State Library of South Australia

From Shandong to South Australia on an international cultural exchange

Date: 6 July 2016

The State Library of South Australia and Shandong Provincial Library signed an Agreement in May 2015 to promote cultural exchanges and cooperation between the two libraries. Personnel exchange is an important part of the Agreement, and we were fortunate enough to be chosen as library interns to study in South Australia.

Chai Yun and Zhang Xiaomei at the State Library of SA Image taken by Jenny Scott
Chai (Charles) Yun and Zhang (May) Xiaomei at the State Library of SA, image Jenny Scott, 2016

Shandong Provincial Library is a National First Class Public Library in China and also a National Key Preservation Unit of Ancient Books. Zhang (May) Xiaomei works in the Shandong Local Literature Centre and is responsible for information retrieval services, exhibition preparation and literature publication related to Shandong. Chai (Charles) Yun works in the foreign language department, where he is mainly in charge of foreign language book circulation, the Human Library activities, and arrangement and research of South Manchurian materials.

Since we started our internship in the State Library of South Australia we have gained a general understanding of the Library's structure, work mode, service concepts, strategic plan and also the collections, internet systems and exhibitions. We also learned about the service concept and operational process of the One Card network during our visits to local public libraries. We observed a Libraries Board meeting where policy issues were discussed, and we learned a great deal about the governance and management of the public library network.

Because of the industry partnership between the State Library and the University of South Australia, we were able to study a number of the library and information management courses. Another unforgettable experience was our Flinders Ranges trip where we saw the natural beauty of the South Australian outback and learned about the cultural customs of Aboriginal people.

We learned a great deal after ten weeks of study. The State Library has a strong commitment to local heritage. Its oral history project, where the past comes alive as people share the stories of their lives, is a good example. As part of this project we were given an opportunity to interview the editor of a local Chinese newspaper, enriching the Library's background information on the paper for its collections. Shandong Province has a long history, and the oral history project has inspired us to record and preserve our local memories when we return to our workplace.

The meticulously prepared exhibitions of the Library's collections left a deep impression. The 'A Theatre Inside the Book' exhibition, for example, showcased pop-up books, using clear themes and beautifully designed posters. An ebook was also made for customers to interact with, and online and offline activities complemented each other, attracting more customers.

In addition to the physical collections, the State Library's contribution to the national Pandora Archive focuses on selecting and archiving South Australian online publications. This aims to build a comprehensive collection of local publications to ensure that South Australians - and all Australians - have access to their digital heritage now and in the future.

The industry partnership with the University of South Australia's Library and Information and Archival/Records Management Program is also interesting. A number of courses in the program are delivered on-site at the State Library of South Australia by their staff. They combine the theory with practical first-hand experience and examples from the collections. For example, the Accessing Resources course demonstrates first-hand how the Library cares about its customers, and the information desk provides the focal point where librarians model and practise the skills of the reference interview. The experience of visiting a toy library in a public library surprised us, as it breaks the stereotypic view of a traditional library. We learned how early experiences are crucial for the brain development of children, and that strong coloured toys can provide great advantages together with children's books.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the State Library of South Australia and Shandong Provincial Library, who gave us this rare and valuable study opportunity. We also want to say thanks to the lovely colleagues of the State Library, public libraries, the Department of State Development and the University of South Australia. Everyone took good care of us and your hospitality impressed us deeply. We really made some good friends. In the near future, Shandong Library's precious ancient books will be exhibited in the State Library of South Australia, and we wish the exhibition every success. Future exchanges will provide further opportunities for our libraries and staff to learn from each other.

Story by Zhang Xiaomei and Chai Yun, Shandong Provincial Library, Shandong, China

This article was originally published in Incite, July/August 2016, Volume 37 Issue 7/8 2016, p. 28-29.

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