Well – it has begun. The ongoing academic journey that started when I first became a librarian. That curious mind of mine that just wants to learn more will be challenged again.


This morning in Doha, I received my acceptance into the Ph.D. program run jointly by San Jose State University and Queensland University of Technology (Brisbane). It’s been more than a one year journey just to get to this point.


SJSU and QUT run a great program for Librarians seeking a Ph.D. There is a mandatory one week residency in San Jose each year in August where all students and candidates (I’m not a candidate yet!) from all stages of the program meet with the faculty and each other. Throughout the program there are weekly calls from your committee members (I have one in the US and 2 in Australia) and a once monthly call that includes all the students, candidates and faculty. Research updates and regular presentations to that team and at various conferences are expected.


Last year when, after a year in Doha, inspiration struck, I started my initial investigations and to my surprise, found out that my Masters wasn’t quite good enough. While the Masters was accredited, it was a course based Masters and I had not written a thesis (with a capital T). Because of this, I needed to complete an original study, write it up, and submit it to a high quality internationally recognized journal, and to have my study reviewed by a committee of my peers. In this case, it truly was ‘publish or perish.’ And that happened. The study/article was accepted in January and based on peer contributions, I edited and re-submitted. The article is right now in copy editing getting prepared for publication later this summer.


But, I had to have proof of acceptance of my study before SJSU and QUT would even consider me. I had learned earlier in the fall that there was considerable interest this year in the program. Only 6 candidates would be chosen and I was aware of 15 other interested individuals. Additionally, the research proposal I put forward had to be something that SJSU and QUT were interested in pursuing. If my proposal was about children’s librarianship (it’s not) and the two universities were pursuing studies in cataloguing (they’re not), it likely wouldn’t be accepted. And both had to accept.


I received my first acceptance/endorsement by one of the Faculty members at SJSU. After that, I was asked by SJSU to apply to QUT. The documentation required to apply as an international student was extensive and in addition to the draft version of the article, copies of the original university transcripts from decades ago needed to be sent to Brisbane.


And then the waiting began. At first I thought I might hear something by the end of April. Then by the end of May. Now, it’s the first week of June and the offer of a position in the program was just received.


The race now begins. Book flights to San Jose. Decent flights given I will just have arrived from Doha the day prior. Hotel room in San Jose. Complete the application form from QUT. Pay half the tuition (not unsubstantial). Scan this scan that, sign here, sigh there and then lay down the credit card!


Ramadan’s coming

Here’s the blurb we got from HR today.  Emphasis mine….

Hello Everyone:

This year Ramadan will likely start on Tuesday, June 7th, and lasts for a lunar month (29 or 30 days). The start of Ramadan depends on an appropriate observer seeing the Crescent “new moon” with the naked eye, and therefore cannot be predicted with absolute certainty ahead of time.

All employees are ambassadors of CNA-Q and Canada and it’s important we adhere to the following guidelines and conduct ourselves accordingly especially during this very important holy month.


  • Ramadan is a holy month in Islam during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset (eating, drinking, or smoking is not permitted during this daily fasting period) until Eid Al-Fitr arrives. The laws of Qatar strictly forbid all residents (regardless of their religion or nationality) to engage in any of the above mentioned activities in public. Exceptions may prevail for health reasons; let discretion be your guide on this. It is worth mentioning that people violating this law may face arrest and or harsh penalties.  Smoking is not permitted anywhere out in public nor on the campus during this time.
  • During Ramadan one should take care and dress conservatively in public. Also, store hours will be altered, usually opening later in the morning and with evening hours extended until quite late. There is a distinct drop in morning traffic, but the late afternoon and night time traffic becomes heavy.
  • Working hours during Ramadan for most CNA-Q Support Staff will be five hours from 9:00 am to 2:00 p.m. Due to operational requirements there may be departments who require their employees to work different hours and if so, your manager or Dean will inform you.
  • The cafeteria services and Tim Horton’s will be closed during Ramadan.

We ask all employees to conduct themselves accordingly and ensure adherence to the Qatar laws and customs of Ramadan.



