Pandas and Presentations


Traveling has its ups and downs, its lucky moments and bad breaks. Things don’t always go as planned, but then something else works out even better than before. That’s both the fun and the stress of traveling.


Our last day of the Horner Exchange (and our penultimate day in Fuzhou) was a perfect case in point.


We were supposed to visit the Fujian Medical Library, but they were frantically in the midst of an accreditation review and weren’t able to host us. But it turned out to be fine because that meant that we had time to visit the campus of the Fujian Traditional Chinese Medical University. Coming from a Chinese Medical school myself, this was very appealing to me – and as an added bonus, a friend and former colleague of Jian’s works there so she would host us herself.


Richard wasn’t feeling well that morning so unfortunately he missed the visit and stayed back at the hotel to recuperate before the afternoon presentations. But Jian and I excitedly headed back out to Fuzhou’s “University Village” to visit a completely different kind of library than the ones we have been visiting.


The campus of the Fujian TCM University is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. As one might expect, the grounds are designed with feng shui, health, and balance in mind. In practice, this means a beautiful, natural setting with flowing paths and open spaces that all work together to create a harmonious and relaxing atmosphere. The library director met with us and said that TCM students have to work and study extremely hard to learn the discipline – harder than other medical students since they also have to learn philosophy, ancient Chinese, calligraphy, AND western medical practices on top of learning the esoteric workings of Chinese medicine. Because it’s such a stressful discipline, the university tries their best to make a pleasant, stress-free atmosphere for their students.



the view from the library lobby- Confucius looks out over the lake and mountains


panda pillows ! We were gifted these adorable pillows with the school’s mascot, Luo Luo who reminds me a lot of OCOM’s mascot, Moco!

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spend much time in the library which was disappointing especially since I was hoping to do some collection development research. Funny that after 3 weeks and 20 libraries, I was disappointed that we skipped the library! We did stop in briefly, however, and got to see their collection of famous doctors’ prescription sheets which were written in beautiful calligraphy. The library director told us that even now they encourage their students to write out prescriptions in brush calligraphy because it encourages them to be more thoughtful, clear, and precise. How’s that for a marked difference between Chinese and western medicine?!



a preserved calligraphic prescription

What they really wanted to show us wasn’t the library, but their brand new museum of traditional Chinese medicine which was indeed very professional and impressive.


They treated us to a lavish lunch in their impressive university “canteen.” And since this is a school of traditional Chinese medicine, of course, every dish had a curative property. Suddenly, my OCOM lunch options seem so inadequate…


We had spent too long enjoying the good people and placid campus of Fujian TCM University and had to hurry back across town to Fujian Provincial Library for our 2:30 presentations. But thanks to our driver’s skill and a little traffic luck, we scooted into the building about 10 minutes before our start time. No sweat! Okay, there was a little sweat, but it all worked out fine. Richard was feeling better after his morning rest and gave his presentation about reading promotion in Oregon and I presented on library data services in the age of big data. And Jian, so tireless and capable, presented on both topics since she translated for us!


On that note, as we wrap up this trip, I want to give a special thank you to Jian who has been the superhero of this trip. We would not have had nearly as productive an exchange without such a skillful translator. Her language skills in both Mandarin and English excellent – Richard and I already knew how well-spoken she is in English, but she is also regularly complimented for her perfect Mandarin. One person said she sounded like a Chinese TV newscaster and she sheepishly admitted that she’d been her college TV station’s news anchor! But even more than that, having someone who’s so knowledgeable about so many aspects of librarianship has been invaluable. I would ask a half-baked question about, say, inter-library loan, and she was able to formulate my jumble of words into something meaningful that prompted a useful exchange of ideas.  On top of all that, she also has lots of professional connections here in China that added so much value to our trip – including this day’s university visit. Thank you, Jian! We really could not have done it without you!

In Which We Return to Fujian Provincial Library – Again!

Yesterday, we spent more time at Fujian Provincial Library today visiting two more departments. The morning was spent with the Technology and Cultural Sharing Department and in the afternoon we visiting the Reading and Lending Departments.


You may be curious about the title of the department, “Technology and Cultural Sharing.” Well, it’s two different departments together in one, but once you learn about it, it does make sense why they’re together.


The technology part is pretty much what you would expect from a library’s technology department – they deal with the library’s network infrastructure, databases, computer labs, etc.


