Tuesday, November 23, 2010

English Class at the Library

One of the activities I have been doing at the Gasprinskiy Library since a few months after I came here, is to teach an English class to some of the Gasprinskiy staff members. Starting in September, we expanded the class a bit to include a volunteer and two staff members from the Krymchak Museum and preservation organization. Meeting twice weekly early in the morning before the library opens, my small English class is slowly learning conversational English, using a series of books from Oxford University Press called English for Life. I have never taught English before, but I find the experience very rewarding as my students—old and young—are so eager to learn. And as a person who is trying to learn Russian at the age of 62, I have much empathy for how difficult it is to learn a new language as you get older. Motivation becomes the key factor, I think, and that is something of which my students have an abundant supply.

On Thursday evenings, some of the group gathers at the Krymchak Museum, only a few blocks away, for an English “club,” in which we find ways to practice using English—games, telling stories, describing events, etc. Lately we have been playing a game that involves describing famous people, like the Russian poet Pushkin. I realized this could be a great opportunity for two groups of people—Crimean Tatars and Krymchak Jews—to learn more about each other’s culture and heroes. So I asked everyone to bring to our next meeting a description of a famous Crimean Tatar or Krymchak to share with the rest of the group. I look forward to what I, too, will learn at that meeting.

Visitors to the Library

The 20th anniversary celebration at the library continues with visitors from other organizations and libraries. Last week, librarians from the Crimean Engineering and Pedagogical University in Simferopol (know locally as CEPU) paid a visit to library. Many of the women had previously worked at the library, and several of the library’s current staff had worked at CEPU, so it was a joyous occasion. Here we share coffee and sweets in the Reading Hall.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The last of our regional seminars

This past week we conducted the last of our regional seminars on Crimean Tatar language and literature, funded by a grant through the Peace Corps. We traveled to the far north of Crimea, first to the town of Krasnoperekopsk and then to Armansk. I was unable to go to the Krasnoperekopsk seminar, as it was scheduled on the one day a week that I work at the Orlova Children’s Library in Simferopol. Normally, I would change my schedule at the Children’s Library, but that week, one of my children’s English clubs at the library was putting on a Halloween skit. Needless to say, as “the director” of the play, I had to be there.
But the next day I was able to go with the other librarians to Armansk where we conducted a very well received seminar, and then afterwards, went on a short tour of the town, including a brief visit to their history museum. Once again, as with all the libraries we visited, I found the staff so gracious and hospitable, going out of their way to make us feel comfortable and welcomed. I will miss these weekly and sometimes bi-weekly visits to different libraries across Crimea. Though the time it took to travel that extensively meant I had to temporarily put aside other projects, I felt it gave me a sense of the diverse land and cultures of Crimea, and an appreciation of how devoted Crimean citizens are to their libraries. And it was also gratifying to have a better understanding of how wide spread the Crimean Tatar people are in Crimea, as in every community we visited there were sizeable populations of Tatars.
I feel our presence at the libraries had an impact—that it gave over 250 small libraries across Crimea information and materials to promote Crimean Tatar language and culture. And perhaps even more important, it gave the participants an opportunity to come together to discuss culture similarities and differences, hopefully leading to the longer range goal of increasing ethnic tolerance in Crimea.

Librarians from the villages surrounding Krasnoperekopsk listen to the presentations of the Gasprinskiy staff.
Participant at the Krasnoperekopsk seminar gives the result of her small group's translation of Russian proverb into Crimean Tatar.
At the seminar in Armansk, Alina from the Gasprinskiy Library talks about Crimean Tatar books while Susanna from the library looks on.
Participants at the Armansk seminar.
Nadjie guides participants in translation of the Russian proverb into Crimean Tatar and talking about the cultural differences and similarities.
Much laughter at the translation results.
Staff of the Armansk Library and the historical museum in Armansk pose for a picture with Gasprinskiy staff.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Library celebrates 20 Years with an International Conference

