Friday, March 9, 2007

Farewell to SWU and the Fulbright Project

Piamsuk took us to the airport Saturday morning to fly to Vietnam for vacation. She's become a good friend, so helpful and kind. Hope she'll visit us in Ohio some day.
Farewell for now to all those beautiful Thais who have become good colleagues and friends in such a short time. Until we meet again, as Garrison Keillor would say "Stay well, do good work, and keep in touch."

Today is my last day at SWU, and it's turning out to be a fine farewell. Dr. Maria Lao Sunthorn, who got her PhD in library science at Indiana University and studied under the famous Haynes McMullen, hosted a lunch for all the staff, most of whom call her 'Mother' for good reason. Her late husband was the first president of SWU and she's a former Library Director. Dr. Maria is just delightful.

I'll be signing off the blog with this post. Everyone has urged me to return soon, and I will do my best to make it come true. My final report to the Fulbright Commission is ready in draft form, to be completed when I return home and can submit my expense report, etc.

The summary of my time here is that I've tried to educate and inspire my library colleagues to increase library cooperation among Thai academic libraries and expand their own educations and professional development. From their feedback, I think my time here has been successful, and I've certainly grown professionally. Many traits of librarians seem to be universal, and the cultural differences are not about fundamental humaneness and a service orientation.
It's been a life-changing experience, and I'm confident the relationships created will continue for years to come. In particular, I will do my best to help several of the young librarians to study for advanced degrees in the U.S.
I've loved every minute, and now, Louis and I anticipate a fine vacation in Vietnam before returning to Ohio later this month.

Thanks for following along. This blog has motivated me to keep my thoughts and photos up-to-date.
My best to you all. Scottie

Louie visits the Dusit Zoo March 8

While I was at the library today, Louis went to the Dusit Zoo to see all the things we missed in 2005. He spent a happy couple of hours and got some great photos. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Tea with Dr. Aree and Dr. Moo

Louis and I had a truly delightful two-hour high tea with Dr. Aree, SWU's Chair of Library Science, and Dr. Moo, SWU's Chair of Western Languages, Wednesday afternoon, March 7th. Our wide-ranging chat focused mostly on ways of teaching English as a second language using the west's great literature, especially poetry. William Carlos Williams was probably our favorite poet today, and Moo's dissertation included John Steinbeck. So much to discuss, so little time.
It was great fun in a beautiful setting, next to the Lotus pond in the Sofitel lobby near the campus. Louie loves being surrounded by the ladies, you know!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Royal Barges Museum, March 5, 2007

We visited around 9 a.m. Monday, March 5, which is a Thai national holiday. It was cooler than later in the day, and we mostly had the place to ourselves. The royal barges are gorgeous and with a fascinating history. Only eight can be viewed in their dry dock today because of space constraints, but there are 52 in all.

At one time they were used frequently, for war and for religious and ceremonial occasions. With ornate, colorful decorations, especially the figureheads, they are powered by many oarsmen. The number is dictated by the size and purpose of the barge.

Today, they are used for ceremonies from time-to-time, such as once a year in October or November when the king delivers new saffron robes to Buddhist monks at Wat Arun (the Katin ceremony), and when there is a royal cremation/funeral. I hope we can arrange to be in Bangkok some day when one of the royal river processions is scheduled. The photos from years past are stupendous.

Dinner on the Chao Phraya River, Mar. 3, 2007

Louie and I finally got to take the dinner cruise we were unable to book for Dec. 31, 2005 when we visited Thailand the first time.

This time, we chose the renowned Oriental Hotel's 'Maeyanang,' a restored, teak rice barge offering a 2.5 hour cruise on the river with a yummy buffet of traditional Thai foods. The boat also entered one of the old khlongs (canals), this one where the Royal Barge Museum is. More on that museum in a later posting.

