In the year leading up to this visit to Fujian, I heard many times from past participants that our days would be packed with events, that we would learn so much and see so many things that everyday would be a fantastical whirlwind of libraries and new cultural experiences. Well, that has certainly proven to be the case! The last two days in particular we have been on the go from morning to night.
Here are the stats on the last 48 hours:
Cities visited: 3
Libraries visited: 4
Kilometers driven: about 200
Meals eaten: innumerable!
We started Friday morning with a quick tour of the impressively preserved historic district of Jinjiang which includes homes dating back to the Song Dynasty – making them almost 2000 years old!
Then we drove to seaside city of Xiamen. Xiamen is home to one of the most well-respected universities in the country and the university has a library to match. The library director and several staff members met us and talked about new developments in the library. They have a huge patron population and lots of different needs to fulfill. They have lots of innovative programs in reference and tech services, including virtual reference via WeChat, the preferred texting app in China.
Richard presents the OSU Press book Rivers of Oregon to the Xiamen University Library Director.
The Oregon delegation with several staff members of Xiamen University Library (after a fantastic lunch!)
All this excitement, PLUS, MaryKay tried her first geoduck!
After touring the library (and a fabulous lunch, of course), we took the ferry to nearby Gulangyu Island. There are no cars allowed on the island (well, technically there are four cars allowed on the island!) so pedestrians get the full run of the island’s charming cobblestone streets. Back in the 19th century when Xiamen was known by the name Amoy, many Western nations had their embassies on this island giving the neighborhood a European feel.
There is a beautiful book store on Gulangyu housed in a 19th century office building. It’s one of the prettiest bookstores I’ve ever been in!
Even though it was closed for the day, they were kind enough to open the public library on Gulangyu for us to tour. Despite it being a fairly small community, the library was still quite large and full of many different services. We loved the art displays made by local kids and we were all wowed by the extensive exhibit about the Typhoon Meranti – that’s the typhoon that hit Xiamen just 4 weeks ago and they already had a very polished, museum-quality display about it. We couldn’t imagine producing something so impressive in such a short time span in our own home libraries.
After yet another fantastic dinner, we went to the opening ceremony of Gulangyu’s fourth annual international poetry festival. Much of the poetry was in Chinese, of course, which made it hard for the English speakers to understand, but it was quite a spectacle with dances, songs, music, and videos so we were still thoroughly entertained.
Dancers at the Poetry Festival and Xiamen from the Gulangyu ferry at night
Saturday morning we had the opportunity to meet with the staff of Xiamen Public Library. It is housed in a former airport hangar – and, boy, do they use every inch of that space! The place was PACKED with people of all ages, but the children’s area in particular was at capacity and beyond. The library director told us that they are working on a new standalone children’s library, but will keep the children’s area at the main library, too, with the hopes that the extra space will disperse the crowd a bit. In any case, all of us were delighted to see so much hustle and bustle at the library.
The courtyard at Xiamen Public Library
We were also really excited to try out their high-tech 24 hour library kiosks. Anyone with a library card can unlock the kiosk at any time and check out a book using an RFID-based self-check out system. They have 116 of these stations all around the city, including one that’s accessible at all hours in the main library’s lobby.
Our interest was also piqued by their PDA system for physical books. That’s right –we got all aflutter about patron-triggered purchases for print materials. Now we’re getting nerdy!
We were all presented with these gorgeous paper-cut artworks with the logo of the library
We had a lovely lunch at the hotel and then packed into the van for a long drive inland. Our main goal is to visit the historic “tulou” or earth houses, an architectural style particular to the Fujian Province. But before we did that, we did manage to fit in one more library visit – the public library in the town of Nanjing may be small, but it is mighty. The library and its director has been nationally recognized and awarded for its outstanding programs that have greatly benefited this traditionally underserved community.
That catches us up to tonight. We’re staying in a lovely farmhouse hotel in the countryside famous for its tulou. In the morning we’ll tour some of these homes which were built in the 14th century and still house most of the region’s families.