Hickok’s itinerary has him traveling
to a different country each month. This month he is in the
Philippines, followed by Singapore and Malaysia, Thailand,
Myanmar and Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Korea,
Japan and Taiwan.
When he returns, Hickok hopes to develop a
booklet for students planning to study abroad that would have
photos and information as to what kind of services to expect
and whether they’re free. He’ll also offer specialized
workshops for exchange students on the features and expectations
of American libraries — in partnership with Robert Erickson,
director of international education and exchange — and
develop a comparative analysis of U.S. and Asian libraries.
What follows is the first of a series of monthly
“recaps” of his experience that he shared with
his Pollak library coworkers.
I am completing my first country here in Asia:
It’s too bad Indonesia’s reputation
has been maligned with incidents of terrorists, because the
other 99 percent of the population are the most friendly and
welcoming imaginable. I have been received with incredibly
My itinerary of library visits has been as
follows: Jakarta, the smog- and traffic-choked capital —
unbelievable; even worse than L.A. at rush hour; Bandung,
a university suburb two hours from Jakarta, and Medan, Sumatra
(by plane; it’s the northernmost island, where the tsunami
hit); Yogyakarta, in central Java, and site of breathtaking
pre-Islam Hindu and Buddhist temples; Surabaya, in eastern
Java, the second largest city and rival to Jakarta; and Bali,
the resort island next to Java — yes, there’s
actually a university there, besides all the surfing/snorkeling
My agenda at each university has been similar.
I meet with the library director and conduct an interview,
then meet with the staff and have a Q&A session —
or give them a presentation about libraries in the U.S., as
they sometimes request — then tour their operations
Overall, the university libraries in Indonesia
are attempting to keep up with international standards —
they have many of the same modernizations (online catalogs,
Internet access, etc.). But they also have many struggles
and challenges too. Here are a few:
• A nonprofessional perception. Librarians
are considered merely clerks or workers, not information
professionals. As more masters-level librarians are produced,
this might change. But, on the other hand, it may go slowly;
enrollment in graduate library programs in Indonesia is
low because the eventual pay and respect is low.
• No consistent software/automation.
In the U.S., we enjoy the fact that many universities use
common (or similar) software for online catalogs. Not so
here. Commercial software is too expensive to buy/license,
so universities have created their own, in-house online
catalogs from scratch (IT programmers). That means all universities
have different systems, making linked-catalogs or interlibrary
loans practically impossible.
• Very little library user education.
A one-hour presentation about the library for new students
during orientation week is about the only formal library
instruction offered. Workshops? Not common. Bibliographic
instruction for professors’ classes? Almost never.
There is still the very strong tradition that professors
do the teaching, and the library is only a repository to
pick up books (the problem with this is that professors
don’t teach research skills, so students are left
to struggle on their own).
There are other challenges too (as I’m
compiling in all my data). On the upside, however, there
are some very promising circumstances I’ve seen:
• Proactive library directors. Many library directors
who received their training in the U.S. or U.K. have made
great strides in bringing in contemporary features, such
as, student ID/barcode circulation.
• A commitment to Web-based online
catalogs. Nearly all universities either already have, or
are working on, making their online catalogs Web accessible.
All this, of course, is only a very abbreviated
summary. There has been so much I’ve gathered data
on. I’ve visited over 20 libraries in only 30 days
(including conducting all the interviews with the directors,
staff and tours of their facilities). Quite an intense schedule.
But I’m loving it; the research is fascinating!
Hickok’s subsequent correspondences will
be posted online on Dateline Extra.