Oregon State Archives News
Kyrgyz Republic Group Visits the Oregon State Archives
The Oregon State Archives hosted a group of ten library and archives professionals from the Kyrgyz Republic on April 27, 2004. See the World Factbook for more information about the Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyzstan).
Challenges for Kyrgyzstani librarians
A former Soviet republic, Kyrgyzstan achieved independence in 1991. During the subsequent restructuring of government, traditional state support of libraries was drastically reduced. This left many librarians with salaries of $5 to $40 per month. Now, international organizations provide much of the financing for collections development. Responding to the ongoing challenges, Kyrgyzstani librarians have formed a new consortium to share knowledge and skills as well as develop new methods of service and invest in technology. Information gathered in Oregon will be shared with libraries and archives throughout Kyrgyzstan.
World Affairs Council
The World Affairs Council of Oregon sponsored the group during its two-week visit to Oregon as part of the Community Connections program funded by the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The goal of the Kyrgyzstani librarians and archivist is to gain exposure to a variety of library and archives management practices in the United States. Their itinerary includes visits to several library and archival institutions in Oregon. The group was accompanied by a Russian language interpreter (Kyrgyz and Russian are the official languages of Kyrgyzstan) and a coordinator for the World Affairs Council.
The grand tour
Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and State Archivist Roy Turnbaugh began the day by leading an introductory discussion about the work of the State Archives. Archives staff then gave the visitors a tour of the State Archives building, discussed reference services, showed holdings maintenance practices, and described the records management program. The guests next learned about the Publications Unit, received a demonstration of the State Archives Web site, and visited the State Records Center.
Secretary of State Bill Bradbury presented each of the visitors with a copy of the 2003-2004 Oregon Blue Book, which he later signed. The Kyrgyzstani guests presented Bradbury with a hand sewn wool hat. Bradbury tried on the hat and, marveling that it matched his ample hat size, pronounced it to be "very comfortable." The warm hat is similar to those commonly worn by men in mountainous Kyrgyzstan where the Tien Shan Mountains climb to over 24,400 feet. The visitors also presented the State Archives with other hand sewn wool gifts as well a postcard book, a small Kyrgyz Republic flag, and a bamboo wall hanging.
Paper clips "like gold"
Twice State Archives staff heard excited conversation while leading the group through offices on a tour of the facilities. When the translator asked the visitors about it, she was told that the group had seen great numbers of large black paper clips. Those clips are "like gold" in Kyrgyzstan where resources are scarce. Learning this, the State Archives staff gave two bags of these clips to the group to take back to their facilities.
Milking a bison
While sharing refreshments, a small group of State Archives staff and Kyrgyzstani visitors communicated without a translator by improvising. One connection was made by a staff member and one of the visitors who each spoke some German. This was augmented with a few words of English and generous amounts of hand gestures and head nods. Showing postcards of stunning Kyrgyzstan mountain scenery and wildlife, one visitor described how she had milked a bison. She said that beavers (Oregon's state animal) are plentiful in Kyrgyzstan.
At one point during a tour of the State Records Center, there was a vocal buzz from the visitors. They had just noticed a large number of boxes with "OSH" written on them. Their first reaction was to think of the prominent city and region of Osh in western Kyrgyzstan. They laughed when told that the records in the boxes are from the Oregon State Hospital (OSH - a state mental health institution), not their homeland.
Before leaving, the gracious visitors invited State Archives staff to visit Kyrgyzstan. The postcards show a land of exceeding beauty. And, we now know from experience that the people of the Kyrgyz Republic are very friendly and generous. State Archives staff involved in presenting information to the Kyrgyzstani visitors were Layne Sawyer, Julie Yamaka, Gary Halvorson, and Mark Graham.