Dubrovnik, Croatia

One of the best things about living in this part of the world is that you are literally on the ‘other side’ of the world. I’m 9 time zones away from Western Canada, and taking a flight that far is arduous and costly at the best of times. However, once you’re ‘here,’ getting on a quick flight that will take you to places you can only dream of is easy peasy. The airport in Doha is one of the newest and largest in the world. It has airlines from around the world flying in and is home to Qatar Airways – a first class airline.

And – all of us have ‘bucket lists’ of places we want to travel to. A couple weekends ago I was able to tick one of those dream locations off my list – Dubrovnik, Croatia. A Mediterranean city on the Adriatic that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. (And more recently, the site of Kings’ Landing in Game of Thrones.)

I met my cousins, Regina and Juergen at the Zagreb Airport. I had only done a flight from Doha to Zagreb – they on the other hand drove from their home in Germany to Prague and connected through Vienna to get to Zagreb. That’s just incredible in itself! We then flew together on Croatian Airlines to the Dubrovnik Airport.

We stayed in a small guesthouse, which I highly recommend (Villa Klaic) and on our first night walked down to the Old City and had supper.

Views of and from Villa Klaic

First Sights

I was already amazed by Dubrovnik even in the night. The next day we did an area ‘panoramic’ tour and then spent the remainder of the day walking on top of the wall that surrounds the Old City. The sights were amazing. And during our day in the Old City, Regina and I kept commenting on how similar it was to Venice. The architecture, the streets and alleys and the plazas were like a smaller version of Venice, but without the canals. And no wonder, the architects and builders of much of Dubrovnik were Italian.

Dubrovnik Panoramic Tour

Sights from Dubrovnik’s Old Town

Walking along the walls of the Old Town

The next day, we drove from Dubrovnik to the city of Mostar in Bosnia. Starkly different economically and culturally, my pictures from the day highlight only the area of the old city in Mostar surrounding a bridge that was bombed during the Yugoslavian Homeland War of 1991 – 1994.

Mostar old bridge area


The impact of that civil war was also evident in Dubrovnik’s Old City where pock marks from shelling can easily be seen.

I hope you enjoy all those pictures – I took more than 150 in just 2 ½ days!

Coming up, a place previously unknown to me, Salalah, Oman.  (Salalah on Google Maps)  The home of the Queen of Sheba and source of Frankincense.


Big news!

On Wednesday night Feb 10th, I learned that a research proposal I had submitted to the San Jose State University iSchool had been considered to be of high enough value that I have been invited to apply for the PhD program.  I’m scared, excited, thrilled, humbled and happy all at the same time.

San Jose State University collaborates with the Queensland University of Technology (yes, Australia), to jointly run an international PhD program for librarians.  It’s referred to as a Gateway PhD and short of one week residency each year, the entire process is done online.

This summer, starting in August, I will be in San Jose to meet my committee and generally settle in to completing my work.  The first year is fairly intense, because even at this point, I am not yet a PhD ‘candidate.’  I have been told to anticipate 30 hours of work per week to finish within 6 years.  I will be refining my research proposal, likely taking courses to familiarize myself with statistical sampling and survey methodology, and yes, even writing exams.

When I return home to Calgary in the summer of 2017 I will have finished my first year of the program and know if I will be proceeding with my research or not.  So many things ride on the proposal – is someone else in the world doing the same work (i.e. are my thoughts not unique), is there sufficient support from my committee to continue, and will I find a job when I’m back home to support me financially?

Here’s a link to the research proposal, in case you are so academically inclined!

Research Proposal



Just another evening in Doha

Every once in a while, something happens in Doha that reminds you that you are truly in a unique part of the world. After being here for 18months, life seems to have settled down and you just get used to the fact that Doha=difficult. But Wednesday was different. Four of us walked from our apartment down to the Souq. There were two newbies at the college and they were out to see the sights. I needed to go to the Gold Souq and my colleagues were up for a walk. Its about 45 minutes from our place to the Souq. The walk is impossible in the summer and likely, sometime about 5-6 weeks from now it will be too hot to manage the walk. As we approached Souq Waqif (the main Souq), the newbies and my colleague Aileen split off to go to the Falcon Souq, and I went over to the ‘Old’ Gold Souq to get a bit of fixing done to a ring. The guys at Kingdom Jewellers were great and did the work for free.

