Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Monday and Tuesday, January 29 & 30, 2007-Introductions to SWU and staff

SWU Library (beyond the treeline)

Buddhist shrine near main entrance

Meeting with Academic VP Dr. Napaporn
& other SWU librarians & administrative staff

Library Circulation

The Library's bindery. It's all done in-house.

Monday, Jan. 29

After breakfast with Nongnath, Monday started with meeting various SWU administrators, culminating with a visit with the Academic V.P. Dr. Napaporn, then a campus tour, and lunch hosted by one of the former library directors. It turns out there are quite a few former library directors, since they serve four-year rotating terms, then go on to other responsibilities. Sometimes there is one renewal, for a total of eight years in the administrative role. This is apparently true for all administrators at SWU and other Thai public universities.

Nongnath formally introduced me to the Central Library staff in the afternoon and presented a fine Powerpoint presentation/orientation to the SWU libraries. One of the goals for my visit is to spend time with all the staff and help them improve their spoken English. Most everyone understands quite a bit of what I say, but their spoken English is sometimes less developed. I'm enjoying this, and we manage to communicate quite well.

Around 5 pm Nongnath and I took the subway (quite clean, pleasant, and easy to use) to the famous Suan Lum Night Bazarr near Lumpini Park. There are hundreds of merchant and food stalls with neat alleyways and a huge area with tables set before a concert stage. The climate here means these markets go on throughout the year. They are fascinating, colorful, and exhausting for a non-shopper like me. One is obliged to bargain with the merchants, a skill I'll definitely have to refine if I'm to do much shopping here.

After a bowl of soup at an outside stall, we went to beautiful, twinkling red two storey building, The Joe Louis Theater (don't know why it's named that?), home of the Traditional Thai Puppet Theater. The performance was "The Myth of Rahoo and the Lunar Eclipse," a mythical tale full of angels, demons, a white monkey, and a gorgeous woman. I so enjoyed the thoroughly professional performance, with three people dressed in black manipulating each puppet. The gorgeous puppets are about 3 feet tall with expressive hands and feet. With many characters in the story, the cast and musicians who took bows at the end was huge. There were lots of precious kids in the audience, and the puppets were outside to "play" with the children after the performance. Another evening for my memory book.

To bed, exhausted, but happy.

Scottie and Traditional Thai puppet

Nongnath at bead stall in Suan Lum Night Bazaar

Tuesday, Jan. 30

I spent the morning with Dr. Aree Cheunwattana, SWU's Head of the Dept. of Library & Information Science, offering bachelors and masters degrees. We had so much to talk about, including the lectures I'm now scheduled give to her faculty and students about "basics for getting started to do research in library science" March 1 & 2. Though I don't claim to be an expert in this field, I think after two half days together, every participants can develop a plan for getting started with a research project. That's the plan, anyway. We also discussed the possibility of their department e-publishing a refereed journal in library & information science. Lots of ideas floating around this morning.

Dr. Aree and her English professor friend took me to lunch at La Dalat, a charming Vietnamese restaurant in a fine old bungalow house near the campus. The food, setting, and company were a real treat.

In the afternoon Nongnath and I took a university car downtown to visit the Fulbright office, where at last I met Porntip Kanjananiyot, Exec. Dir. of the Thailand-U.S. Educational Foundation (Fulbright) and Program Officer Siriporn. Porntip and I have corresponded for over three years about possible Fulbright opportunities in Thailand. I was very gratified to finally meet her. We had a pleasant time discussing the grant schedule and arrangements.

One major observation so far about a difference between the U.S. academic libraries and here: at home labor is expensive, but money for technology, information resources, and contracting out some functions is more available; here labor is cheap, but money for technology and information resources is scarce. That has a big influence on the ways we approach our work.

Working in my office until now (the hour is 1830 - 6:30 pm), when I'm going home to eat and rest.

My new (temporary) office. There's even a private restroom behind the bookcase. That's Piamsuk working on my computer.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Saturday, Jan. 26, 2007 at SWU, getting settled, food shoppping

Whew! I'm here and getting settled at last.

The journey was very long, Columbus-Dallas-Tokyo-Bangkok (about 36 hours door-to-door), but no major glitches. The new Bangkok airport (opened since Louis and I were here last December) is all stainless steel, high ceilings, and huge. It's also unfamiliar to the locals, so that made it a bit difficult to meet my contact upon arrival. Fortunately, Mrs. Nongnath Chairat, Director of the Central Library at Sirinharinwirot University, and I managed to find each other about two hours late.

My studio apartment on campus at Srinakharinwirot University (SWU) is most pleasant, convenient, and cool. Thank heavens the air conditioning works well, as it is very warm here. It was over 80 degrees F. when I arrived at midnight. I just walk across a soccer field and small park to get to the library. The campus is small in acreage and in the heart of Bangkok's "good" neighborhood, filled with high-rise condos and lots of "farangs" (foreigners) who work nearby. There is a bank on every corner and two or three along the block. Lots of U.S. and European names and labels evident, Starbucks, 7-11, etc.

After a few hours' sleep, I had lunch with a group of Bangkok librarians who happened to be meeting in the SWU Central Library today. They are the International Librarians and Information Specialists Group of the Thai Library Association. Several of them have retired from full-time librarianship, but they still work part-time and are very active in the profession. An impressive group. We have so much to share, and they assurred me my English will be no barrier at all. I'm relieved about that.

My first impression of the library is that it is much like those in mid-size state institutions in the US. It was a busy Saturday there, with many groups of students crowded around tables sharing a laptop and doing group work. Two reference librarians were on duty. Like at home, the library is the one area of campus that's open 7 days per week, though they close a bit earlier than we do (7 or 8 pm here, vs. midnight or 2 am at home). This campus has no dorms (lack of space), but many students rent apts. nearby and are visible throughout the day. I'll visit the SWU suburban campus next week, where they do have dorms.

Dinner was at a small Thai-Pan-Asian restaurant a few blocks outside SWU's Gate #2. In addition to Nongnath, my most gracious hostess here is Piamsuk Thungkawee, a long-time librarian at SWU. We shared tofu/pork soup, rice, a stir-fry dish with shrimp, mushrooms, and broccoli, plus fruit. The restaurant filled up quickly with people from around the globe and a large groups of visiting students at SWU.