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Marjolein van der Vegt: A Librarian Tells Her Story

Marjolein van der Vegt

Marjolein's Story: A Librarian Who Loves Books

Marjolein van der Vegt started her career as an administrative assistant, to assume a full-time position as librarian in 2016 at the German/Brazilian school Colégio Humboldt in the city São Paulo. For her it is very important that students inspire themselves into reading and find the love for it in themselves, starting by creating good memories about the school library. She, therefore, reads whenever possible for the students in pre-school and campaigns a lot with coordinators and language teachers to use the library as often as possible as their language laboratory. It is not for nothing that some studies find that reading for pleasure improves well-being and builds empathy.

Reading is the key to almost everything

Since 1998 I live in Brazil (being born and raised in the Netherlands) and one of my wishes was to work as a librarian. My grandmother had worked in a library and brought home some magnificent books every now and then when I was a child. Till today I remember one of my favorites was a hand paint-printed book of Alexandre Dumas, the famous Robin Hood. But also, I read many fairy tales, entering the realm of Snow White and The Little Mermaid. And I need to say, I read the original versions, where the mermaid transforms into foam (and yes, I cried a lot as a child, happily).

Marvel comics exposition

All these experiences, shortly said, created in me identifications. Where I did not understand Snow White as a child, and saw it as a beautiful story, nowadays it becomes clear to me that if the cruel stepmother had found love in her heart, she would have been able to live happily ever after. But, since she did not, she suffered and missed the lesson in it all. If the little mermaid had accepted her love for the prince as beautiful and something from her heart to share and not to possess, maybe she would have had other insights into life. But of course, when you read these things as a child, you do not catch the clue easily still. Lacks the life experience needed to understand the meaning beyond words.

Haloween: scavenger hunt for 2nd graders

Upon arriving in Brazil, I did not speak a word of the Portuguese language. So, when you are among people you do not share a same language with, you only observe and pay attention to what they do, how their behavior is. Coming from a family of book lovers (digital books did not exist still in 1998), the 2 books I had brought from home finished too soon. I tried to read in Portuguese, but it was far too difficult in the beginning. The library of the city I lived in was stuffed full with very old books only. And over all, the discussions were not about books among friends. 

But, I did not give up on reading. My first book was “Os Lusíadas” of Luiz Vaz de Camões (which I loved reading by the way) after one year of immersion into the Portuguese language. I translated almost the complete book, not understanding most part of it. My second book was “O Guarani” of José de Alencar, which I understood more easily. The good is that it is in a certain way obtaining new vocabulary and at the same time expand knowledge into a culture I did not know much about. And so I continued my ways into reading in another language.

Twice a year exposition of paintings and painted objects by students (after-hour classes)

My wish was to work as a librarian, but bills needed to be paid too. I therefore worked as an administrative assistant for many years, to finally being able to pay for my studies as a librarian and finding after many years, in 2016, a job as a librarian at a German/Brazilian school, called Colégio Humboldt. All I knew was that I love reading and that my wish is that the students will have the possibility to find this love in themselves too. That they will find their own way into reading and find their own way towards becoming better.

I know my reading identity and know what it likes and loves, what it searches for to feel good and satisfied. I also know what motivates me to continue reading when texts are boring or dull. But maybe that is only because I have the experience of knowing what I want from life. And students at the age I meet, from 3 years old to up in their twenties, have other worries, and reading  is not one of them most of the time (some exceptions there).

Pixi-books exposition on the floor to attract the young (children love to walk the line and jump)

But still, one of my goals is making books available to students at all levels, for them to be able to choose among the many options and find their own way into reading. We therefore started a (very popular) comics session, added many easy-to-read Pixi-books, acquired new books to complete collections, created an area for exhibitions only (which is completely booked throughout the year) and moved the sofas to a more illumined area in the library, and so on. But most important was that we started a campaign with the coordinators and language teachers, requesting them to schedule their time with us in the library.

Finish of the line on the ground, where to find the Pixi-books

What we did was actually changing the perception of the “old fashioned” library into the new “laboratory of languages”. And it works! Until March, most of the students between 3 and 15 years old would come once every 15 days at least to the library for reading classes, simply loving it. Most of the students see it as one hour of freedom, where they can read what they want. And that is a good experience, that hopefully enters their mind to stay. Hopefully the impact is good, and makes them remember good times with reading. 

But then, Covid-19 entered, and classes continued on-line only, everybody in their own place. The challenge continues to interest students into reading, to help them overcome this period of learning to read into reading to learn in good manners. For them not to give up on reading during this transition, which happens many times with students around the world. The hope of the seed to blossom never will fail to grow.


In our article Biographies of Famous Librarians : Who's Who in Library and Information Science we have added a section "Librarians' Stories and A Day in the Life of a Librarian" where library professionals can tell their stories to the world. The following information is given there:

We invite passionate library professionals to contribute to this section and tell your story to the world. You can write for Librarianship Studies in three ways as described below.
1. Librarians' Stories - In this section, we will include autobiographical articles by librarians, catalogers, library and information science teachers, and other library professionals who tell their stories in their own words.
2. Current LIS Professional Experience: If you are a librarian or working on any designation in some library, then we are interested in knowing about your work experience. No matter you are working in a small library, school library, or in a big university library, we are interested in knowing about them all. No matter if you are holding a very high designation or just responsible for other jobs such as barcode pasting, magnetic tape inserting, or else, every library job is important, and our readers are interested in knowing about all of them. Tell us how your library is organized, its workflow what database it offers, reference desk, circulation desk, serials section, acquisitions section, etc. Write about your experiences and we would be happy to publish that. Again it would more interesting to LIS professionals if you include pictures and other multimedia items with your article. Sometimes it may be against the policy of your library to write about it, in that case, you may do it without mentioning the name of your library, just explaining your workday and responsibilities, etc.
3. A Day in the Life of a Librarian: You may describe your typical day as a librarian. For example, check this article: A day in the life of a librarian.