Penn State Intercom......March 6, 2003

Libraries to play host to
Russian library managers

By Catherine Grigor
University Libraries

Russian library managers have played a major role over the last 12 years in promoting intellectual freedom in their country. Once charged with enforcing sweeping censorship, they have been converting closed stacks to open stacks; acquiring formerly banned books; connecting patrons to the Internet; working to keep up with the burgeoning demand for business literature and foreign-language textbooks; and providing vital access to information to the country's fledgling small businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and citizens' groups, as well as individual users.

"Libraries in the new Russia are engaged in democratizing knowledge," noted Librarian of Congress and Russian scholar James H. Billington, who chairs the board of trustees that governs Open World, a U.S. Congress-sponsored program that is organizing visits by some 180 library managers from Russia to the United States this year.

Penn State University Libraries will play host to five Russian library managers March 13-20, enabling them to examine the role of libraries in a democracy with their Penn State counterparts. Among the issues they are expected to explore with their U.S. colleagues are library users' rights, library advocacy and the challenges of funding acquisitions, preservation and automation.

The visits also will provide American librarians with the opportunity to learn about Russia's extensive library system and Russian library practices from some of the country's leaders in the field. In addition, home stays with Penn State Libraries' faculty and staff will allow the Russian participants to take part in American family and community activities.

The Open World delegation visiting Penn State will first travel to Washington, D.C., to attend briefings at the Library of Congress and tour exhibits at the 18th Annual Computers in Libraries Conference. The nonprofit American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS is handling the logistics of the their trip.

The Center for Russian Leadership Development has awarded a grant to the nonprofit Academy for Educational Development (AED) to administer this and similar exchanges. AED specializes in education, research, training, policy analysis and innovative program design and management.

The center's Open World Program aims to build mutual understanding between the United States and the Russian Federation and to work with Russia's leaders as they implement democratic and economic reforms. Open World is the only exchange program housed in the U.S. legislative branch. Since the program's inception in 1999, more than 6,000 Open World visitors from all 89 Russian regions have been welcomed in all 50 U.S. states, where they have experienced American community and cultural life as well as American-style democracy in action. American hosts and participants in turn have the opportunity to hear about the new Russia from the leaders who are shaping it, and to learn about Russian approaches to shared challenges.

For more on the Center for Russian Leadership Development and Open World, visit

For more information regarding the delegation's Penn State visit, call the University Libraries at (814) 865-0401.

Catherine Grigor can be reached at