Librarians from Mongolia journey to local libraries to learn the American way

The Enterprise — Sean Mulkerrin 
Say, “Read”: A group of librarians from Mongolia is in the United States for three weeks to learn from their American counterparts. Locally, the delegation will visit libraries in Altamont, Voorheesville, and Bethlehem, as well as the New York State Library. From left to right are: Rachel Lane, a trustee of the Altamont Free Library; Timothy Burke, executive director of the Upper Hudson Library System; Bulgan Basan; Baigalmaa Tsedendagva; Tsendsuren Erdenetsogt; Joe Burke, director of the Altamont Free Library; Altantsetseg Victor; and Bayaraa Ganbaatar.

ALTAMONT — A delegation of five librarians from Mongolia visited the Altamont Free Library on Monday to learn the best practices and programs offered by America’s libraries, so that they can bring to their home libraries what they’ve learned.

The Mongolians are guests of the International Center of the Capital Region, in Albany, which is affiliated with the Meridian Institute. The delegation is in the area for four days and will also be visiting libraries in Voorheesville and Bethlehem, as well as the New York State Library. They will be in the United States for 21 days, and are scheduled to also visit libraries in Iowa City, Iowa; Akron, Ohio; and Reno, Nevada.

All of the librarians in the delegation work in the American Corner of their respective libraries. American Corners are sponsored by the United States Department of State, and are small American-style libraries located within foreign libraries that act as a resource of American culture and information.

Baigalmaa Tsedendagva said, through a translator, that the group wanted to learn more about the different management styles used in the libraries they visit. In addition, the delegation hopes to learn about innovative programs and ideas used in American libraries; in particular, the early-childhood and youth programs offered.

Tsedendagva is a librarian at the Ulaanbaatar City Central Library, housed in a two-story building. Ulaanbaatar is Mongolia’s capital and its largest city with about 1.3 million people, which is nearly half the population of Mongolia.

There are four more library branches located throughout Ulaanbaatar. The central library’s American Corner has two staff members, and offers courses to teach English.

Bayaraa Ganbaatar, who works in the rural Khovd Province, said that, in addition to an American Corner with a reading room, her library also has a makerspace, which she hopes to learn more about from her American counterparts.

Mongolia is a landlocked country in East Asia, bordered by China to the south, and Russia to the North; it’s the 18th largest country in the world, based on land area. It has a population of about 3 million, of which about 46 percent live in Ulaanbaatar. Only Greenland, according to the World Bank, has a population density that is less than Mongolia.

The librarians who came to Altamont were from all over Mongolia, from Ulaanbaatar, in north central Mongolia, to the rural Khovd Province, about 900 miles west of the capital city.

In addition to lending books, libraries in large Mongolian towns and cities have programs for patrons, reading rooms, and online access. In rural areas, libraries tend to be a room in a local cultural center; there is a book mobile program as well.


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