Japheth Ochieng Ouma

JaphethJapheth is the heartbeat of the library. He marshals the ‘troops’ rallies the readers, all the while managing every aspect of the library. Japheth’s role ensures the doors remain open for the readers. He carries his heritage like a badge of honor, sharing virtues of humility and dedication. Here’s a short story about Japheth, narrated by himself:

“I remember admiring my late uncle who was employed at the Kenya National Library Services (KNLS).  I was young – not sure how old, but I remember he was always neat and smartly dressed, and had a joyful demeanor, always interacting with everyone that came his way. I was curious and wanted to know what kind of work he did. I wanted to be like him, and my father, recognizing my interest, steered me towards what I had love for.

I read my first novel in 4th grade.  It was ‘Think Big’ by Ben Carson. Of course it was a complicated book for a 4th grader, but my father took the time to explain it to my sister and me.  It was mostly fun, but sometimes annoying when my sister laughed at me because I stuttered.

Looking back, I now recognize the importance of parental guidance.  My success at my work is no accident. My dad nurtured me. He always told me that however bad the situation, the ability to be flexible, to adjust, and to accommodate others was the key to success.  Frequently he would say “You had better do a good job and let it speak for you because that’s the only way to earn respect and recognition’’, a statement that is etched in my mind to this day, and a tenet that I live by.

My father’s influence on my life has guided me through Naki Primary School, Onjiko High School, and also Kisii University, where I attained a Diploma in Library and Information Science.  My success in my diploma studies led me to my attachment at KNLS in both Kisii and in Kisumu, where I got real life experience with people from different parts of the world.

There were times when my work at the Kisumu library was extremely challenging – like the times when the public school teachers would go on strike and the library would be overwhelmingly crowded.  I now know that no experience is ever wasted, because that very experience led me to successfully manage the teacher’s strike only one month after we opened the doors to the Karateng’ library.  The strike experience in Kisumu also taught me that children become what you train them to be, an idea that inspires me to add to the lives of each child who comes into the library.

I am grateful to my parents Benta Akoth Ouma and Argwings Joseph Ouma for steering me in the right direction, encouraging me through the challenges of life, and raising me in rural Kenya because that unique ability is what helps me relate to the experience at Read Across Africa in Kisumu, Karateng’ and to serve with pride. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Karateng’. I plan to serve for the long haul!”