injuries resulting from acts of terrorism not being covered
  • No coverage when home vacationing in the United States, or that coverage costing extra
  • Employees being expected to pay a portion for health-care coverage (as in the United States, this is a growing trend)

Children: Up to two children will be sponsored. This will normally include airfare, health care, and education from kindergarten through high school. Occasionally institutions will provide airfare for visiting college-age children. If your children are younger than kindergarten, you will be expected to pay for day care and/preschool yourself. However, in many countries it is possible to hire easily a nanny/housekeeper. This worked well for our family.

If you have more than two children, you can ask for them to be sponsored as well, but owing to the costs involved, it generally only happens if you have skills the institution truly needs, such as an ability to revamp the database completely, install RFID, recent International Baccalaureate curriculum experience, etc.

Pets: Many people take their pets along, but be prepared for extra costs, paperwork hassles, and quarantines depending on the region to which you move.

The fear factor
All right then, your spouse, offspring, and pet Chihuahua are ready to go. The question is…are you? Do you have what it takes to succeed overseas? Here are some questions to ask yourself (they are also good interview preparation questions):

  1. Are you a curious person who enjoys new experiences?
  2. Are you able to adapt to last-minute changes to schedules and plans?
  3. Are you a confident person who can handle both frustration and rejection?
  4. Are you a good listener as well as speaker?
  5. Are you truly able to be open-minded and tolerant of others?

If you answered yes to all the questions and still find yourself hesitating, then it is time to discuss the subject of fear. Occasionally, librarians I speak with will tell me that they would love to go, but…

Sometimes the reasons they have for not going are valid, other times I sense fear…of travel, of the unknown, of the uncertainty of safety in a post-9/11 world. Try not to let even these understandable fears stop you. No one can guarantee that everything will be fine, but as an experienced explorer I will tell you that the kindness of strangers still prevails. I have lived in six countries and traveled through 20, and it is my observation that the vast majority of people simply wish to live their lives peacefully. They will be grateful for the help you are offering and will strive to help you as well, despite sometimes mountainous cultural differences.

So, what is your fear tolerance? Can you overcome it? I am going out on a limb here to promise that if you do and you are offered the incredible opportunity to go to the back of beyond…GO! You won’t regret it. I can tell you good stories¾ about my Brazilian library assistant who is now a librarian in Denmark. And I can tell you bad stories¾the vice chancellor who believed books were obsolete and didn’t allow any to be seen in the library. But, in the end, my experiences have become woven into a vivid patchwork of memory I will forever treasure. Only now my time is over, and it is your turn to go. Let this article be your ticket.

P.S. Don’t forget to write.

Sarah P. Gibson, a librarian, traveler, and writer, is from Maine but can never resist an opportunity to wander, so, in 1996, when she was offered a chance to go overseas, she coerced her husband into moving to northern Brazil. Thus began an 11-year odyssey in libraries in six different countries. She has returned home for the present, but the horizon always beckons


Recruiting Agencies
Job Sites
Review Sites
Professional Organizations
General Information Sites
Related Articles & Books

About Living Overseas

Recruiting Agencies
School Media specialists are usually hired via agencies that hold job fairs in the winter/spring of each year.

AASSA: Association of American Schools in South America
If you are interested in going to South America, you might want to consider applying with AASSA and attending its annual recruitment fair.

Association of Christian Schools International
Founded in 1978 as a nonprofit education association, ACSI currently has 5000 member schools in 115 countries. For a fee, you can receive its monthly newsletter, which lists staff openings, and you may also search online for available positions.

Department of Defense
This site offers information on all the schools operated by the U.S. Department of Defense. For information concerning its overseas schools, click on “DoDDS Europe” or “DoDDS Pacific.”

International Schools
International Schools is one of the largest and oldest international teacher employment agencies. Its site includes a directory of more than 200 schools, a Q&A section about overseas teaching, and information on attending its recruitment fairs. Also included are articles on the types of students attending international schools.

International Supply Teachers
IST recruits teachers and specialists for short-term vacancies in international schools. Please note, however, that while it encourages librarians to apply, it has only used one once in eight years!

Search Associates
Search Associates is a U.S.-based recruiting agency that sponsors several fairs. It claims to place more than 700 educators a year, as well as interns. The site also includes teacher-selection criteria, which is quite helpful in learning what qualities international schools are looking for.

University of Northern Iowa
UNI is one of the oldest recruiting agencies. Along with information about its services, this site contains an informative “Introduction to Overseas Teaching” section. UNI does not charge placement fees to candidates or recruiting schools.

Job Sites
Academic and public librarians are generally recruited from specific online job sites. Recruitment is year-round, though there tend to be more positions posted in the spring.