I then met my colleagues for supper in the Souq at a Syrian restaurant we like – Damascus. Sounds straight forward. Well – the Souq was just teeming with people. Doha lives for the nights and the cool breezes. These people are night owls and the city just comes to life at night. Walking through the alley ways crowded with people becomes a negotiation in status. As a female Caucasian, I have lower status then the citizens and men in general. But I have higher status than those whose skin is darker than mine. So, walking the crowded alleys and passages of the Souq means minding your local manners and ‘giving way’ to those in Abayas and Thobes (no matter how slow they’re going). As I get out into a more open area, there’s a brass band/parade going by with four guys in the most outrageously coloured outfits and tall hats made of battery powered, sequinned sparkling lights! And the brass band was playing nothing sounding like marching music to me.   Just beyond is a tent set up with a TV show going on inside and cameras on huge overhead booms everywhere. The place was just buzzing.

I got over to my friends, who were just sitting down outside the restaurant. After we order, one of the newbies at the take looks up into the restaurant and there’s a whirling Dervish inside dancing! I just had to be a tourist and go inside to take a couple quick movies. Honestly – they guy had been dancing/spinning around like that for at least 10 minutes before I got those shots. Hope you enjoy them.  The file sizes are big, so I popped them into Google Photos

When we finished our mean, we walked out and were getting ready to hail a cab. One pulls up, we all pile in – three women in the back, one guy in front with the driver. YThe driver was driving so fast, we were all holding on so tight that we were thinking it was our last drive. Worst yet – he was on the phone with is buddy yapping away the whole time. It got so scary, we had to yell at him to pull over and we walked the last 15 minute home. At least it was cheap!


Just another day in Doha.

Christmas time vacation

For all of you who don’t keep up with me on Facebook, or didn’t have time to catch all the photos, here’s a day by day rundown of the vacation and links to the photos on Google Photos.

December 18th – travel from Doha. After arriving, I walked to the plaza behind the gothic Cathedral and walked through the Christmas market. Lots of mistletoe for sale in bundles along with a little log figure, called a ‘Tio de Nadal.’


December 19th – Morning in Barcelona. Tour of the Sagrada Famalia along with a walk up the tower of the Passion Façade of the basilica. Great views of the street below!

Boarded the Norwegian Cruise Line Epic

December 20th – at sea

December 21 – Tangier, Morocco. The African side of the Strait of Gibraltar and historic home of pirates and slavers… L The cave of Hercules (who apparently separated Africa from Europe) has an outlet to the Atlantic Ocean, which in silhouette looks like the continent of Africa.

December 22nd – at sea

December 23rd – Las Palmas, Gran Carania. Walked about this beautiful resort community and on the beach came across a sand sculpture display of the Nativity. Entrance to the display was free J and the sculptures were at least 2m high. The artists that created the display were from around the world.

I then popped on the Hop-on-hop-off (HOHO) bus to see more of the city. Poinsettias everywhere.

December 24th – Tenerife, Canary Islands. Toured the city of La Laguna, a UNESCO Heritage site. The architecture is beautiful classic Spanish design. The streets are paved with cobblestones made from the lava of the Tenerife volcano. La Laguna also has an interesting history in Spanish colonialism as it was the stopping point for ships returning with their bounty of silver and gold from Mexico. As a Spanish island, it accounted for all the gold and silver (ounce by ounce) coming from the colonies and going to the Spanish crown.

The market we visited was full and busy. Check out one of the pictures in the market showing bundles of baby potatoes. It was here in the Canary Islands that potatoes first made their appearance from South America. It wasn’t until hundreds of years later that potatoes become routinely eaten in Europe.

December 25th – at sea

December 26th – Malaga. What a beautiful city! And too bad it was only the gateway/port city for access to Granada and the Alhambra. Our tour of the Alhambra started in the gardens – Generalife. Even in December, there was so much that was still green. Pomegranate trees were everywhere as were Seville Orange trees. Trellises everywhere showed the stalks of roses that had been trained to wind around.

