For the second time in my first five months on staff with ALA Washington, we welcomed an international delegation of librarians. Alan Inouye, Shawnda Hines, our summer Google Fellow Alisa Holahan and I were delighted to spend an hour of our morning with a group from the Republic of Kazakhstan, including:
- Ms. Darikha Dyussibayeva, Director of the Scientific Library at Kostanai University
- Mr. Bakhytzhan Orazaliyev, Director of the Scientific Library at L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University
- Ms. Bibigul Shagiyeva, Deputy Director of the Cultural Department at the Municipal Public Institution East Kazakhstan Regional Library
- Ms. Sholpan Shakhmetova, Director of the Scientific Library at Pavlodar Regional University Library
Especially for a new librarian like myself, these visits are unmatched opportunities to gain exposure to the wide range of priorities and experiences in the international library field. It is also an excellent prompt to learn more about countries I have not visited. (Do you know what Kazakhstan’s national anthem sounds like?) The Kazakhstani librarians also brought chocolate, which was a delicious surprise.
Delegations are invited to the U.S. via the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. For yesterday’s visit, our Kazakhstani friends indicated in advance that they wanted to cover the following topics:
- The wide variety of U.S. libraries
- Policy-making for programs and activities in American libraries
- The role and functions of libraries and information specialists in U.S. society
- Information technology in libraries, including online and digital services
- Maker spaces
During our exchange, we touched on the variety of libraries in America as well as policy-making in today’s political climate, but we did not have time to cover maker spaces or information technology. The delegation was particularly interested in the structure and management of ALA and our state chapters. They shared their own experiences starting a federation of provincial libraries during the economic recession of 2008 and expressed interest in continuing to grow this new league of professionals.
The delegation plans to make several stops in Washington this week and will join the Annual meeting in Chicago to observe and learn more about American libraries, information professionals, and the management and structure of ALA.
I know I speak for my colleagues in saying that we thoroughly enjoyed our time together and that we look forward to next Wednesday when a delegation from Ethiopia will join us for what is sure to be another illuminating conversation.