Sunday, November 11, 2007

Final blog entry

My apologies for posting this late. My hotel in Beijing seems to charge for Internet access so I thought I would wait for my son and husband to arrive and then pay for one day and take care of things all at once.

Our last day in Fuzhou was quite fun. We actually got a day off. In the morning we visited the Fuzhou zoo which is basically a panda (giant and lesser pandas) and other bear zoo- no other animals. Besides incredibly cute pandas there are a grizzly bear and an American black bear. There was another bear species but they were not out in the enclosure so we couldn’t see them real well. Hopefully when I post this entry I will post the pictures as well- way too many but how can one resist.

Then we went to the flower, fish, antique, and pet market. Unfortunately we got tied up in the antique section (there was a good place to buy jade) so we never really saw all of it.

After lunch it was packing, nap and massage (for me) time. Then off to our farewell banquet which was as wonderful as the others we attended over the past 3 weeks.

On Saturday we were up early to make the 1 hour plus trip to the Fuzhou airport. Our Fuzhou Horner visitors- Mr Ruan, Mr Wu and Ms. Fang accompanied us and stayed with us with me being last. The system is different than ours. When you are leaving China as Gretta was to go to Hong Kong she went through an international departure gate and that is the last we saw of her. Then for domestic departures you don’t go to your airline’s counter but by flight a station is opened up 1.5 hours before and you send your bags and get your boarding pass. I was wanded and my carry on searched as I went through but the good part was when they made me turn around I could wave to our friends who were waiting and watching me. All was well and I caught up with Rosalind and saw her off.

I made it safely to my hotel in Beijing and can only assume the others made it to their destinations as well- Hong Kong for Gretta and Shanghai for Rosalind.

I will conclude with a few of the general observations we made during the trip:
• China is growing at a geometric pace which has resulted in an unusual sociological phenomenon- the growth has not been evolutionary but revolutionary. Traffic is an excellent example of this- they did not start with slow cars sharing the road with horses and other slow moving vehicles but went from carts to fast cars practicalloy overnight. There do not seem to be any rules that evolved but total chaos. The interesting part is that it works. We never saw an accident and an American businessman I talked to on my plane didn’t either. He said it was explained to him that each driver is responsible for what is in front of him and nothing more. At times it is like a dance.
• China is a country of contradictions- once again the traffic demonstrates this- carts being pulled by people share the road with cars and mopeds- try to imagine human drawn carts sharing the streets of downtown Portland with left turns being made from right lanes and cars going the opposite direction on a one way street. The other area of contradiction is the traditional Chinese veneration of its elders and the importance of family relationships. Yet, in modern China, families are quite often split apart as fathers or both parents go to the cities to work and leave children in the rural areas with grandparents with parents visiting one to two times per year. As temporary residents in the cities, the parents also do not have equal access to services including library services in Fuzhou. Xiamen does extend borrowing privileges to non-permanent residents. Folks can use the Fuzhou libraries but cannot borrow.
• There is a strong government commitment to libraries as demonstrated by the massive buildings that have been constructed- both for public and academic libraries. If there is one thing we would recommend changing is the way standards are set- they are very intensively focused on collection size. There needs to be a better way to account for electronic resources and usage. There is basically no weeding in any of the libraries we visited since they need to keep their collection size as large as possible.
• The libraries we visited all seem to be on the right track- in some areas they are doing things better than we are. The rapid pace of development throughout all aspects of Chinese life is also reflected in how libraries are developing.
• They face many of the same problems and difficulties we do- having enough resources to meet demand, marketing the library and its collections, dealing with difficult patrons, how to account for electronic resources, what happens if a library stops subscribing to an electronic resource- how does it get counted now, and so on.

That’s enough for now. For more discussion please join us at the WLA-OLA Conference in April where we will be doing a presentation. We look forward to seeing your comments on the blog when we once again have access to it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Wednesday and Thursday November 7-8

Wednesday we visited the old campus of Fujian Normal University where we were treated to a viewing of rare books and paintings. The books were Chinese- privately printed as well as government produced. The government ones were on better paper and have not yellowed. There were also books written in English from 1654-1848 about the exploration of China by missionaries, embassy officials and adventurers. They have a collection numbering 10,000 rare items.

Then we were shown several of the 500 ancient paintings they have. The most amazing was 7 meters long and is of 100 flowers. It is believed to be about 300 years old and was taken by the tutor to the last emperor of China in the early 1900’s from the Forbidden City to Fuzhou. He then donated his entire collection of books and paintings to the Fuzhou Normal University as one of its founders. The ink is all from natural dyes and has not diminished in intensity. Then we viewed 4 hanging paintings which are also posted to the blog. These are painted on rice paper and then glued to a silk backing. One is by the famous artist Qi Bai Shi who is famous for his paintings of crabs and shrimp. The painting of the old man carrying a peach symbolizes longevity.

The visit to Acquisitions and cataloging was interesting in terms of process. When books arrive they are piled in what can only be described as a precarious leaning tower of Pisa. As they whittle their way down the materials go into another room where they surround the librarian working on them. As in other libraries we visited the book vendors come in and do all the processing.

In the afternoon Gretta presented to about 100 attendees on the topic of “From Gatekeeper to Portal to Cybercommons: the ever evolving nature of the university library. And in the evening we attended the “night market” at which a large variety of goods and foods are sold.

Thursday was another cultural day with a drive and ferry ride to the island of Mei Zhou which houses an amazing temple complex devoted to Ma Zu. Ma Zu was a young woman who at the age of 28 ascended to heaven and has been revered ever since. During her short life she was renowned for her ability to forecast the weather thereby saving fisherman as well as her incredible kindness and generosity. She lived from 960-987.

Tomorrow, Friday, is our last day with the three of us scattering to three different corners of China on Saturday. My intent is to make one last blog entry on Saturday after I reach Beijing and before I begin a 2 week personal tour of China with my husband and son.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tuesday November 6

We had a lively day with a morning visit to Min Jiang University and an afternoon visit to the Chinese Medical School Library. Min Jiang University is smaller than the others we have visited and it also serves as a quasi-community college offering both 3 and 4 year degrees. We visited the new campus which is a complex outside of Fuzhou located in an area with at least 5 other universities nearby. These include Fuzhou University, the Chinese and Western Medical Schools, a technical university and who knows what else.
This area has been designated by the government as the site for campuses for both new and expanded existing universities. Min Jiang’s focus is on vocational studies, arts and crafts and teaching. It claims to be the best among the newly build universities and was started in 2002.

The library opened in June 2005 and currently has about 900,000 items and they are adding about 50,000 items per year working to meet the government standard of 100 books per student. It is about 13,000 square meters.

In the afternoon we visited the Chinese Medical School campus and Library. They opened only last week with an older campus still downtown. It was very interesting to see a specialized library. Like the other buildings we visited, it is massive with huge computer labs. The two campuses together have about 480,000 volumes and the new building is 16,000 square meters for the library and 9,000 square meters for a museum of traditional Chinese medicine which was not yet open so we could not visit.

In the evening we were treated to a tea party at the house of one of this year’s Horner fellows from China, Xiao Fang. Her husband is the Chair of the Fujian Tea Society and gave us a lesson in preparing and drinking tea. He shared with us a tea he has had for 10 years and never opened before. The tea plant it came from is the parent plant for Fujian tea and is being retired this year so leaves from this plant will no longer be available. It was a very special experience particularly since we got to visit them in their home. We also visited a neighbor’s apartment where she has a special tea room set up. Yes, pictures are coming.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Monday November 5

Today we visited Fuzhou Normal University. Despite its name it is a lot more than a teaching university and is a comprehensive university offering classes from undergraduate through PhD. It is celebrating its centennial next week so we will just miss the festivities although everyone is very busy getting ready for it. The first president was the tutor for the last Qing emperor.

There are about 25,000 students with 20,000 of them undergraduates. They also have many involved in distance learning taking the total to closer to 60,000.
It ranks number 6 out of 1,000 provincial universities in the country.

The current main library facility opened in May 2006 and is quite impressive. They have the oldest collection in the province and the first president donated his collection to the library. They only show this collection to esteemed visitors. Pictures are posted. (In fact all of Teresa’s pictures are now posted and I am working on getting them tagged better. Next will be the task of loading Gretta’s and eventually Rosalind’s)

The collection is 2,086,000 volumes and is the largest of the provincial university libraries. They have 200,000 rare books with 10,000 of these considered “classics”. They also have a collection of 200,000 documents and many of these are about Taiwan from when Taiwan was still part of Fujian province. They are number 3 in the nation for documents trailing only behind Beijing University and Hua Dong University.

They also collect famous paintings back to the Song and Yuan dynasties.

We had a special lunch in Ming Hou, a nearby village with the table area made out of bamboo (pictures posted). And yes, posted is another picture of mom and baby water buffalo- they are different from the ones the day before. Those who know me well will understand why there are so many animal shots. Just know we are all being restrained- there are many very cute dogs running around everywhere- the most car savvy any of us have ever encountered.