We then entered the Alhambra and the beautiful architecture and history of the palaces. Kings and Sultans all.

December 27th – at sea

December 28th – we returned to Barcelona and after dropping my bags at my hotel, jumped on the HOHO bus to re-acquaint myself with the city. I settled on exploring Gaudi again and after the 2 hour tour, went to the Guadi museum and spent most of the afternoon there before meeting up with friends for supper.

December 29th – Went to Montserrat, 90 minutes by train North Northeast of Barcelona. The first leg of the journey was a commuter train, similar to the Go Train in Toronto. I grabbed the first train of the day at 7:30 am. For the first hour of the journey, we travelled under the city of Barcelona and it’s suburbs before coming above grade. At the entry to the Montserrat area, I changed trains to a ‘Rack Rail’ train, designed specifically for climbing steep grades. The Rack Rail takes you right into the mountain top village. Montserrat is a beautiful Benedictine Monastery that is itself a complete village. After orienting myself, I took one of the funiculars further up the mountain to a retreat centre and some hiking trails. The hike sure felt good in that cool mountain air!

December 30th – departure day back to Doha

I collected up some pictures of street scenes in Barcelona that were meaningful to me. Maybe you too can figure out why I took each of those pictures 😉


Seasons Greetings!

Another year has passed here in Doha and I miss each of you every day.

I am so very fortunate to have a very fulfilling job while here. It is perhaps one of the best jobs I have ever had with all the professional growth opportunities I have been given. In Doha, we have branch campuses of some of the best universities in the Western world. Texas A&M, Carneige Mellon, Weill Cornell, Georgetown University, the Brookings Institute, University College London, Stenden University, Victoria Commonwealth University are just a few. Each one of these Universities has a mandate to reach out and connect with the larger community and because of this, I along with like-minded colleagues have been able to attend free lectures almost every week. Earlier this week, we had a talk from a University of Cambridge professor sponsored by UCL’s school of Archaeology (Everyday life in ancient Egypt). Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service offers free lectures that have expanded my understanding of the sectarian dynamics at play in the region. A recent lecture was ‘Five Bad Policy Options for Syria.’ People from all walks of life come to these free events – sometime because there is free food afterwards! – and we’ve connected with others in the community seeking intellectual challenges and growth.

Thursday was a good example. I attended an all day free seminar offered by the UK accredited School of Library and Information Science at UCL. At the seminar, librarians from all around the world (all living here in Doha), will be working together expanding our knowledge and improving our own instruction and assessment techniques. I have a driver from my college picking me up this morning and delivering me to the seminar, then picking me up at the end of the day. Lunch and coffee provided. No cost at all.

My employer has supported my research interests and routinely offers opportunities for employees to share best practices, enjoy success and better themselves.

Since arriving, I’ve been given professional growth opportunities here that I could only dream of at home.

We also have a very active group of Canadian Expatriates with monthly pub nights – that include the staff from our Embassy! As Canadians, we get together as much as we can socially. That is great comfort in having a common experience and background to share – even with new friends.

I’ve also been very fortunate with generous vacation time. Many of you know that I was in Mauritius in February, then twice in Turkey and in fall spent 10 days in Rhodes, Greece. Over Christmas time, I’ll be in Barcelona then heading out for a cruise to the Canary Islands, Tangier (Morocco) and visiting the Alhambra in southern Spin before returning back to Barcelona. There is a price to all this travel though. Christmas is not a holiday. It is just another day, as is New Years Day. So – it means taking vacation time to get the break that many of us just consider ‘normal.’ Every day I take as vacation in this part of the world means fewer days at home in Canada during the summer of 2016While my Christmas will be very different this year from yours (I’ll be on a cruise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between the Canary Islands and Spain), I will be thinking very much of you and wishing I too could share the season with you. Trying to have some of that Christmas feeling in my living space, I’ve got my own little ‘Charlie Brown’ Christmas tree. The poor little thing was bought second hand from a family leaving last year. The decorations are mostly hand-me-downs with some recent additions from IKEA Qatar (yes, there is ‘seasonal’ decorations there, but nothing representing Christianity!) I’ve attached a picture for your amusement.

