A group of librarians from six countries visited the Blanco Library on Monday, July 5, as part of a “citizen to citizen diplomacy” effort sponsored by the U.S. State Department and coordinated by the International Hospitality Council of Austin. Participants made the trip to Texas as part of the annual American Library Association Conference in Washington, DC, to see how local libraries provide services to their communities through children’s programs, computer training, and literacy programs. Project goals include examining the role and function of libraries and information specialists in U.S. society; exploring the importance of community-based partnerships and strategies for promoting sustainability in American libraries; and demonstrating the diversity of library services and exploring the impact of new advances in digital and on-line technologies on various types of libraries.
The visitors included the following: Dr. Cristian Maturana, Information Resource Coordinator for the Library of Santiago, Chile; Mr. Tiegbe Gaston Kone, Head of the Information Resource Department, National School of the Arts in Cote d’Ivoire; Ms. Keng Ngo Wong, Senior Technician for the Library of the Government of Macau SAR; Mrs. Sarah Dauda Yani, Librarian and Head of Internet/Databases Training, Kashim Ibrahim Library, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria; Ms. Biljana Nikolic, Coordinator for American Corner, Nis, Serbia; and Ms. Min Young Hwang, Coordinator, Daegu American Corner, Daegu Central Library, South Korea. They were accompanied by US State Department English Language Officer, Mr. Norman Skougstad.
Each delegate was given a gift bag filled with items donated by the Blanco Chamber of Commerce. Representatives of the three library support groups participated in a panel discussion with the delegates: Don Gaines, president of the Blanco South Library District Board; Jeff Holmes, president of the Friends of the Blanco Library, and Gwen Risinger, president of Blanco Library, Inc. Librarian Crystal Spybuck summarized her feelings about the visit, saying “We were very honored to have these delegates here and enjoyed getting to share information and time together.” Gwen Risinger commented that the challenges faced by these librarians are very different from those of the Blanco Library. For example, libraries in these countries do not operate with the help of volunteers as does the Blanco Library, whose volunteers conduct the day-to-day operations of the library. Delegates appeared to enjoy their visit and expressed hope that some sort of exchange program could be implemented.