Belarusians check out U.S. libraries

A group of Belarusian librarians recently visited the United States to explore the American library system. They discovered how different methods of funding can help keep libraries afloat and allow them to offer a range of technologies.

The six visiting librarians came from libraries ranging from university to scientific research to public, lending libraries. They saw collections that included the Library of Congress and a small library in a rural town.

Two people sitting at table (© Olga Yakubovich)
Librarians Maryia Liatsiaha and Mikalai Yatsevich at the Carson City Library in Nevada (© Olga Yakubovich)

Maryna Pshybytka, from the National Library of Belarus, was surprised to see the amenities and technologies at the library in the rural Georgia town of Whitesburg. She also enjoyed learning about creative fundraising. “We’ve never before seen libraries that have ‘friends of libraries,’ which are nonprofit organizations that do fundraising and help the work of libraries,” she said. “Funding for libraries in Belarus is provided by the federal budget and local government budgets.”

At the Library of Congress in Washington, the Belarusian team met with Lee Ann Potter, the library’s director of educational outreach, who discussed the library’s work with students at all levels throughout the country and its National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

In Nevada, the group explored approaches for engaging multicultural communities in the libraries and toured the “Digitorium,” which gives patrons access to cutting-edge digital tools in the Carson City library.

The visit, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, gave the librarians a chance to see modern library initiatives. They included the St. Paul Library in Minnesota’s Createch, a creative tinkering space for teens, and its program that provides underserved neighborhoods with a mobile computer lab.

“I am amazed how many free spaces exist in American libraries,” said Mikalai Yatsevich of the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts. “They know how to arrange the space so it allows free access for everyone to library resources.”