2015-11-30 17.44.36-2
Christmas Tree 2015!

I hope your Christmas and New Year is full of family and friends and the warmth that brings.

Merry Christmas and hopefully, if you’re in Calgary, I’ll see you this summer!



1 year anniversary

Well – it’s almost been a year.  I left Canada on August 22, 2014 for a new work adventure in Doha, Qatar.  It’s been quite the journey too with its ups and downs, frustrations and joys.

First – the ‘downs.’

It’s beastly hot here.  Today it’s 54C with the humidity.  For those of us who can’t figure that out, it’s 129 Fahrenheit.  It’s ridiculous.  You can’t even walk outside in weather like this.  Our buildings are sweating and we’ve protected our library shelves with sheet plastic. I’ve learned though that come late October or early November, it will cool down, I’ll be taking fewer taxis and will be doing a lot more walking to my destinations.

All the pictures of the beautiful city ready for the 2022 World Cup?  Well, it exists in pictures.  What I see on a daily basis is anything but beautiful.

This is a land without water – no rain, no rivers, no lakes.  No gardens, no farmers markets, no local produce.  Food is shipped in from around the globe and we pay dearly for it.

I’ve had to move 3 times.  First from a dark, depressing apartment, to a huge open apartment where the septic system always overflows and to my final mosquito infested apartment.

The mosquitoes arrive with the winter.  Hopefully this year I will have a better barrier in place for them, since the landlord doesn’t believe that I’m experiencing a problem.

There is no democracy and I have no privacy rights.

The ‘ups.”

I haven’t experienced a cold day (except by choice) in over a year.  Winter here is like the best summer day in Canada you can imagine.

I’ve become quite the globe-trotter!  I enjoyed Christmas 2014 with cousins in Germany.  It was wonderful.  I spent my first Eid break (it’s one solid week of statutory holiday) in Crete.  I love Greece so much that my next Eid break will be on the island of Rhodes.  I’ve been to Turkey TWICE for a fast weekend vacation with my colleagues.  I took a February 2015 break at a resort on the island of Mauritius, near Madagascar and near the now-well-known Reunion Island.  My passport is getting maxed out (and I love it)!  Wouldn’t you do the same if you had 7 weeks’ vacation every year plus two 1 week Edit breaks?  That’s 9 weeks of paid vacation time each year!  Plus and paid return trip ticket to Canada as part of the deal.  J

There are so many nationalities here that I can have food from every corner of the world.  And, if I avoid the over-priced hotel restaurants, I can eat pretty cheap.  Take a look at this chart from 2013 for a breakdown of nationalities here in Qatar:

I have met some wonderful friends from across Canada during my time here.  Not only friends, we are each other’s sisters and brothers when the time calls.  We are the people who share cab rides together.  We go to yoga classes, spin classes and lectures at Georgetown University together.  We share spontaneous meals and movies together.  We depend on each other and have gone through the best and the worst together.  We are each other’s source of ‘little known’ information that makes life easier here.  We share time on the bus going to and from work together and have the shared stories about the horrible drivers and traffic.

I have the best job I think I’ve ever had in my career.  I have a wonderful working environment with other Canadians who are all going through the same experience as I am.  We have a budget in our library that would be the envy of any college in Canada.  I have a collection budget that permits for almost any kind of purchase.  Teaching library skills in a college environment is just a perfect fit for me.  I love teaching and I love it even more when I have no marking or administration!

Work is inspiring me to conduct academic research.  It’s been so very long, likely more than 20 years, when I was last inspired to do research.  The last time I did a study was very early in my career when I studied the economic impact and time savings achieved by the government library I was the manager of.  As instructional librarian – the librarian who goes into classrooms to teach students how to use the library and its electronic resources – I am challenged by a culture that has no public libraries and student whose experience with school libraries was more akin to a textbook warehouse.  I’m challenged by a culture which does not punish copyright infringement or plagiarism.  I’m also challenged by students who did not have to pay tuition (85% are sponsored) and have a guaranteed job after graduation – whether they cheated or not, no matter what the grade – they have a job waiting for them.  So, the motivation to achieve and stand out from the crowd doesn’t exist.  How then, do I inspire students to locate high quality trusted information and to use it in an ethical fashion?  How indeed.