The afternoon was interesting as Rosalind had something to attend to so Gretta and I were left to fend for ourselves with two very nice and earnest translators. We met with the various division directors and did our best but we did miss Rosalind. It is a much richer experience because of her skills, abilities and sensitivities.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sat and Sunday November 3 and 4

The weekend was as busy as the weekdays have been. In fact we had to be ready earlier than usual on Saturday. It was a very special day with an excursion up into the mountains to visit a native Hakka village with the former diretor of Xiamen Municipal Library who grew up in this town. The village and surrounding areas are famous for their earth dwellings. Many of them were built in a circular fashion for protection reasons. The Hakka fled from the central area of China to southern China to avoid ongoing conflicts during the Tang and Song dynasties. Most of the dwellings are still inhabited and are like round apartment complexes. Yes, pictures are coming. These earth buildings have been declared a UNESCO World heritage site.

There are currently about 10,000 residents of the village and all are members of the Jiang clan. Gretta’s excitement came from the plethora of fresh persimmon trees and yes, she has been feasting on fresh persimmon ever since.

The first special treat was a visit to Mr. Jiang’s house where his brothers and their families still live. He left many years ago to attend Beijing University to study history.
After a nice lunch in a local restaurant where in our honor the head was left on the chicken, we headed out to the surrounding countryside where we visited another village with its local temple and canal. This village is at the base of tea country so drying tea (it’s harvest time) was everywhere.

Climbing further into the mountains we viewed an earth building complex that from the top (yes we could look down on it) looks like a plum flower. Leaving there we continued through the mountains through absolutely phenomenally beautiful countryside. Similar to the cascades but imagine bamboo instead of pine! Besides the incredible scenery we were treated to passing several pomelo harvest collection sites along the road. Rosalind did her magic and negotiated for about 10 pomelos. We ate one in the car- it fed all 9 of us and was wonderful! Then we had to get a shot of pomelos growing on the mountainside like blackberries grow in Oregon and then I was treated to mom and baby water buffalo grazing at the side of the road. Yes pictures of all this are coming soon.

We got back late as usual after an indescribable drive through the mountains. Whatever we have said about driving in town- doesn’t change in the mountains. Then up early again on Sunday to visit the beach in Xiamen and the Hulishan fortress which is home to the largest cannon in the world. There were originally two such cannons but Mao ordered them to be made into steel. One was taken but the community gathered the money to pay the equivalent value and saved it. The fortress was built in the Qing Dynasty to guard Xiamen against foreign invaders.

We then went to lunch at the first vegetarian restaurant in China! It is in the Nanputuo Temple. The food art was INCREDIBLE and pictures are coming up soon. They made the food on the plate actually look like bamboo trees (using cucumbers for the branches) and another that looked like coconut trees using snow pea pods for the fronds. Dessert was sticky rice made to look like a pumpkin and filled with a nut/sesame/? Filling. Then there was the tofu made to look like a coin purse with carrots shaped like coins and sticky rice for gold nuggets. I was extremely pleased and stuffed- not used to carrying the food load! Interestingly, this same sticky rice was mixed with gravel to form the pavement surface of the fortress so that if attacked by a missile/cannon it would only hurt not kill- kind of like shatter proof glass.

Then off to Fuzhou where we were met by Mr Rouan,one of this year's visitors. Late dinner and then back to the hotel to unpack and prepare for our last week!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Thur Nov 1 and Fri Nov 2

Thursday November 1 we started out the day traveling to a branch of the Xiamen Municipal Library in Guankou. It is housed in a cultural center and provides computer and internet access, magazines, books and a lovely children’s area. I believe I actually posted these pictures even though the ones from the days previous are not up yet. We met with the director of the center who is very proud of his cooperative work with other agencies. They offer an amazing number of classes to the community on Saturdays and Sundays. This branch is different from the one at Gulan Yu in that the cultural center and village government provide the space, utilities, computers an furniture and contracts with Xiamen Municipal for staff and collection. Very similar to the Benton County model.

We then visited a memorial to Tan Kah Kee who was an overseas Chinese who funded many schools including Xiamen and Jimei Universities. He is buried at the museum and his tomb looks like a turtle. The museum is outside and is rather large with friezes depicting every aspect of Chinese history, fauna, flora, daily activities, sports, etc that you can possibly imagine. Pictures just don’t do it justice. We also visited his home in Guankou.

We then ventured on to Jimei University which is in Jimei so is outside the prosperous Xiamen Special Economic Zone. They are currently moving the humanities collection into a new library so we got to visit the new library which is not yet open and observed their method of moving collections. Very different from what we are all familiar with and the pictures are quite revealing. Unfortunately many of mine ended up too dark and I have not had a chance yet to load Greta’s but it’s coming…. More for us to tell when we return. We met with one of the deputy directors and toured the current Main building as well. This is a much smaller university- only 23,000 students and 130 FTE. The buildings, however, are of the same scale as many of the others we have seen. Their resources are definitely more limited than Xiamen University’s but they do have a very well developed system for bibliographic instruction and student orientation to the library.

