Libro Futuro

The path to the world of the librarian. A short story by an excellent Hong Kong student. Mario Coffa interviews Boris Au

Intervista in italiano

Boris Au (Hok Kan), has lived in Hong Kong for 24 years and he is 24 years old. He worked as a volunteer student at Hong Kong Baptist University Shek Mun Campus Library for 2 years (2015 – 2017). After 120 hours of service and duty, graduate studies, she decided to study and work in the librarianship course of study. After graduating in social sciences, he worked in the discipline of information science journalism for 2 months as a trainee. He is currently studying for a master’s degree in information science (librarianship) at Charles Sturt University (Australia). He participated as a student at BSLISE (IFLA) on 12 May 2021. It runs a platform for putting into practice what you learn from IFLA courses and events and webinars on how to connect the world, improve your profession, and share information related to daily life in the LIS field. In addition to attending IFLA webinars and events and being an IFLA affiliate, he is a member of the Hong Kong Library Association as a student member.

So Boris, to begin with a curious question: what prompted you to undertake your course of study in librarianship?

It strongly correlates to my past. I experienced two types of librarian information literacy advocacy programs, respectively teacher-oriented and student oriented. In my opinion, the best option of librarian service is user-oriented, thus I set a goal to be in the librarian profession to lessen the information gap between service and users.  I think librarianship is meaningful to our generation to figure out the suitable learning process in our own ways. In the user’s experience, librarians are not only promoting reading culture, but also providing guidance and support of meaning making in the learning process. Therefore, I study in librarianship in order to become librarian to provide professional reference service to users.

You worked as a volunteer student for 2 years at the Hong Kong Baptist University Shek Mun Campus Library; can you tell us what you have learned from this experience “in the field”?

In my duties, I was alway arranged to the duty position that I was required to  communicate with users, usually students at Shek Mun Campus. Also, I can be familiar with 2 Library classification systems frequently used in HK library field during book and audio resource shelving duties , respectively: Universal Schemes Dewey Decimal Classification (* used in Academic Library , Public Libraries and School Libraries for English Collections). Non-English Universal Classical Schemes[NCSCL] New Classification Scheme for Chinese Libraries. In addition to practical skill and knowledge, What I learn is reference service (Communication skill) in the field.  Communication is important to lessen the information gap between librarian, education provision and students & users.

In spite of your very young age you have already accumulated a lot of experience, albeit still didactic and academic, in terms of libraries: I think you have quite clear ideas about what your profession will one day be. What does it take in your country (Hong Kong) to become a librarian?

To meet the requirement, they need to handle practical skills such as reference service (i.e. reference desk, communication, education curriculum), promoting, and metadata skills in cataloguing during their study in Librarianship (Higher diploma, bachelor degree, and master degree).

In language requirements, Library workers need to have proficiency in Cantonese, Mandarin and English to understand the query of users and communicate with them effectively in HK.

University students can volunteer in the service to experience first-hand working experience in academic libraries. In my case, I participated in the student ambassador program in HKBU shek mun campus (2015 – 2017). However, the full time job requires a post-school education of librarianship.

If they want to work in the public sector, they need to pass the CRE government recruitment examination requirement for the position in public libraries. Digital technology is important to be handled. As it plays a more and more important role in reference service. Librarians in Hong Kong are required to have ICT skills.

You have also had the opportunity to manage a lot of tools in the field of library technology. Do you believe that these “new” tools such as social media, digital platforms, databases and others could be the future of our libraries?

I believe “new” tools are mandatory to the sustainable future of our libraries since it makes our service satisfying student needs in a rapidly changing environment. The “new” tools are innovative applications in the library sector in order to engage the young generation and tackle the information overload. As it helps libraries to build an innovative environment with flexibility. To have a sustainable future, libraries can be information agencies to assist student-oriented independent learning processes with both tradition and new tools. In Hong Kong, the public, academic and school sectors grasp opportunities of digital technology to improve the service qualities. In public sector, Hong Kong public libraries (HKPL) are operating facebook, instagram, web page “reading is joyful” (喜閱), (飛越) (@readingisjoyful) to promote reading culture in public. In the academic sector, HKU, HKBU, CUHK, ALA and VTC adapted metadata skills to establish different schema databases in order to facilitate knowledge transfer and structural research.

You are the youngest of the interviewees to date but I think I can ask you a “busy” question given your already excellent experience: what would you recommend based on your experience to other students like you who would like to study librarianship and one day become librarians?

If students want to study librarianship, they need to experience as users to acknowledge what a library reference service in user perspective is in the first step. I recommend them to use first-hand experience to acknowledge librarianship through information overlaps. In my case, I experienced social overlaps of information science in my studies in social science (Asian and international Studies, History and Hong Kong Studies) with academic libraries. I was inspired from my experience to realize the user-oriented approach is important to create an innovative environment in libraries and schools.


Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa archivista e bibliotecario, laureato in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali presso l’Università degli Studi di Perugia (2005) e diplomato in Archivistica e Paleografia presso la Scuola di Archivistica dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2010). Dal 2010 Lavora per CAeB (Cooperativa Archivistica e Bibliotecaria) presso le biblioteche dell’Università di Perugia come bibliotecario e come archivista presso l'Archivio Storico del Comune di Gubbio. Si occupa di Biblioteche Digitali e formazione in ambito di biblioteconomia digitale. Nel 2014 membro del Comitato Esecutivo Regionale dell’Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB) sezione Umbria, membro del gruppo AIB sul portfolio professionale e nel triennio 2017-2020 Presidente eletto di AIB Umbria. Dal 2020 membro dell'Osservatorio Formazione dell'Associazione Italiana Biblioteche. Autore di diversi articoli e interviste per Insula Europea sul tema degli archivi, delle biblioteche e del digital lending.


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