Bangkok was once known as the Venice of the east, because its primary transportation and much of its lifestyle was water borne. The old photos of Bangkok show an exotic, lush series of canals covering the entire city. Many people lived on the water all their lives in boats and/or stilt houses. Today most of the khlongs have been covered by buildings and roadways, but vestiges of the old life can be found, if you try. Water taxis are readily available on the river and the larger canals. It's by far the quickest and most pleasant transportation in this totally gridlocked city.

We don't have too many photos, because it was dark and we were relaxing, but there's one of me in the hotel lobby before departure, one on the boat, and one of Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn). Though a bit blurry, you can get the idea. With only about 20 guests on board and a full moon, it was a romantic evening for sure.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Ayutthaya, Saturday, March 3, 2007

Today, Piamsuk and Dee, a friend of Nongnath's, took Louis and me to the second capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya. This is another World Heritage site, and for good reason. Though within an hour's drive of Bangkok, this area has preserved an astounding amount of their ancient history.

We toured the one temple that survived the assault of the Burmese in the 18th century (with its gold Buddha and an even earlier one in an unusual straight-up sitting position), the local museum full of precious objects saved before looters got all of it in the 1950s, and the exquisite Bangpa-In Summer Palace, followed by lunch on a river boat restaurant with superb seafood. Though it was very hot (getting hotter every day now), we had a great time. At the summer palace, one of our favorite buildings was a relatively small, floating house with doors and windows on all sides, where the royal family can take a cooling ride on the river. You'll see that the rooms are small, but sumptuous.
You'll also notice a yellow shirt in my hand in the first photo. To my astonishment, when we arrived at the palace, the entry guards said I needed something to cover my shoulders (despite the fact that there were many other women with very short sleeves showing more of their arms/shoulders than my shirt did). I could "rent" a yellow shirt for a deposit of 100 baht, to be returned when I left. OK, says I. Similarly, when we wanted to enter one of the small palace buildings where a famous royal bed is displayed, ladies have to rent a sarong skirt to cover their pants or shorts, and men aren't allowed inside unless they have long trousers. We passed on that building. Apparently all of these rules are because this complex is still occasionally used by the royal family.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Dr. Aree Cheunwattana's Library Science class, March 1 and 2

When I first arrived at SWU, I met Dr. Aree, a faculty member in the library science program for bachelors and masters students. She's another delightful colleague. Aree got her PhD in library science at Indiana University-Bloomington and did her dissertation research on rural libraries in Thailand.

Right away she asked me to meet with her students and faculty to talk about research in our profession. Yesterday and today, I met with them in the mornings, lecturing for a little more than one hour, followed by discussion and team work. I had them pair off to design research projects they want to pursue, either for their degree programs, or for their practical work in libraries. My primary motivation was to inspire and encourage them. I think it worked.

The results presented Friday, March 2 were impressive indeed. Metholology included experimental designs with control and experimental groups, as well as surveys and other qualitative techniques. Topics included information literacy, accuracy & efficiency in the online catalog, analysis of SWU education dissertation citations to see whether this library is adequately supporting the graduate students' research. Lots of fun!

Thursday, March 1 - Kasetsart University's new library

According to my colleagues at Kasetsart University, their new library is the most innovative and modern academic library in Thailand. They're probably correct. I haven't visited all academic libraries in Thailand, so I can't say for sure, but they're clearly on top at the moment. I CAN say it is impressive and compares favorably to any I've seen in the U.S.

Actually, their new electronic library is connected to their older, traditional library by an enclosed, glass-walled bridge. It's just what we'd love to have at Denison to connect Doane Library and Fellows Hall, where Computing Services is.

Kasetsart's traditional library has the usual configuration of circulation and reference on the first floor, with periodicals and books on the upper two floors. This is one of those buildings with an open atrium in the middle. Looks nice, but as a librarian, when I see such designs, I always worry about the lost space for users, computers, and shelving. Fortunately, their new addition does not have that problem. It's colorful and jazzy, loaded with lots of computers and media equipment. Best of all, it's very lively, filled with mobs of students.
I gave my lecture on library administration in a digital age, and they seemed engaged. That topic interest ALL librarians these days.