The American Library Association (ALA) job site does not have an international category, therefore you must click on “not-applicable” in the States search box.

Chronicle of Higher Education
The Chronicle has recently changed its job site. Unfortunately, it is now impossible to search for “international” and “librarian” positions together. There are two options:

  1. Search by position type and then scroll through the positions looking for the international locations:


  1. Choose “International” in the Location field on the main jobs page. Then enter “Librarian” in the “Find on this Page” field (found under “edit” on the toolbar of your browser) to help locate positions.


The Canadian Library Association (CLA) regularly posts jobs in its “overseas” section. Sometimes only Canadians may apply, but often the listing is open to all.

Higher Ed Jobs
Posts both the highest number and the most varied jobs. There are two methods for searching for international library positions. One is by searching under “Libraries” and then clicking on “Location.” International positions will normally appear first. The other is to search under “International

Review Sites
These sites are extremely useful. Remember, you are operating outside of U.S. law and employment practices. Check the reputation of the institution you are applying to if possible. When I first went overseas, these online resources had not yet been developed, and it was all word of mouth. Supporting review web sites helps to regulate the world of international employment.

Professional Organizations

American Library Association
This section of the American Library Association site offers “International Employment Opportunities and Funding Sources for Librarians” maintained by IRRT, the International Relations Round Table.

International Association of School Librarians
IASL provides an international forum promoting effective school library media programs as viable instruments in the educational process. It also offers guidance and advice for the development of school library programs and the school library profession.

International Baccalaureate Organization
IBO is a nonprofit educational foundation based in Switzerland. Founded in 1996, it offers a quality curriculum that encourages international understanding and responsible citizenship. Many international as well as American schools are adopting this curriculum.

IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) is the leading international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users. Librarians interested in the global scene but who cannot work abroad may want to consider becoming active in this organization.

General Information Sites
The International Educator
You will need to subscribe to this well-known newspaper ($29) to read it in its entirety. The International Educator claims to be “your passport to an international teaching position,” and it includes a large number of job ads, especially in its fall editions. The paper also offers articles about the activities of international schools, as well as insight into the best and largest schools.

International Librarianship: Getting There from Here
This very informative article includes sources for those seeking short-term and voluntary opportunities.

TCK World: The Official Home of Third Culture Kids
A page full of resources and information about TCKs—a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture.

Teaching Jobs Overseas
This site is very confusing to navigate, but if you choose to join JoyJobs ($39.95), it does offer a wealth of information about teaching in international schools, tips on how to secure a job, and even feedback on certain schools.

U.S. State Department—Overseas Schools Site
This site contains a list of all the recruiting agencies, an up-to-date recruiting fairs calendar, and a section on “Organizations with Teaching Opportunities.”

Related Articles
Foreign Universities Want More U.S. Students
by Beth McMurtrie

Chronicle of Higher Education; 5/30/2008, Vol. 54, Issue 38, p. A25-A25, 1/3p

The article discusses a report that says foreign universities would welcome more students from the United States but that American students increasingly prefer short-term programs to the semester-long and year-long programs that many overseas institutions continue to offer.

How To Visit the Libraries of the World Without Leaving Home by Janet I. Balas

Computers in Libraries, Nov./Dec. 2000, Vol. 20, Issue 10, p. 58–60.

Discusses how the Internet fosters diversity among librarians and provides virtual tours of the world’s libraries.

International School Librarianship by Ann Symons, Jeanne Gerlach, and Blanche Woolls

School Library Media Activities Monthly; Dec. 2006, Vol. 23, Issue 4, p. 56–58

The article focuses on the international experiences of two school librarians. It also provides tips on getting a job in an international school.

Wanted: American Students by Ann McClure

University Business, Jul 2008, Vol. 11, Issue 7, p. 14–14[??]

The article focuses on a recent report that shows international higher education institutions are as eager to welcome Americanstudentsas U.S.-based schools are to welcome theirs.

What’s so International About International Librarianship?  by Peter Johan Lor, Secretary General, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions

Lecture at the School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, July 1, 2005.

Related Books
A Day in the Life: Career Options in Library and Information Science, edited by Pricilla K. Shontz and Richard A. Murray. Libraries Unlimited, 2007.

Contains three chapters relating to international librarianship:

Chap. 14—Reference Librarian at an Overseas American University (Nancy Fawley)

Chap. 41—International School Librarian (Paula Pfoeffer)

Chap. 67—Visiting Instructor at an International University (Dallas Long))

Ali, Amjad. Libraries and Librarians of the World. Ess Ess Publications, 2006.

Armour, Richard Willard. The Happy Booker: A Playful History of Librarians and Their World from the Stone Age to the Distant Future. McGraw-Hill, 1976.

