Talking In The Reading Room

Foreign librarians learn from Austin volunteerism

Representatives of the international library community communicate the old fashioned way: Face to face
Representatives of the international library community communicate the old fashioned way: Face to face (Photo by Jillian Richardson)

Reading and travel both broaden the mind, and delegates from the Foreign Librarians Tour combined the two with a trip on Friday to the Austin Public Library. The round table discussion opened up conversation about volunteer programs, technology, and how to bring children and teens into the reading community.

The delegation, which included representatives from as far afield as Serbia, Cote D'Ivoire and Macoa, was greeted at the Austin History Center by several members of the Austin Public Library branch. The welcoming committee announced their hope for a valuable exchange of ideas as members of the delegation took their seats.

The trip was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State via their International Visitor Leadership Program. Before coming to Austin, the delegates traveled to the New York and Queens Borough Public Libraries, and then to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. (A soft murmur arose at the recollection of touring the latter.) Yet how Austin's underfunded library system operates seemed to be more relevant to the delegates. As public information officer Kanya Lyons put it, "We do a lot with a little".

"Austin as a city is a leader in wifi," said Managing Librarian Tom Moran as he explained the technology Austin Public Libraries use. Moran told the guests that people lined up every morning to use the computers in the library. They also talked about how Austin libraries are moving from VHS and tape technology to DVDs and CDs.

The conversation then moved to keeping youth involved. "What kind of programs do you offer to children?" asked Biljana Nikolic, coordinator of Serbia's American Corner. Austin's Teen Services Coordinator Heath Rezabek talked about story time with the Literature LIVE! performance troupe among other craft oriented programs for children.

It seemed that delegates were interested in our volunteer services. Nikolic said, "In America you have this volunteering spirit … What's your secret?" Members of the Austin Public Library talked alternately about Boy and Girl Scouts, public service announcements and school requirements for community service. Delegates jotted down ideas on how to get their communities involved and excited about volunteering.

After finishing up conversation, the delegates walked over to the Faulk Central Library to take a tour and then make altered books. These pieces of art will soon be on display at Austin Public Library's used book store, Recycled Reads.

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City Staff, Austin Public Library, Foreign Librarians Tour, International Visitor Leadership Program

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