September 24, 2010, marked the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Gasprinsky Library, the first Crimean Tatar library. In celebration of this anniversary and also the 120th anniversary of the birthdate of the famous Turkologist, Ahmet-Zaki Validi Togan, the Gasprinsky Library and the international organization TURKSOY, presented a two-day conference in Simferopol and Bakhchisarai on November 4th and 5th.
Guests came from the national libraries of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, the Kyrsyz Republic, and the Russian republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. Also present was the daughter of Ahmet-Zaki Validi Togan, Isenbike Togan, who is a professor at the Middle East Technical University in Istanbul. It turns out she is a fluent English speaker, having obtained her Ph.D. at Harvard, and lived for a number of years in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, so we had much to talk about.
Besides the guests from the Turkic speaking countries, experts from Tauride National University and Crimean Engineering and Pedagogical University in Simferopol also presented papers, along with staff from the Gasprinsky Library.
Topics at the conference included: The Role of Libraries in the Revival and Development of Crimean Tatar Education and Culture; the Development of Cooperation in the Culture Heritage of Turkic-speaking Countries; and Turkic National and Social-political Identity in the First Quarter of the 20th Century. Several papers were presented on Ahmet-Zaki Validi Togan including: The Influence of Admet-Zaki Validi Togan on Tatar Culture; Admet-Zaki Validi Togan’s Life and Work and The 120 Years Since the Birth of Ahmet-Zaki Validi Togan. His daughter, Isenbike Togan, spoke about Ahmet-Azki Validi Togan “My Father and Teacher.”
On the first day of the conference, a celebratory reception was held at the Gasprinsky Library, an event the library had been preparing for for over a month. “Sprucing up” projects had been occurring for days—the windows and trim on the front veranda were painted; the Reading Hall was revived with a fresh coat of paint and framed photographs of the history of the library; each department created new displays for the hallway information panels; and a beautiful collection of photographs of the paintings of renown Crimean Tatar artist Erfan Hafiev was hung in the hallway.
Guests came from libraries across Simferopol and Crimea to present tributes to the Gasprinsky Library on its 20th anniversary. Though I did not understand all the speeches, the obvious appreciation of the library and the work it has done came through loud and clear, despite the language barrier. And perhaps my favorite moment was when two singers led everyone in heartfelt traditional Crimean Tatar songs. And of course, the celebratory glass of wine I shared with my counterpart, Nadjie. I felt so honored to be part of this event.

Representatives from the Ministry of Culture, Orlova Children's Library, and Franco Library welcome guests to the celebration.
The Reading Hall at Gasprinsky Library is packed with guests.
Ayder Emirov, until recently director of the Gasprinsky Library for most of its twenty years, talks about the founding of the library.
Representatives from the Central Library in Alushta and other Crimean libraries present tributes.
The foreign guests are introduced.
Isenbike Togan talks about her father as Nail Akramovich Kambeev, Director of the National Library of Tatarstan, and Daribaeva Gulshat Gabdullaevna, Deputy Director of the National Academic Library in the Republic of Kazakhstan look on.
Nail Akramovich Kambeev presents a gift to the library.To the left are Tunzhel Azhar, Director of the National Library of Turkey, and Antonina Gezikova, Deputy Director of the National Libary of Ahmet-Zaki Validi Togan.
The audience is led in singing by Crimean Tatar national singer, Rustem Memetov.
Afterwards, guests share conversation and champagne. Here is Ahat Salikhov, Minister of Culture of the Republic of Baskortostan, and Fevzi Yakubov, Rector of the Crimean Engineering and Pedagogical University in Simferopol.
My counterpart, Nadjie Yagya, and I celebrate.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More library seminars around Crimea

The past two weeks we have been traveling quite a bit, taking our seminar on Crimean Tatar language and literature to libraries in Sudak, Oktabrske, Nezhnegorski, and Belagorsk. Each seminar brought 25 to 35 librarians from the small libraries in the surrounding villages, anxious to hear of the resources available from the Gasprinsky Library to help them establish and expand the Crimean Tatar sections in their libraries. At several of the libraries we were presented with performances by local Crimean Tatar children--singing, dancing, reciting of Crimean Tatar poetry. Here are some pictures:
Here I am with the director of the Crimean Tatar library in Belagorsk.
Nadjie and I talk about having a Peace Corps volunteer at a library.
Participants at the Belagorsk seminar.
Three librarians from different departments at Gasprinsky attend each training.
We gather with the participants in Oktabrske.
Crimean Tatar dance performance at the library in Oktabrske.
Refika from Gasprinsky Library shows some of the literature available.
Participants gather around the table in Oktabrske.
Medine from the Gasprinsky Library at the seminar in Sudak.
Participants at the seminar in Nezhnegorski.
In Nezhnegorski, Nadjie helps particpants translate a Russian proverb into Crimean Tatar.
Fatma from Gasprinsky Library shows some of the books available.
Mavie from the Gasprinsky Library with some of the staff at the Sudak Library.