Hamilton, Masha. The Camel Bookmobile. HarperCollins, 2007.

Perspectives, Insights & Priorities: 17 Leaders Speak Freely of Librarianship. Edited by Norman Horrocks. Scarecrow Press, 2005.

Pollock, David C. and Ruth E. Van Reken. Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2001.

Ruurs, Margaret. My Librarian Is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World. Boyd’s Mills Press, 2005.

Sawa, Maureen. The Library Book: The Story of Libraries from Camels to Computers. Tundra Books, 2006.

Sinder, Janet. Law Librarians Abroad. Routledge, 2001.

Stamaty, Mark Alan. Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq. Knopf, 2004.

Winter, Jeanette. The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq. Houghton Harcourt, 2005.

Woolls, Blanche & David V. Loertscher. The Whole School Library Handbook. ALA, 2005.

(Contains my SLJ article on how to become an international librarian.)

About Living Overseas
Eidse, Faith. Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2004.

Hess, Melissa Brayer and Patricia Linderman. The Expert Expat. rev. ed: Your Guide to Successful Relocation Abroad. Nicholas Brealey, 2007.

Kohls, L. Robert. Survival Kit for Overseas Living. 4th ed: For Americans Planning To Live and Work Abroad. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2001.

Melton, William Russell. New American Expat: Thriving and Surviving Overseas in the Post-9/11 World. Intercultural Press, 2005.

Peterson, Brooks. Cultural Intelligence: A Guide to Working with People from Other Cultures. Intercultural Press, 2004.

Sorti, Craig. The Art of Crossing Cultures. Intercultural Press, 2007.

Volunteer Opportunities

Traditional Long-Term Opportunities

African Library Project & Peace Corps
ALP partners with volunteers in African communities to create small libraries for schools and villages. They use U.S. volunteers via the Peace Corp in Lesotho and provide an application on their web site for Peace Corps volunteers interested in helping to develop a library project during their service. They also need U.S.-based volunteers to organize book donation drives.

ALA International Opportunities for Librarians
International Opportunities and Funding Sources for Librarians maintained by the IRRT International Exchanges Committee.

CDF (Charles Darwin Foundation)
The Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands (CDF) is an international nonprofit research organization dedicated to providing scientific research, technical assistance, and information to ensure conservation success in Galapagos. The station has a library manned by a volunteer librarian. The length of stay is six months, but note the volunteer must pay his/her own airfare and living expenses.

Doctors Without Borders
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. MSF is urgently looking for Administrators & Financial Controllers who are responsible for project bookkeeping, financial reporting, and human resources management for international and local staff.

IESC (International Executive Service Corps)
IESC (International Executive Service Corps) is a nonprofit economic development organization that uses volunteer experts, paid consultants, and professional staff to achieve their mission of  promoting prosperity and stability through private enterprise development. Please note that it doesn’t have any library projects at the moment.

Swiss-U.S. Librarian Exchange Opportunity
The Swiss Library Association (BBS) and American Library Association (ALA) International Relations Office (IRO) have agreed to work together to help facilitate exchanges between librarians in Switzerland and the United States. This program was begun after the Swiss Library Association participated in the 1999 ALA annual conference.

United Nations Volunteers
The UN coordinates a volunteer group that includes professionals from various sectors who want to share their expertise with counterparts in developing countries. Assignments range from six to 24 months. For those who cannot travel, there is also an Online Volunteering service that connects development organizations and volunteers over the Internet and supports their effective online collaboration.

VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas)
VSO is Britain’s premier volunteer agency. Americans are recruited through the VSO Canada site for both short- and long-term placements. It suggests that librarians’ skills would best fit into its IT category.

Short-Term Expenses Only Opportunities

Independent Volunteers
Independent Volunteers was begun by a group of international volunteers as a network for independent groups that are involved in wonderful projects around the world. It lists only projects and organizations that charge no fees(other than food and accommodation costs).

Open Windows
Open Windows is a dynamic children’s educational center (library, computer center, and more) in the town of San Miguel Dueñas, ten miles (15km) from Antigua, Guatemala’s famous Spanish colonial city. It seeks volunteers as well as libraries to partner with and create sister facilities.

Volunteer Abroad

Volunteer Abroad is a directory for international volunteer programs. You can search through thousands of volunteer programs around the world. Organizations can list for free, as a result you will find local co-ops and grassroots organizations that cannot afford paid directories. If you have questions about the quality of the program, ask for alumni references.

Volunteer Latin America
Volunteer Latin America is an independent and ethical organization committed to helping protect Latin America’s flora and fauna and its biodiversity and to offering the most cost-effective way to become an environmental or humanitarian volunteer in Central and South America.

