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Septmber 12-24, 2005

Chinese Ministry of Culture Library Delegation Visit

From September 12 to September 24, the USCPF hosted a Library Delegation from the Chinese Ministry of Culture on their visit to the United States. The delegation, of which no one had been to the United States before, toured five cities, including Washington, Princeton, New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. The delegation included Mr. Zhang Xu, Director-General of the Bureau of Society, Culture, and Libraries; Mr. Zhang Yongxin, Division Chief in the Bureau; Mr. Bai Xuehua, Deputy-Devision Chief in the Bureau; Mr. Xie Lien, Chief of Shaanxi Province Library; and Mr. Zhao Bingwu, Chief of Shangdong Province Library.

In Washington, the delegation was welcomed by the Library of Congress and the George Washington University Gelman Library. At the Library of Congress, highlights included a tour through the Library’s extensive map collection as well as an introduction to the Congressional Research Service. The delegation concurred that the Library of Congress was a credit to America and one of the most beautiful libraries that they had ever visited. At Gelman Library, the delegation was introduced to the standard American university library methods and facilities as well as the newly enhanced Sino-Slavic Reading Room. In Washington, the delegation also received a tour of the Capitol Building, courtesy of Representative Diana Watson’s office. They also toured the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the Air and Space Museum.

In Princeton, Dr. Tai Loi Ma accompanied the delegation on a tour of The Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (ReCAP), the modern high-density joint storage facility of Princeton, Columbia University, and the New York Public Library; Institute of Advanced Studies; and Princeton Public Library. The tour was conducted by the Executive Director Eileen Henthorne. The ReCAP facility is modular by design, so additional modules can be added as needed. At the time the delegation visited, four modules were in operation. The site will eventually allow for the eventual construction of fifteen modules, amounting to 218,820 square feet of storage space for 37.5 million items. After seeing all of the libraries, the delegation unanimously agreed that the Chinese collection in ReCAP exceeded the other Chinese collections in both quantity and quality.

The delegation visited Princeton Public Library and held discussion with its Director Leslie Burger, who is the ALA President-elect. They had lunch with Karin Trainer, University Librarian of Princeton University. They toured the University’s Firestone Library, East Asian Library and Art Museum. They also visited the Office of the Chinese Rare Books Project and met with the Editorial Director, Soren Edgren.

The delegation arrived in New York City by train on September 17, Saturday. On behalf of the C.V. Starr East Asian Library of Columbia University, Dr. Chengzhi Wang, Chinese Studies Librarian, met the delegation at the train platform at the Penn Station. No sooner had they left their luggage at the Hotel Pennsylvania than they started to go and visit the New York Public Library.

Though it was Saturday, NYPL professional and administrative representatives, who were supposed to take the weekend off, were waiting for the delegation to visit. After a work lunch arranged by Ms. Qi Xie, Chinese Studies Librarian, Dr. John M. Lundquist, the Susan and Douglas Dillon Chief Librarian of the Asian and Middle Eastern Division, officially welcomed the library. Ms. Xie gave the delegation a general tour of the exhibitions and major western language collections. After that, Dr. Lundquist and Ms. Xie offered a more detailed tour of the Asian Collections, especially Chinese collection. Dr. Lundquist offered a comprehensive introduction of the history of the NYPL’s research libraries and public libraries and their collections and services for both researchers and general public. In particular, Dr. Lundquist showed the delegation the major rare and special Chinese titles such as Taiping Rebellion documents and Chairman Mao’s rarely published works. The delegation members examined theses items and discussed with Dr. Lundquist with great interest. A more official, heated discussion on library budgeting, fund raising, library management and services ensued when the delegation was invited to Dr. Lundquist’s spacious office. To the particular interest of the delegation, Dr. Lundquist explained at length the private and public factors contributing the creation and development of NYPL. The visit to NYPL lasted about three hours.

