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The Open World Program organized by the U.S. Congress gives emerging Russian leaders the opportunity to visit the United States for a short period of time, enabling them to experience U.S. democracy and free enterprise in action in communities across the country. While in the United States, Open World participants learn about the functions of the three branches of the U.S. government – executive, legislative and judicial.
Sixty-six Dagestanis have visited the United States under the Open World Program since 1999. These are people who are well known in the republic – government officials at different levels, academics, politicians, journalists, representatives from nongovernmental organizations, doctors and librarians. Today they are all corporately united, as the Open World Center has begun operating in Dagestan. Through Project Harmony Inc., a non-profit organization, the Open World Center conducts the Open World Alumni Outreach Program in Russia.
Under this program, Project Harmony Inc. develops the website and organizes regional conferences, seminars and master classes. It also releases a quarterly newsletter and holds various forums for alumni to participate in.
Open World Alumni Outreach staff and regional coordinators provide alumni with relevant information on events scheduled in the regions, help them keep in touch with their U.S. host organizations and families, and set up clubs and alumni associations.
Elmir Yakubov, director of the Khasavyurt city central library system, is the Open World Alumni Outreach regional coordinator in Dagestan. Certain work has already been done under his guidance – Open World alumni have already had gatherings and participated in “get-to-know” meetings and other relevant seminars.
One of the activities initiated by Elmir Yakubov is called Kind Books for Kind Neighbors, which encourages exchange program alumni to collect books for school libraries in the Gudermes region of Chechnya. Over 3,000 books were collected during the event.
On February 11, 2005, some of these books were given to Lilya Yusupova, head of the Gudermes division of the Memorial human rights organization and executive director of the Sozidaniye [Creation] regional public organization. The books will later be passed to school libraries that are most in need.
At a recent meeting, organization members discussed the Dagestani exchange program alumni’s possible participation in social projects aimed at providing aid to educational, cultural, healthcare and sports facilities in the Gudermes region. Lilya Yusupova noted, “We are always warmly welcomed in Khasavyurt. Today’s meeting gave me optimism and a belief in happiness for my much suffering nation. We would love to come back, especially given that an agreement on broader cooperation has been reached.”
Arsanali Murtazaliyev, deputy head of the Khasavyurt administration and a 2002 Open World alumnus, summed up the results of the meeting, saying, “Let the kind books that Khasavyurt residents collected for their kind neighbors help the children who found themselves in a very difficult situation that was caused by adults.”
Librarians from Khasavyurt who participated in the Open World Program held a seminar “Changing World – Changing Reader” for their counterparts from the Kaspiisk Central Library. The seminar, which was initiated by Open World alumni Larisa Tananykina, Chakara Magomedaliyeva and Elmir Yakubov, gathered librarians from Buinaksk, Kaspiisk, Kizlyar, Makhachkala and Khasavyurt. Altogether 48 people – heads and senior specialists of general, university and specialized libraries in Dagestan – took part in the seminar.
Ms. Temirbekova, director of the Buinaksk city centralized library system, said, “This is the first time I have participated in such a seminar. I learned a lot about experience of my counterparts from other libraries of the republic and even from the United States.”
Seminar participants learned about the development of information services in the United States, about Russian libraries’ experience as well as possibilities for exchange programs.
After a short lecture “Library and Information Services in Russia and the United States: Common Problems – Different Solutions,” prepared by Ms. Tananykina, deputy director of the research library of Dagestani State University, seminar participants divided into small groups for practical exercises. Larisa Tananykina, Chakara Magomedaliyeva and Elmir Yakubov acted as moderators. At the end of the seminar, a joint session was conducted, during which the groups presented what they had worked on. All the participants received seminar materials prepared by Ms. Magomedaliyeva and Mr. Yakubov and watched a movie on the Open World Program and its Dagestani alumni.
Ms. Magomedova, director of the Kaspiisk city centralized library system, said, “I am grateful to the Open World Program alumni for the initiative. Kaspiisk librarians received a great deal of valuable information, which will help improve our work.”
Mr. Omarov, head of the library science and bibliography department at Dagestani State University and doctor of pedagogical sciences, said, “I do theoretical research in library studies. I was amazed that practicing librarians highly evaluated my job. The Seminar organizers found the best way to promote academic knowledge. As I understand it, they borrowed the idea of using business games in librarian training from their American counterparts.
In the near future, the association plans to organize a meeting between Open World alumni and Andrea Appell and Elena Bukovskaya, representatives of Project Harmony Inc., who will arrive in Dagestan on March 15. The purpose of their visit is to help Open World alumni join efforts and resources to exercise influence for the sustained development of the region. The seminar “Close-Knit Team Always Wins” will be held during the visit. The seminar is aimed at beefing up team spirit among the alumni and integrating personal and team objectives.
The regional IATP Center (an online resource for Open World alumni) will be opened on May 16. All the events will take place at the Public Assembly of the Republic of Dagestan and the Rasul Gamzatov Central Dagestani Republican Library.
[Reprinted with Permission]