Home News Tribune (New Brunswick, NJ)
Posted on February 5, 2003
By Joan Hritz
EAST BRUNSWICK: It was the large number of computers and the television facilities at the East Brunswick Public Library that last week impressed Russian visitors the most.
A delegation of 10 Russian librarians toured the township's library on Friday and found several distinct differences between libraries in the two countries.
They found that American libraries are more compartmentalized than their Russian counterparts with Russian staffers taking on more duties. Though the use of computers is increasing in Russia, they are more prevalent in the U.S. Children's libraries are frequently found in separate buildings in Russia and the salaries of employees in Russian libraries are considerably lower than those in the United States.
The 10 Russian women seemed particularly impressed with East Brunswick's public access television station, which is housed at the library.
They also were impressed with the number of new books the library purchases each year and the fact that library funding in New Jersey is handled by each municipality.
The visitors came in conjunction with the Open World Program, sponsored by the U.S. Congress, to foster better understanding between the two countries. The program is funded by the Library of Congress and the Soros Foundation. The New Jersey segment was coordinated by Rutgers University, whose staff hosted the visitors.
The group was accompanied by interpreter Regina Akopian, a graduate student in political science at Rutgers University who is a native of the Republic of Georgia.
The delegation, which was welcomed by Mayor William Neary and library director Jason Stone, was taken on tours by library staffers Kathy Smith and Lee Walling. The visitors were given a computer lab demonstration by staffer Brendan Boyle.
Neary told them that the township has the busiest, most-used library in the state while Stone said East Brunswick is one of only a dozen libraries in the U.S. with its own television station.
Olga Evdokimova, director of the American Information Center at Novgorod, near Moscow, said she provides "updated information to Russians who want to know more about America" and "information about Russia to Americans who travel or work in our city."
In Russian libraries, "you can work in more than one department," she said. Her duties include arranging catalogs, working in the circulation department and organizing lectures.
The library Evdokimova works in has 20 computers that may be used by the public. It is a "very popular service," she said.
Her library is open only to adults. Its department of foreign languages includes English-language and American books.
She called the East Brunswick facility a "very special library."
Slavyana V. Sagakian, director of the American Information Center at the Mayor's Library of Yekaterinburg, said she manages "this little American library. I do everything," including programming, acquisitions, grants and fund-raising.
Her library was organized by the U.S State Department. Her pay, the highest in her department, is $80 a month; her staff each get $60 a month.
Library patrons cannot check out audio or video tapes to prohibit them from being copied, but people can use them at the center. They can take out books and periodicals.
"We have very good computers because they are provided by the State Deparment," she said.
The U.S. State Department, under Project Harmony, provides free Internet access.
"We have textbooks, reference books, documentary books about politics and history," she said. "We have a big section of American fiction and this is the most popular."
A passport is needed to take out books. "We all have passports for internal use," she said.
There is a small penalty for late return, about one ruble a day - there are about 32 rubles to $1.
"Russian libraries are very different," she said, pointing out that they have closed stacks and are not concerned about community events. They are "old traditional libraries," she said.
The East Brunswick library is "wonderful, especially the children's department" and the television station "is so innovative," she said.
Natalia A. Glazkova works in the research department of the National Library of Russia at St. Petersburg. She studies the organization and uses of library in the various regions of Russia and the development of legislation affecting libraries.
"I was surprised to see the (East Brunswick) library staff has a high educational background," she said, noting that is not required in Russia.
"We view our library as a depository of national intellectual treasures," she said. Included are books dating back to the 15th century and a collection of original Voltaire works.
Glazkova said the East Brunswick library is "very nice."
Joan Hritz: (732) 565-7274; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com
[Reprinted with Permission]