On September 18, Sunday, the delegation visited the Consulate General of China in New York. The Consul-General for Culture Mr. Su and Consul for Culture Ms. Kong received the delegation and they had a pleasant talk with the delegation members. The discussion continued at the typical Chinese lunch hosted by the Consulate General. It was Moon Festival Day, at the arrangement of Dr. Wang, Chinese cake was also served to mark the traditional Chinese holiday for delegation members.

Next day, September 19, Monday, the delegation visited Columbia University. Dr. Amy Heinrich, Director of C. V. Starr East Asian Library welcomed the delegation and held a discussion with them. After that, Dr. Chengzhi Wang, Chinese Studies Librarian gave the delegation a tour of the library. With special permission, the delegation entered the Kress Rare and Special Collection with Dr. Wang. The delegation members were thrilled to review the unique rare and special Chinese collections at Columbia, particularly the Chinese genealogies, gazetteers, manuscripts, calligraphies, and many other types of rare and special materials treasured at Columbia. Delegation members studied several items created hundreds years ago and discussed about them with great interest. It was tentatively agreed that exchanges of genealogies would be undertaken between member libraries of the delegation and Columbia.

After that, James Neal, Columbia University Vice President and University Librarian, and Dr. Heinrich received the delegation for lunch in the Faculty House amid his very busy schedule. As an international expert and eloquent speaker on scholarly communications and copyright, often invited for hearings at Congress, Mr. Neal warmly welcomed the delegation. Delegation members and Mr. Neal, Dr. Heinrich, and Dr. Wang held a fruitful discussion on a variety of topics including intellectual copyrights, culture preservations, library services, and international exchanges and cooperation. Delegation members were excited to be informed by Mr. Neal that some parts of the American copyright laws are outdated in the new information age, and Mr. Neal and other experts are working to help improve American copyrights laws. Delegation Head Director-General Zhang presented Mr. Neal with Chinese gifts including digital works created by the Ministry of Culture and calligraphy of Minister of Culture. After the lunch, pictures were taken in front of Columbia University libraries.

On September 20, Tuesday, Dr. Chengzhi Wang sent the delegation members to the train to leave for Boston.

In Boston, the library delegation went to Harvard University and Boston Public Library. At Harvard, Mr. Ma Xiaohe kindly gave the delegation a tour of the Harvard-Yenching Library as well as the general library. The delegation especially enjoyed viewing the rare Chinese books and art at the Library Harvard-Yenching Library.

At the Boston Public Library, the delegation was impressed by the amount of variety in the various media stored at the library. The Boston Public library not only serves as a storage house for books, but also collects music, art, and a wide variety of primary resource material—all for the public’s use. The Library has also undergone extensive refurbishment in recent years. After seeing the newer parts of the library, the delegation was quite shocked at the contrast of seeing the parts of the library for which renovation were still pending. The efforts to integrate new technology into the Boston Public Library were also impressive. Like many other large Libraries, the whole facility has gone wireless; however, the Library is pioneering a new technology, generally used in hospitals, to replace the disruptive building intercom with individual, wireless communication devices for the library staff.

In Los Angeles, Mr. Abraham Yu of the University of CA-Irvine met the delegation to introduce the University’s library facilities. During their stay in Los Angeles and Orange County, they toured the UCI Libraries and the Los Angeles Central Library. In addition, they had an opportunity to visit the Grauman’s Chinese Theater, home to the hand & footprints of the Hollywood Stars. They also enjoyed an afternoon at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. During the tour of the UCI Libraries, they were attracted by the design of the building, the furniture, and the lighting system on each reading table. They were also impressed of UCI’s East Asian Collection.

The tour of the Los Angeles Central Library consisted of the Main Lobby with vividly painted ceilings; the 64 foot high dome with zodiac signs and 48 lights surrounding the rim, which represents the 48 United States in 1926 when the building first opened. The computer rooms for children and teens, the widescreen TV, and the International Languages Department were inspiring.

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