Russian librarians visit Md. to learn how to aid disabled

Goal: The four wanted to learn how U.S. facilities serve the handicapped and ways to make them aware of their legal rights.

July 06, 2004|By Amy Segreti | Amy Segreti,SUN STAFF

A small group of Russian librarians visited Maryland last week for a lesson in how to help the disabled - and a little history of Edgar Allan Poe.

Touring such locations as the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the State Disabilities Law Center, the librarians were trying to learn more about how libraries in the United States serve the disabled and help them learn about their legal rights.

After their visit, each of the four librarians is expected to return to Russia and tackle a project for the coming year.

"These women are very excited about gaining new ideas and meeting fellow librarians in the United States," said Irina Melyushima Leonidovna, the facilitator for the librarians.

For example, the librarians visited the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Baltimore for a tour by specialist Mollyne Honor. Honor showed them how technology has made it easier for the blind and handicapped to tap into written resources.

"We are so fortunate in the United States to have the wealth and diversity of library resources accessible to everyone, and we welcome opportunities to share information with these women who are seeking to improve their library system under the most difficult circumstances," said Jean Jones of the League of Women Voters of Baltimore City.

The league planned the Baltimore visit, which is sponsored by the Academy of Educational Development in Moscow through a program under the Library of Congress. At the request of the libraries, one of the early stops included the grave of Poe.

Many applied

Hundreds of applications were submitted for the program, and these four librarians were chosen by the academy on the basis of their goals and experience.

Being a librarian in Russia represents a dedication to books and learning because salaries are at the low end of the scale, according to a report written by a Russian librarian, E.R. Sukiasyan.

Books are not readily available on shelves but must be requested by subject, and people are not allowed to browse the stacks - forced instead to ask a librarian to remove books for them, Sukiasyan's report said.

Many children's libraries are separate from adult libraries, making it difficult for families to use the resources together, and few libraries have facilities accessible for the disabled.

Each of the visiting librarians is from a different part of Russia and has slightly different goals for their visit to the United States.

Olga Borisovna Goncharova, who oversees a computer center, is trying to create a Web site for people with disabilities, providing online information about legal, medical and social organizations for the disabled and describing services such as delivering books to students' houses.

Aims to create Web site

Yuliya Vladimirovna Yulina, a specialist, aims to help create a Web site on which users can ask legal questions that receive immediate responses.

The other two librarians were Natalia Vladimirovna Ayrieva, an editor of an art and literature department at the National Library for the Blind, and Nadezhda Valeryevna Rumyantseva.

Ayriyeva hopes to make information on national and cultural issues available to the blind. Rumyantseva's goal is to gain information for handicapped teens on how they can build careers.

Russian librarians previously visited Baltimore in December 2001. Their focus was more general, and they are now working on projects to help get information into every school by television and computers.

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