Research study #1 will start this September.  The college instructors will be surveyed to ascertain their perceptions of students’ information / library skills based on an internationally recognized standard of information literacy.  Once the data is collected and analysed, my colleagues in the library and I will have even more information on how to target our marketing and instructions to students.  My hope is to have my study published in a peer-reviewed academic journal.  Timeframe – sometime after January 2016.  More research will naturally tumble of the findings of my first study.

So – is life good here?  It’s hard to say.  Every day seems to bring its own struggles, frustrations and head-shaking.  Work is inspiring and is such a good fit for me.  How can one balance the distance from home, with the crappy living arrangements and frustrations with a fantastic job?  I struggle to have an answer to my own question….

Finding my way

Life here since late August has been a series of emotional ups and downs. I’ve struggled personally with leaving Canada, the family friends and neighbours I love.  It tore me apart and I was quite a mess.

Despite all that, I love my job.  I absolutely love my job.  For the first time in years, I am looking forward to going to work every single day.  It fulfills me personally and intellectually.  I have more resources at my disposal than I have ever in my career.  I have a budget to spend that will allow us to have any tool we want given justification.  We have online databases that rival that of many Canadian universities.  Life at work could not be better.  I’ve found my place.  My colleagues work hard and play hard.  We have fun at work every day.  We work to make things better – in all ways possible.  For our students, for our colleagues, for the instructors, for the staff.  I instruct in classrooms and help our students use libraries.  I love it.

But, I was lost.  I moved twice before I arrived at an apartment that ‘worked.’  When I did get to my ‘final’ location, I was in a neighbourhood with no grocery stores within walking distance, the noise of a hospital (it’s ambulances, traffic and helicopters), shoddy construction, hundreds of stray malnourished cats who jumped in and out of filthy garbage bins, and more and more and more. Crazy drivers and streets that were not designed for pedestrians.  Life outside of work was not a picnic.

10588641_10203717845919411_1601353307_n The cute little picture here is no exaggeration.  Now take that picture, with

overpriced SUVs, people honking and thousands of cars grinding through the traffic circle everyday…. less than a hundred meters from my apartment building and you know my frustration!

So, I love my job, but for so many reasons, I’m not liking HERE….

At least, that was my perspective until I worked everything in my head through and made sense of all this and all these feelings.

What I discovered in the end was that I needed a purpose.  Now that I finally was in a job I loved, I had a lot of mental space for other thinking.  And, without a purpose, I went down that negative rabbit hole.

I’m happy to say I’ve come out on the other side.  Whatever I went through helped my find my way and find that purpose.  And, that purpose is to return to the life that inspired me so much – an academic life.  To research, and to publish.  To understand that which frustrates me.  And what frustrates me is the struggle of instructing information literacy skills in this culture, which at its most fundamental level, is the skill of critical thinking.  Those of you with an academic background will recognize ‘Blooms Taxonomy.’  When Boom’s Taxonomy is paired with Information Literacy, it become fascinating for me in this part of the world.  The final piece in the puzzle was this spring’s OECD publication called “Universal Basic Skills: What Countries Stand to Gain.’  DOI:10.1787/9789264234833-en  (click on the link and you can read it online)  This study said everything that had frustrated me here where I live.  Just look at page 39 and see where Qatar ranks compared to Canada.   This study has spurred me forward and has brought me to my purpose and what I will be working on.

The working title of my first study is:

Instructor Perceptions of Information Literacy at CNA-Q : Awareness, Acquisition and Student Achievement

Pending IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval and ethics approval, a survey of instructors will take place in September this year.  Data will be collected and analysed during the fall and hopefully my study will be written up and submitted for peer-review in 2016.  My summer in Canada will be spent completing a literature review and starting the writing process.  My survey instrument needs pre-testing and should be in a final form when I return to Doha in mid-August.  Collection of data is tied to student achievement and Canadian instructors who are instructing in a multi-national, multi-lingual college where students come from a vastly different culture than ‘ours.’

Let the research begin…… 🙂

te little picture here is no exageration.  I am more than happy to let someone sle do the driving here.