Volunteer South America
Volunteer South America lists free and low-cost volunteer opportunities in South and Central America. The site is designed for independent travelers looking for a real volunteer experience abroad without paying any intermediary or agency fees.

Volunteer Visions
Volunteer Visions was founded with a simple idea in mind: that volunteering should be affordable and available to everyone. Volunteer Visions has 45 projects in ten countries.

Short-Term Fee-Based Opportunities

Cross-Cultural Solutions
CCS is a widely known international volunteering organization. It arranges for over 4000 volunteer opportunities each year and supports 250 sustainable community initiatives.

Global Aware
Globe Aware, a nonprofit, develops short-term volunteer programs in international environments that encourage people to immerse themselves in a unique way of giving back.

Global Volunteers
Global Volunteers offers you-pay volunteer vacations. Its short-term volunteer service opportunities focus on providing “helping hands” to community development programs in host communities abroad. The coordinator recommended the Cooks Island program, where the focus is helping the library and the literacy program.

IVPA (International Volunteer Programs Association)
IVPA is an alliance of nongovernmental organizations involved in international volunteer work and internship exchanges. The site includes an international volunteer positions database.

Open Mind Projects

Open Mind Projects currently supports some 60 different aid and development projects where volunteers overseas are welcome. It claims to have lower fees than many other programs.

It can arrange for library projects in both Thailand and Nepal.

Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad is a British-based organizer of overseas volunteer work placements. It offers one- to three-month-long projects around the globe.

SCI (Service Civil International)
SCI is a worldwide voluntary service organization and peace movement. International work camps are central to SCI’s work and take a variety of forms; every year about 5000 volunteers participate from 80 different countries. Librarians can ask to help with the archives in Switzerland if they wish to have a library-related experience.

United Planet
United Planet offers the Volunteer Abroad Quest program and attempts to provide a fulfilling experience for volunteers and valuable support for communities in need. Volunteers of all ages, nationalities, and backgrounds are invited to join one- to 52-week volunteer abroad programs in 50 countries worldwide.

VIA Programs
VIA was created at Stanford University in 1963 to foster increased understanding between the United States and Asia through public service and programs promoting cross-cultural education. It provides volunteer opportunities and fellowships (for those between the ages of 18 and 75) in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, where volunteers may teach English or work with a local nonprofit.

Volunteers for Peace
VFP’s goal is to work toward a more peaceful world through the promotion of International Voluntary Service (IVS) projects, historically known as International Workcamps, and the exchange of volunteers.

The “Do You Have What It Takes To Work Overseas?” Quiz

  1. When driving somewhere, traffic slows to a stop on the highway. Do you:
  1. Sit swearing until traffic begins to move again.
  2. Turn up the music and get to know the folks beside you.
  3. Get out the map, inch to the next exit, and take another, unknown route.
  1. You offer to volunteer for a local literacy program. You arrive to discover that you will be doing paperwork rather than reading with participants (not what you requested). Do you:
  1. Quietly leave and plan not to return.
  2. Fold fliers cheerfully, happy to help in any way.
  3. Express your disappointment, then fold fliers as requested.
  1. Your carefully researched library rearrangement plan is summarily rejected by your new director. Do you:
  1. Be politely vocal in your disappointment, and continue to pursue your vision.
  2. Return to your job without complaint.
  3. Ask the director for his vision, and then attempt to meld the two plans together.
  1. A patron comes to see you seeking advice on a career change. Do you:
  1. Enthusiastically share your midcareer change story.
  2. Direct her to the careers section as well as locate local and online materials.
  3. Take an extra five minutes to discover what she is specifically interested in pursuing, and then direct her to those resources as well.
  1. A coworker is insistent about her vegetarian lifestyle. She insists that no meat products be eaten around her at any employee function. Do you:
  1. Ignore her request as it’s selfish and tramples on the rights of others.
  2. Ask everyone to bring only vegetarian dishes out of respect for her beliefs.
  3. Set up a separate meat dish section in another room.

There are no right and wrong answers to this quiz. “A” answers are strong, sometimes necessary choices but don’t necessarily reflect tolerance or adaptability. “B” answers reflect submissive, peaceful solutions but do not always resolve the situation or promote self-worth. “C” answers involve viewing the situation from a different point of view and thus allowing acceptance without loss of confidence or self-worth.

While “C” answers are optimum, having few or none does not mean you are not a good candidate. Knowing how you would answer these questions is the real key to success.





Fund Your Library: Tools and Tactics for Getting to Yes!
Whether you’re going to voters, city councils, school boards, college board of directors, or any other funder, the fundamental issues are the same: how do you convince the stewards of a limited budget that the library is their best investment?