Friday was a light day with shopping in the morning- always a cultural experience with our intrepid companion and translator. Lunch was very special. We went to a Buddhist Temple which just opened a vegetarian restaurant this past month. The bamboo and other wood was just amazing and the food was incredible. For me, after two weeks of “poor thing- she’s vegetarian- what will she eat?” it was very special. The highlight, however, was the servers who were dressed in Han dresses rather than qipaos- much closer to kimonos. We asked to take our picture with one of them and ended up with about 6 who wanted their pictures taken with Gretta and me only. Of course we obliged and it will get posted in good time We were the first westerners our server had ever served.

In the afternoon I gave a presentation on services to 0-6, teens, seniors and non English speaking populations. The hit, however, was a demonstration of L-Net where we signed in and asked for the population of Xiamen. A very nice librarian in Michigan named Nikki answered it for us. It was 5 pm for us and 4 am for Nikki.

Then, while waiting to leave for dinner, we were treated to a stint in their staff room which includes exercise equipment, two ping pong tables and 2 chair massagers. Sorry to report that Gretta lost her ping pong game but we all enjoyed the chair massages. I know what’s going on my Friends Wish List!

We then had our Xiamen farewell dinner at a famous Xiamen dim sum restaurant.
The weekend includes visits to two more cultural facilities then back to Fuzhou for our last week.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Xiamen Tue Oct 30 and Wed Oct 31

We have just put in our third 12-14 hour day in a row. Tonight is actually an early night- back by 8 pm. Just uploaded 121 pictures from my camera and still have Gretta’s disk to tackle and the rest of the original 68 so still way behind on pictures.

Tuesday we spent at Xiamen University. What a beautiful campus. In the morning we toured the main library and talked with the department heads. Rosalind got a little bit of a break as everyone’s English was quite good. We still really needed her for the in depth stuff but basic communication was much easier. As usual the nitty gritty details of the visit will wait for later but some of the highlights are included here. Everything here seems to be on a huge scale. They have 20,000 undergraduate students and 14,000 graduate students. We toured a special collection of a major Chinese born author who is also responsible for inventing the Chinese typewriter in 1946- Lin Yu Tang. Xiamen University is working very hard to get donations of English language academic library level materials dating as far back as the 1950’s. The director says that if American libraries can get the materials to San Francisco’s port, he can get them to Xiamen. As with the other libraries we have seen their funding comes from the national government. Xiamen University is one of the top 10 universities in China. Gretta was very impressed with their electronic resources – they have access to over 200,000 electronic journals including several from Oregon.

In the afternoon we took a very choppy ferry ride (only 15 minutes but very long ones for me on the way over) to a branch campus of Xiamen University on a peninsula in a town called Zhang Zhou. To go by land would take 2 hours. It is a very new campus and the library was absolutely stunning- but you will have to wait for pictures . Freshmen and sophomores from Xiamen University study here. We saw quite a few westerners who are there to teach and as exchange students.

The trip back was much calmer, at least on Teresa’s stomach, and we then had the treat of visiting the old market area with some excellent negotiators by our sides. Dinner was dim sum at a restaurant overlooking the sea with incredible lights all around. Once again- pictures to follow someday…. Then we shopped in a more modern area with our negotiators now increased by three. Boy did we get deals.

Wednesday we headed to the island of Gulanyu (5 minute very calm ferry) where we visited the branch of Xiamen Muncipal library that is housed there. Finally not an enormous building but reasonable in size to serve a much smaller population. There are only 18,000 residents and two arts colleges on the island. The library’s collection serves the art and performing arts needs of the college students so is rather unusual for a branch library of its size.

Gulanyu is a very popular Chinese tourist destination with lots of great shopping thanks again to our great negotiators! We also visited one of the few private art museums in China with furniture and other artifacts from the Ming and Qing dynasties. A highlight of the visit was a visit to one organ and two piano museums. The pianos were primarily brought to the island when there many foreign embassies located there and the pianos never left so many are quite old. There is also an overseas Chinese man who continues to provide organs for the organ museum and is responsible for the museums in general. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed in any of these museums.

After eating at a Thai restaurant for lunch- something a little different- we visited the Xiamen Children’s Library which is a separate entity from the Xiamen Municipal Library. I was impressed by the amount of programming they do and the support they give to the schools and to parents. They also have a room set up by the Apple Tree Library Foundation which is composed of materials in English including Big Books, games on CD-rom to be used in the library, English language story times, etc. The bookmobile was interesting in that it not only holds books but is also used to transport staff from and to their homes.

That should be enough for now- will try to get some pictures loaded before bed time and another early day tomorrow.