The Cultural Sharing part, however, is something unlike any American library I have been in has. Due to an initiative from the national government, FPL (and other libraries around the country) was tasked with documenting the disappearing cultural heritage of the area through video, audio, and photography. They have tackled this task with great enthusiasm. They have a storeroom full to the brim with state-of-the-art, broadcast quality equipment and a staff of 12 dedicated to the production of video and multimedia products. They have several databases that contain searchable materials and the collection is ever growing. What’s all the more impressive is that the team is staffed by self-taught librarians who learned all this new technology on the job.




makes me nostalgic for my editing days!


yes, that is a drone!


a cabinet full of professional cameras


a still from a video about Fujian culture

For example, look at these two databases of Fujian cultural artifacts. All of the media were generated by the librarians in the technology department.

Kechiah Culture

Soushan Stone


We were deeply impressed with the work they’ve done and found ourselves wishing that our libraries were also able to do this kind of work.


In the afternoon we met with the librarians of the Lending and Reading Services – the patron-facing side of the library. We had a very animated discussion about current changes in circulation and reading programs. They are very excited about their impending remodel which will update the library old-fashioned subject-based reading rooms to more open and engaging spaces. I loved how enthusiastic and garrulous the members of the team were — we had a lot of fun just chatting about how our libraries do things differently. Throughout this trip, I have often reflected on how our similarities greatly outweigh our difference.


Here’s a shot from the FPL website showing the big crowds the Reading Dept gets at their lecture series.


Finally, as a follow-up to Richard’s post from a couple days ago about smoking in China, I wanted to share the new poster for China’s new anti-smoking campaign:



Meanwhile… I’ve been getting mixed messages in my hotel room:




In Which We Return to Fujian Provincial Library and What We Saw There

Although we spent time at the Fujian Provincial Library (FPL) when we first arrived in Fuzhou over two weeks ago, this week we are getting in-depth visits with several departments at the library.  On Monday, we spent the morning with Special Collections and the afternoon with Technical Services.  Both departments were very interesting; highlights are below.

The Special Collections Department holds over 300,000 items, including manuscripts and local history materials. Most are in traditional Chinese string-bound volumes, although there are some hardbound as well.  They have also actively collected an assortment of ephemera that reflect local history, including tea wrappers, wedding certificates, and advertisements. The department has published high quality photographs of many of these items in book form.

One of the best parts of the Special Collections tour was watching conservators doing the painstaking work of repairing holes in worm-damaged pages.  With a brush dipped in water, they would moisten rice paper, paste it over the damage, then trim the paper very carefully. We were told that not many people are trained in this type of repair work and they were happy to have several conservators in their employ.

The other interesting sight was a room filled with shelves of wooden boards used for printing. Each board, centuries old, was carved with Chinese characters in columns, with one board for each page of a book.  Many of the boards were carved on both sides.  Most exciting of all, a staff member selected one such board, inked it, then laid a sheet of paper over it.  She then began brushing over the paper with a stiff whisk broom. The paper was gently lifted and – voila! – a page was printed.

I loved visiting Technical Services, undoubtedly because that’s my area of expertise.  I quickly realized I was once again with My People. We spoke the same language – well, sort of – and talked of RDA (which they have not yet adopted, though other libraries in Beijing and Shanghai have), MARC/Bibframe, authority records, and the like.  We Oregonians spoke about how and why we use OCLC, something which they had recently considered joining, but decided against, saying that it was not yet cost effective for them.  They were curious to know which discussion lists we subscribed to and what the status of librarians was in the United States. We also asked them questions.  I had the feeling that both sides of the table were asking: Are you like me?  And how are we different? I have found these kinds of interactions to be the most exciting, the best part of this exchange.

I talked a bit about the Program for Cooperative Cataloging, an organization that is very different from anything that they have in China.  Although they have made a commitment to following standards, there are few mechanisms for sharing records or contributing to standards.  FPL staff informed us that in 2004, the National Library of China sold a set of authority records to them.  In order to have local authors in the set, FPL created authority records and added them to their instance of the authority record database.  There was no mechanism to add these to the national authority file.  When the National Library found out about these local authority records, they expressed surprise (or maybe even dismay) that FPL had done this to the set of purchased records.  Recently, however, the National Library has changed its attitude and is encouraging other libraries to contribute records to their national authority file.

Since it was Halloween, they had set out plates of candies for us. They were very interested in how we celebrated the holiday.  I don’t know if we were very convincing informing them about Halloween as we ate very few candies. They must have understood, though, as in the true spirit of the holiday, we were given all of the uneaten sweets to take home with us! — Richard