Student Focus: Tara Boonaree
Why did you decide to come to New Zealand?
I was born in the city of Ubon in Isan and I highly value nature, multicultural society and peacefulness, thus the recreation activities in Wellington sound very appealing. I have been to several European countries and Australia and found I like the weather and people in the southern atmosphere more than in Europe. I also have a friend who graduated from Auckland University of Technology and she recalled her good times with New Zealanders. However, my life would have been different in Auckland where there is no botanic garden next to the university! I realized later that the Absolutely Positively Wellington is not just a slogan, the city council works hard to create and maintain this coolest little capital in the world.
And why Victoria University of Wellington?
There were two reasons; the first one was a potential advisor for my research. After making the decision about my research topic, I had a literature review and began extensively searching for my potential advisors. Professor Anne Goulding’s articles on public libraries greatly attracted me. Her papers were not only about the management of library and information services but also social impact of public/community libraries as a necessary institution for individual and society.
My second reason is the school. There are four multi-disciplinary research area/clusters in School of Information Management and each cluster is of a high. In addition, research students at SIM are diverse in term of both their originality and interests.
We asked PhD graduate Tara Boonaree about her time in New Zealand and her experiences at IFLA 2018.
Can you tell us what your PhD thesis is about?
My thesis is about factors affecting reading for pleasure (RfP) practices in community libraries in Thailand. In the West we know that RfP has a significant role in promoting literacy development, and reading behavior. In Thailand, however, RfP is a contested reading concept because reading is traditionally associated with academic purposes. To investigate the current status of RfP in Thailand and the role played by community libraries in its promotion, my study was undertaken in the largest and most economically disadvantaged part of Thailand, the Northeast region, or Isan. My research framework was based on Krashen’s Free Voluntary Reading (FVR), and Asselin & Doiron’s Ecological Framework for Community Library Developments. I found four inter-related categories from data analysis:
What did you do before your PhD?
In my early career, I worked as a law librarian for Linklaters (Bangkok) Ltd while the London-based international law firm established their Bangkok office. After 2 and a half years I furthered my studies at Chulalongkorn University then started my teaching career in a university before moving to the Information Science Department, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Khon Kaen University (KKU) in Isan. I took 4 and a half years study leave for to complete my PhD.
What are you doing now? Where are you working and in what role?
After I graduated late last year, I was back to teach at KKU. I’m now an assistant professor in Information Science.
I hear you worked as a florist in a Buddhist temple once? Can you tell us about that?
I worked as a volunteer in Bodhinyanarama Buddhist Monastery in Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt for 4 years. Since I’d taken a course in floral design in Thailand and practiced it for 20 years, I worked with other volunteers for flower decoration in special occasions. The latest one was the Stupa Dedication Ceremony on 2nd December, which marked the 25th Anniversary of the monastery. I liked being there because the monastery is associated with my hometown in Thailand. Venerable Ajahn Chah (1918-1992), the head of Isan Forest Tradition, inspired many westerners by the simplicity of the traditional monastic lifestyle and by his clarity, wisdom, and compassionate humour. He was invited to England by the English Sangha Trust to investigate the possibility of establishing a monastic presence in Britain in 1977 and from that start; his branches have been established in many Western countries.
Can you tell us anything about the state of Libraries in Thailand?
It’s hard to tell the problem stories about library operations in Thailand where the National Library, public libraries, and school libraries are under different ministries. However, if I apply the four themes I found in my thesis, I think the provision of an inclusive, inviting, safe atmosphere is the most urgent issue we need to handle, for both public libraries and academic libraries. I’ve just returned from Victoria University of Wellington, a place where you cannot see boundaries between libraries and communal areas.
So, when I see a new public library set within a big fence and academic library set high from the ground level (for example 20 steps), I talked to an architect. He said that fences and steps not only restrict physical access but also produce emotional barriers. Most public and academic libraries in Thailand are in those physical settings.
Since I studied community libraries and a public library, I found more efforts should be taken by the government to support reading for pleasure in public/community libraries, for example the identification for reading leaders, employment for library officers, provision of books, and book price control. The first national reading framework, Happy Reading, began in late 2017. This framework has been very active with community reading promotion and community libraries initiatives.
My study, which involved some school teachers, confirmed Wimolsittichai’s (2017) study on rural small public primary schools that they are generally under-resourced due to budget constraints. Some of my key participants stressed that the most critical problem in Thai education is inequality in the schooling system; a reflection of the hierarchical Thai social structure that favours and invests in only top students, and excellent schools.
What are your areas of interest?
My major interests are in children’s literature, reading promotion, digital reading, graphic novels, and legal information. My Masters’ thesis is on Buddhist books for pre-teens.
How was your experience of IFLA as a student?
The variety of session in IFLA widened my perspective in LIS. As a PhD student, I’d been studying in only one specific topic for four years. I need to broaden my knowledge, and keep update with other topic in LIS. At IFLA conference, the glimpse of many topics stimulated me and sharpened my thoughts on the endless possibility for my future research. I also accidentally had a good time with Professor Anne Goulding, my primary supervisor. Most importantly, my presentation at IFLA 2018 in Kuala Lumpur linked me to LIANZA!
What would you say to encourage people to come to New Zealand for IFLA in 2020?
IFLA 2020 in New Zealand will be an interesting event where LIS professionals can get together, share ideas, and enjoy positive vibes in New Zealand. Given a small size of the population and library schools, I think LIANZA is very brave to organize the event. Thus, I suspect people will not only enjoy New Zealand’s clean winter breeze, snow-capped mountains, and hot springs, but many other awesome hidden showcases are waiting for you here at the last station before the South Pole.
This interview first appeared in the February 2019 Issue of Library Life Magazine