This afternoon, the American Library Association (ALA) was pleased to host six librarians from Belarus. This was our second delegation from Belarus in the last year; the first group visited this past August. These visitors are invited to the United States under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.
The delegation included: Ms. Maryia Liatsiaha, the Director of the Molodechno Central District Library; Ms. Larysa lotysh, head of the Foreign Literature Department at the E. Karski Grodno Regional Scientific Library; Ms. Maryna Pshybytka, head of the Library Science Department at the National Library of Belarus; Mr. Pavel Ustinov, chief librarian at the Republican Scientific and Technical Library; Ms. Volha Yakubovich, librarian at the Baranovichi Central City Library; and Mr. Mikalai Yatsevich, dean of the Information and Document Communication Department at Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts. The delegation was accompanied by two simultaneous interpreters.
The Department of State outlined the following specific objectives for this visit:
- Familiarize Belarusian librarians with the educational, social, and economic impact of public libraries in American society;
- Provide an overview of a variety of library-based, community-tailored programs and services that improve the quality of life of Americans and contribute to their personal and professional growth;
- Demonstrate how libraries play a central role in the social, professional, and academic activities of individuals and communities;
- Organize visits to a full range of libraries, including public, academic, research, special, integrated, merged, and others to explore typical U.S. management and operation practices;
- Discuss how to strengthen the competencies and leadership potential of librarians through professional learning, advocacy, and networking initiatives; and
- Acquaint the visitors with best-practices in library facility design and spaces’ planning to better meet the demands of targeted community groups and clients.
The group had a chance to to attend a day of sessions during last week’s MidWinter conference in Atlanta. After seeing ALA in action, the Belarusian librarians were interested learning more about our membership, our organizational structure, and how state chapters conduct their business and advocacy—both independently of and in tandem with ALA. They asked for details about ALA Council proceedings and about our vote to amend the ALA strategic plan in order to add a fourth strategic direction focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion.
The conversation also touched on ALA’s advocacy work, broadly, in support of access to free and open information and on the evolving discourse around copyright law, both in America and in Belarus. Before departing to meet staff at the Institute of Museum and Library Services, our visitors shared some information about their success in advocating for changes in their copyright laws and encouraged us to be optimistic as we move forward.
The ALA representatives in this meeting were Alan S. Inouye, Jessica McGilvray, and Emily Wagner. It is thrilling to meet and learn from librarians and information professionals from around the globe. We look forward to future opportunities to represent ALA and U.S. libraries with international delegations.