Distinguished Visitors: Dutch Librarians Visit CUNY

July 16, 2009 | News

The recent conference of the Special Libraries Association attracted delegates to New York from all over the world. A contingent from the University of Amsterdam decided to take advantage of their trip to see how their counterparts at CUNY go about their business. Thus, on June 19th, after being welcomed by University Librarian Curtis Kendrick and exchanging notes about libraries here and abroad, Alfred Runs and Kasper Abcouwer found themselves dispatched on a sightseeing tour of Lehman and Baruch Colleges.

Their first stop was Lehman College’s beautiful Leonard Lief Library, where Chief Librarian Kenneth Schlesinger and faculty showed the guests around. Among the highlights of the tour was the Fine Arts media center, which includes Safari Montage, an audio and video distribution system where students can access digitized DVDs. The visitors also toured the college’s computer labs and facilities for students with special needs. After the tour the librarians talked in the Treehouse Conference Room overlooking Lehman’s verdant campus. “We were pleasantly surprised by the chance to meet all the library staff members and to exchange views and experiences of our profession,” said Runs.

At Baruch College, Professors Jerry Bornstein and Louise Klusek showed the visitors the award-winning Newman Library. The Dutch librarians marveled at the library’s dazzling architectural design and advanced learning environment, in particular the Subotnick Financial Services Center, where authentic Wall Street technology lets students test themselves against the market in a simulated trading room. The library’s innovative programs, including a course offered as part of the undergraduate curriculum, also drew praise from the guests. “These are good ideas for us,” said Abcouwer, “which I will absolutely relate back to senior administration.”

Kendrick noted that while such informal visits from foreign librarians are usually not academic in nature, they contribute to the shared store of knowledge all the same. “The emphasis is on cultural exchange,” he said, “and that helps us learn from one another.”

The Dutch visitors would surely agree. At the entrance to the soaring glass building at One Bernard Baruch Way, the librarians said their goodbyes. Runs said he was going to write an account of his visit when he returned to Amsterdam. “We saw more commonalities than differences on our tour of CUNY,” he said. “It was a rich experience, one that we’ll look back on with respect and gratitude.”

–Irene Gashurov