Fairmont Sentinel Online (Fairmont, MN)
Posted on July 3, 2004
By Dave Smith
FAIRMONT -- How different can it be to check out library books, regardless of what country you are in? Apparently it can be very different, according to a group of librarians from Russia who spent the week visiting the Fairmont area experiencing first hand how these facilities operate in the United States.
The group is here as part of the Open World program, and Fairmont was picked from only 30 cities in the nation to host this round of visits. Last year a different group of Russian librarians came to town, primarily focused on learning how our government works, especially in relation to libraries.
This group is visiting to get a first-hand experience of how American libraries actually work.
A variety of things taken for granted by American library patrons, such as online book requests, library catalogs accessible by computer and automated checkout are just a few of the things patrons in Russia do not see often, if at all.
Larisa Kuyantseva, head of the municipal resource center at the Yakovlev District Library in the Belgorod region of Russia, said she liked how fast patrons could get an interlibrary book loan.
Alexsey Kopeykin, a department head at the Russian State Children's Library in Moscow, said he liked the idea of having a single library system and one catalog for all the system's members. The other librarians agreed that this type of handling library tasks would be beneficial to them at home.
Kuyantseva said there used to be a centralized, regional system in her area, but it is no longer available because of a lack of funding.
The group was also impressed by the use of automated systems for handling things like cataloging and check outs.
Lyudmila Katasheva, chief librarian at the Central Children's Library in Nizhniy Tagil, Svedlovsk Oblast, said she would like to have a computerized system.
"There are not enough (computers) yet in our libraries," Katasheva said.
Marina Goncharova, chief librarian for marketing and innovations department at the National Library of Chuvashiya Republic, said Russian libraries do not have barcodes or security strips in all facilities, mainly due to the cost of implementation.
Children's services, another staple of American libraries, also garnered interest from this group.
Katasheva said she was especially interested in the summer reading program currently in full swing at the Martin County Library.
Goncharova said helping Jennifer Tow, children's librarian at the Fairmont library, put on kid's story hour was a great experience. She said libraries for children and adults are usually separate in Russia and nobody at her library really works with small children.
Kuyantseva said Tow seemed like a professional performer when she led the story hour. She said it was interesting to be involved in the summer reading program, where some visitors helped put on a skit for the children.
Kopeykin said one of the more surprising things the Russian visitors discovered was that to become a librarian in America a person has to have a master's degree. In Russia anyone who works at the library is a librarian. In America being a librarian is also a more respected career.
The community support American libraries receive, whether large or small, is notable as well, they said.
Goncharova said visiting a state juvenile detention facility in Red Wing was a great experience.
"We saw the whole facility; it was amazing for us," Goncharova said. "The (inmates) can walk around, work, watch TV and some can even draw a salary. Red Wing looks more like a university campus. The only thing different (from being free) is that they have to stay inside the fence."
The group noted the good relationship between the youth at the facility and the staff. They expected the visit to a prison to be a frightening event, but it ended up a good experience, they said.
"It look like for the teen-agers that they just can't go out of the fence," Katasheva added through an interpreter. "It seemed comfortable enough, not like in Russia."
The visitors said they wanted to come back to Fairmont in the future, adding that the people they met were all friendly, especially the families who hosted them.
"This was a great opportunity for us, not just to see important things like the library and fire department, but we also had a lot of fun," Katasheva said. "We got to play ball for the first time and went pontooning,"
"And we even got to drive the pontoon boat," said Anna Britayeva, the program's facilitator, who is back to Fairmont from Moscow for a second time.
The greatest accolades, however, were reserved for Martin County Library director Bryan McCormick and his staff. Their counterparts from America were helpful and patient with all of their questions, the visiting librarians said.
McCormick himself was paid what was probably the highest compliment of all. When the librarians were asked what they would most like to take back with them from their trip, the unanimous answer was: "Bryan. And that is from all of them; everyone," said interpreter Sergei Kulichenko.
[Reprinted with Permission]