executive director of the National Book Trust of Uganda, visits with guests
inside Olin Library during the Free Access to Information and Freedom of
Expression-International Federation of Library Associations conference Nov.
International Librarians Share Experiences, Learn about Information
Access at Conference
Alice Miranda stood in awe at the plethora of
books available for check-out at Olin Library. Miranda, a professor at the
Universidad Nacional Costa Rica, says Wesleyan’s library has more books than
seven countries in Central America combined, including 15 universities.
“There are 1.5 million books in this library,” Miranda says, peering at the
wall shelves in Olin’s Smith Room. “In Central America, our libraries are
nothing like this. Our biggest library would have 1,000 books, and some have
less than 100. And the books we do have are old. The books of medicine are
from the 1970s. In Central America, the libraries just don’t have the money
to buy enough books.”
at left, was one of 10 librarians from other countries who visited Olin
Library Nov. 27-Dec. 1 for the Free Access to Information and Freedom of
Expression-International Federation of Library Associations conference and
workshop. The topic was “The Internet Manifesto and Public Health
Information: The Library’s Role.”
For five days, the international librarians attended lectures and field
trips to local libraries in Middletown, Hartford, New Haven and New York
City to talk about access to information. At Wesleyan, the guests attended
presentations on internet use in Wesleyan’s libraries, and access to public
health information in the Science Library.
Each librarian brought his or her own perspectives to the conference.
Lampang Manmart, an assistant professor, teaches library and information
studies at Khon Kaen University in Thailand. There, she says, a library is
used as a community center, and generally boasts a coffee shop, shopping
area, exhibition area and bank. Street musicians or bands often perform at
the library’s entry way.
Khon Kaen has 200 full-time staff members tending to multiple libraries
across the campus. The campus’s main library has three massive sections for
its more than 30,000 students.
“The problem with our library is that it’s just too large, overcrowded and
there’s not enough computers for everyone,” Manmart explains. “I like that
here, at Wesleyan, the library is small and comfortable. It’s not crowded,
and it’s in a very beautiful building.”
Jones, the Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian, hosted the conference
and held an open reception Nov. 27 for the international guests. (Jones is
pictured at right with Manmart)
“By having them at Wesleyan, we were able to talk about the importance of
libraries, and also about the importance of freedom of expression and access
to information as part of the academic enterprise,” Jones says. “It also
gave Wesleyan students and faculty an opportunity to discuss their dedicated
to global initiatives.”
The guests received tours and lectures of the Russell Public Library in
Middletown, the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale University, the Hartford
Public Library; the Connecticut State Library; and the Queens Borough Public
Library in Jamaica, N.Y. Program topics included Cancer and HIV/AIDS
Community Outreach Initiatives, health projects, library health literacy
programs, community outreach initiatives in the U.S. Middle Atlantic Region,
electronic resources for public health information and policies to provide
public health information through the internet.
In addition, the conference included topics about internet usage, and how
government transparency and anti-corruption projects have a direct impact on
libraries' ability to provide information openly and inexpensively.
In Costa Rica, Miranda says most libraries are the size of one or two
classrooms, and not only lack books, but computers. Her university’s library
hosts only 50 computers for its 17,000 students. In contrast, a public
library would have only one machine available for internet access, she
The conference’s guests of honor included Miranda; Manmart; Victoria Okojie,
president of the Nigerian Library Association in Nigeria, Africa; Martha
Castro, sub-directora de USBI-VER at the Universidad Veracruzana in Mexico;
Agnes Chikonzo, a librarian at the University of Zimbabwe, Africa; and
Fatima Darries, faculty librarian at the Cape Peninsula University of
Technology Institution, South Africa..
Also Charles Batambuze, executive director of the National Book Trust of
Uganda; Lilia F. Echiverri, assistant law librarian at the University of the
Philippines Law Library; Marica Rosetto, president of the FEBAB, Brazil; and
Paul Sturges, professor at the University of Loughborough, United Kingdom.
The conference was sponsored by the International Federation of Library
Associations (IFLA), The Hague; and the Swedish International Development
Agency (SIDA), Uppsala.
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection