Presentations at the Fujian Annual Library Conference

Today was a day jam-packed full of library visits and sight-seeing. I am too wiped out to recap it all right now so instead, I will post just a few pictures and videos from the annual Fujian Library Conference Richard mentioned in the post below. Both Rosalind and MaryKay gave presentations — Rosalind spoke about the history of the Horner Exchange and its future. MaryKay gave a presentation about Oregon, the Oregon State Library, and the history of collaboration between Oregon and Fujian.

Both presentations were very well received. The Fujian librarians’ enthusiasm for the Horner Exchange is heartening and gives me confidence in its continued success.


Here’s a video of MaryKay’s Introduction to her presentation.



Rosalind was as effervescent as always and won the crowd over with her charm and heartfelt sincerity.



The view from above the huge exhibit they put together about the Horner Exchange.



The conference felt very much like conferences at home — right down to the vendor pamphlets, library swag, and sensible shoes.




The Past is Prologue

Today we attended the annual conference of the Fujian Library Association. Unfortunately for those of us who don’t speak Chinese, there were a lot of presentations and speeches that went past us at the speed of light. Nevertheless, we were treated like royalty, being seated at the front of the auditorium in the Jinjiang Public Library where the conference was held. There were about 250 attendees at the conference as well as the head of the Fujian Ministry of Culture, a distinguished calligrapher with whom we had dinner last night.

While speakers are presenting today, I am taking this time to reflect on yesterday’s main event. Wednesday afternoon, after lunch and checking in at the 5-star hotel we are staying at, we walked next door to the Jinjiang Public Library for a very special occasion – a gathering to celebrate 20 years of the Horner Exchange and 30 years of the sister-province/state relationship between Oregon and Fujian. Assembled there were nearly all of the Horner participants from Fujian, including all of the directors, past and present, of the Fujian Provincial Library. For two hours, we heard many of them speak about the impact of the exchange on their lives and their libraries, with continuing expressions of gratitude for how much they had learned and the friendships that the exchange had spawned across the ocean. The whole event was very moving. They continually expressed how, on their return to their home libraries, they started making changes to how they did things, especially adopting American practices of customer service and implementing automation of library processes. Many of them received promotions at work within a few years of their participation, with many now serving as library directors or other positions of responsibility.

One particular comment really stood out for me. Fifteen years ago, Mr. Chen came to OSU with a colleague, spending 2 weeks in Corvallis and spending time in each department of our library. Yesterday, he recounted something he witnessed during that visit. I was to take him and his colleague to lunch and had just met up with them someplace in the Valley Library. I think we may have been waiting for one of my colleagues to join us when I saw a library user looking a bit perplexed. I asked him if I could help him with something, at which point he confessed confusion about where a book was that he could not find on the shelf. I asked our Horner visitors to stay where they were (they spoke no English, so this was done with hand motions, with me hoping they would stay in one place) while I went off to the next floor up in the library to look at the shelf where the user’s book should be. I returned to our visitors in a few minutes. Mr. Chen was so impressed that I would take time away from what I was already engaged in to make the extra effort to help the user that after fifteen years, the story still stuck with him. I was really moved by his recitation of this event, which curiously I remember quite well.

The reunion of the Horner Exchange participants yesterday was capped by the publication of a book in Chinese and English in commemoration of this 20th anniversary of the program, filled with photos of every year of the exchange.   It also chronicles the connections between the Oregon State Library and the Fujian Provincial Library, going back to 1987. Although many have been responsible for the strength of those connections, I would like to call out three people who really worked hard to establish and maintain them over the years: Rosalind Wang, Jim Scheppke, and Ke Shaoning. Their dedication to the Horner Exchange and the bonds between Oregon and Fujian is a model for all of us.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Ke yesterday and was impressed with his understated manner and humility. He is the retired director of the Fujian Provincial Library, his name very familiar to me from numerous emails over the years during the planning of each exchange of librarians. While waiting to check-in in the lobby of our hotel here in Jinjiang, he approached me and began conversing with me. We spoke about his retirement activities and my interest in birdwatching. It was such a pleasant and relaxed interaction.

Back to current events: at the conference this morning, awards were given to association members for various reasons. The ceremony was very formal, with names announced and then the awardees being handed certificates from association officers. While they walked to the front of the room to receive the certificates, music was played: the theme from the Magnificent Seven! — Richard

In Which We Visit Pingtan Island

Today, Tuesday, October 18, the six of us, accompanied by Wong Hui and Li Hanfen from the Fujian Provincial Library, drove down to Pingtan Island, about 2 hours south of Fuzhou.  We spent the day sightseeing the island, the fifth largest in China and the closest part of the country to Taiwan.  Stops included a monument to the 1996 standoff between Taiwan and the PRC, a tall towering structure with 129 internal steps affording a wonderful view from the top of the surrounding sea and island; a view of a floating abalone farm, complete with little houses where the fisherman live; a historic fishing village with houses made of stone; and Haitan National Park, which has spectacular sea cliffs and ocean-sculpted rock formations.  All of these were visited in a day that was warm (mid- to high seventies) with considerable humidity and rain/drizzle/you-name-it dampening our outings but not our spirits. – Richard


A Visit to the Fujian Provincial Library


Today was the first full day of our exchange. All six of the Oregon librarians went to a meeting of all the department heads of the Fujian Provincial Library, including the director of the library who gave us a detailed account of the history of the library, the expansion of the programs, and their plans for the future. They have a very goal-oriented, future-focused plan to make their library the exemplar of customer service in China. Looks like they’re well on their way!

Afterwards, we had a tour of the library and talked about their upcoming plans for expansion. They intend to add space for their ever-growing collection and increase resources for public services. They took us to their rare book conservation center where we watched the pain-staking process of repairing ancient books in bad disrepair. The amount of time and love they give to each page of every book would warm any bibliophile’s heart!

Here’s a video of the process of repairing torn pages here:



I was especially interested in their video production department which is tasked with going throughout the province to document culture and history. The movies they make are stunning! They say that they are television-broadcast quality, but I think they are even better than that. The videos should be online on the their website soon — and they plan to do English translations, too. Can’t wait to watch them online!

And of course, the highlight of the Fujian Provincial Library (well, for us, anyway) is the Oregon Room! This is where all the books donated to the FPL from Oregon libraries are housed and circulate.

This afternoon we visited the historic 3 Lanes 7 Alleys section of Fuzhou which has beautiful preserved homes and shops that are hundreds of years old.



Then we went to the Children’s Library — it was delightful! The children’s art exhibit was a big hit, especially the crafty robots made of recycled materials. It’s a large and impressive facility and we could see that the children of Fuzhou love it well.


We were treated to a tea ceremony in Zhengyi College, once the home of the Fujian Provincial Library. It’s a lovely historic building full of charm — and we learned a lot about tea, too!


Our big welcome banquet was just down the street from Zhengyi College — and what a welcome! We were met with course after course of amazing Fujian local delicacies. What a memorable meal and what a memorable start to our exchange.


this was just round 1!




Fuzhou First Impressions



Jian and I have been enjoying our first couple days in Fuzhou. We’ve had a chance to recover from travel and explore the city a little before the first library visits begin tomorrow.

Yesterday, I visited the Wushan Scenic Park which is very near our hotel. It’s a beautiful, sprawling park with forested walking paths up the side of one of the three mountains that dot the landscape in the city of Fuzhou. The park reminded me of a tropical version of Mt. Tabor Park in Portland. It was really beautiful and serene.


Today Jian and I walked out to West Lake Park. the city of Hangzhou has a more famous West Lake Park, but Fuzhou’s West Lake is also very beautiful and popular. The park was full of families enjoying the nice weather on a Sunday. Jian remarked how happy all the kids are and what a wonderful place Fuzhou must be to raise a family.




The Fujian Museum is in the park and also has free admission so we dropped in to check it out. And I’m so glad we did! We learned about Fujian history from prehistoric times to present. The displays were very interesting and very well laid out. I especially enjoyed the section on tea farming in Fujian. Not all the signs were in translated in English (many were) but, luckily I had my own live translator with me!

Everyone from the Oregon delegation should be here by tonight and we will have our big welcome dinner in a few hours. We are looking forward to getting everyone together and celebrating our Fujian-Oregon friendship!


Good morning, Fuzhou!

1-img_20161015_093338Good morning from Fuzhou! This is Veronica and I am the first of the Oregon delegation to arrive here in Fuzhou. Jian should be here shortly. Richard, Rosalind, MaryKay, Amy will all come in either today or tomorrow.

The weather in Fuzhou is balmy, but pleasant. They’ve spent the last couple of months being battered by typhoons. Some of the libraries in Fujian experienced serious flooding, but apparently the Fujian Provincial Library didn’t suffer any damage this time — typhoons are such a regular occurrence here that they’ve upgraded their buildings over the years to make sure that their collection is not damaged. In any case, let’s hope the worst is over!

The official events of the exchange begin on Monday after everyone has arrived. Until then, we rest and prepare. And we’ll have a little time to explore the city of Fuzhou, too! Our hotel is right in the middle of downtown Fuzhou. There is huge skyscrapers all around and lots of construction projects. One of the librarians told me last night that Fuzhou has been growing very fast over the last few years and you can see it everywhere. I am excited to get out and get to know the city a little bit!

Fujian, here we come!

Welcome to our blog which will chronicle the adventures of the 2016 Horner Library Exchange!

This year’s delegation was selected in the fall of 2015 and now,  after nearly a year of preparation, it’s hard to believe that our trip to Fujian is only a week away. We are all very excited and eager to begin our big adventure!

This year’s Horner Exchange delegates are:

  • Richard Sapon-White, Head Catalog Librarian, Oregon State University
  • Veronica Vichit-Vadakan, Systems Librarian, Oregon College of Oriental Medicine
  • Jian Wang, Electronic and Continuing Resources Librarian and Director of the Confucius Institute, Portland State University

Since this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Horner Exchange, the Horner Exchange delegates will be joined by three more visitors who will help us celebrate this milestone in style! They are:

  • MaryKay Dahlgreen, Oregon State Librarian
  • Amy Lee, Public Services Director at Fort Vancouver Regional Library
  • Rosalind Wang, retired librarian and the initial inspiration for the Horner Exchange

We are in the process of finalizing presentations and travel logistics. Before you know it, we’ll be in China! Check this blog throughout our exchange for updates and tales from the road…

And, for those of you who are new to the Horner Exchange, here’s a little background: The Horner Library Staff Exchange Program was established through a generous gift by the late Dr. Layton Horner for the purpose of sharing professional knowledge about library and information science between the United States and China. For the past 20 years, dozens of librarians have traveled between Oregon and Fujian province (Oregon’s sister province in China) as part of this program, developing professional skills as well as forging new friendships and cultural understanding. The Horner Exchange is supported by the Oregon Library Association’s International Relations Round Table and our international partners, the Fujian Provincial Library and the Fujian Library Association.