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TWO WEEKS IN VIETNAM:
MAKING SOME CONTRIBUTIONS TO AND WITNESSING SOME ACHIEVEMENTS OF LIBRARY DEVELOPMENT

by Vinh-The Lam
Head, Cataloguing Department
University of Saskatchewan Libraries
Room 36, Main Library/Murray Building
3 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
S7N 5A4, Canada


BACKGROUND

I was approached by Mr. Nguyen Hoa of Library of Congress some time in January for possible contribution to NIT '98 (International Conference on New Information Technology) to be held in Ha Noi, Vietnam. Nine NITs have been organized since 1987 in Bangkok, Singapore, Guadalajara, Budapest, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Alexandria (Virginia, USA), Latvia and Pretoria (South Africa). The idea was very appealing to me for two reasons. First, I have never been back to Vietnam, my native country, since 1981. Second, at that time I was about to finish an article, intended for publication in LIBRI, on some suggestions for library standardization for Vietnam. Therefore, I contacted Dr. Ching-chih Chen, the principal organizer of NIT '98 and sent her an abstract of the article, which was approved for presentation. During the next two months, I made arrangements, through LEAF-VN (The Library and Education Assistance Foundation for Vietnam) and FSDVN (Foundation for Sustainable Development in Vietnam), with a number of Vietnamese universities in both Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City to meet with and talk to their librarians. The following text is an account of my activities during the two weeks I spent in Vietnam.

1. ACTIVITIES IN HA NOI

1.1 ARRIVAL:

I left Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada in the afternoon of Saturday March 21st, 1998. After two stop-overs in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and in Hongkong, I arrived at Noi Bai Airport in the afternoon of Monday March 23rd. I was met at the airport by:

  • A representative of the Hanoi University of Technology. (Dai Hoc Bach Khoa Ha Noi).

  • Mrs. Truong Thi Nhan, the older sister of Dr. Truong Tri Vu, President of the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Vietnam. (Vien Phat Trien Ben Vung Viet Nam, Montreal, Canada).

  • Mr. Nguyen Uyen, Senior Lecturer, Department of Geotechnics, Hanoi University of Water Resources.


  • They drove me back to Ha Noi and put me at the Phu Long Hotel at 12 Cau Go Street, Hanoi.

    1.2 NIT'98:

    As you have known, the Government of Vietnam had decided to postpone NIT'98. Dr Ching-chih Chen, principal organizer of the Conference, was successful in working out some arrangements with the National Library of Vietnam and a Meeting was held at the National Library where a number of papers were presented on Tuesday March 24, 1998.

    Present at the Meeting were:

    From the Vietnamese side:

  • Mr. Tran Anh Dung, former Vice-Director and newly-appointed Acting Director of National Library.

  • Mr. Kieu Van Hot, Vice-Director of National Library.

  • Mr. Nguyen Huy Chuong, Director, Library and Information Centre, National University of Ha Noi.

  • Ms. Nguyen Thi Huyen Dan, Head of Informatic Section, National Library.

  • Ms. Nguyen Thi Bac, Vice-Director of the General Science Library of Ho Chi Minh City.

  • Ms. Chu Tuyet Lan, Sino-Viet Institute (Vien Han Nom)

  • All Division, Section Heads of National Library.


  • Foreign Delegates:

  • Dr. Ching-chih Chen, Simmons College, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Boston, Mass., USA

  • Dr. Em Claire Knowles, Assistant Dean, Simmons College, Graduate School of Library and Information Science,Boston, Mass., USA

  • Dr. Hwa-Wei Lee, Ohio University, Columbus, Ohio, USA

  • Dr. Wallace Koehler, Internet Consultant, Maryville, Tennessee, USA

  • Mr. Patrick McGlamery, Map Librarian, University of Connecticut, USA

  • Dr. Eisuko Naito, Professor & Director of Science Information Research, National Center for Science Information Systems (NACSIS), Tokyo, Japan

  • Dr. Jacques Lajoie, Head, Department of Psychology, University of Quebec, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

  • Ms. Nereida Cross, Australia

  • Mr. Karl Min Ku, Librarian of the National Assembly, Taiwan

  • Mr. Vinh-The Lam, Head, Cataloguing Department, University of Saskatchewan, Canada

    Presentations:

    1. Dr. Chen gave an opening remark, and then talked about: The Alexandria Declaration of Principles: A Baseline Document for Planning Global Information Infrastructure (GII).
    2. Vinh-The Lam: Library Development in Vietnam : Urgent Needs for Standardization.
    3. Karl Min Ku: New Information Technology Application on Legislatures and Its Libraries Among Asia and Pacific Countries.
    4. Dr. Jacques Lajoie: What People Write As Queries in the Web's Search. 5. Dr. Hwa-Wei Lee: Maximizing Information Access and Resource Sharing: The OhioLINK Experience.
    6. Dr. Eisuko Naito: Multi-Lingual IT Standardization.
    7. Nereida Cross: New Information Technology Applied to Genocide Research (CD-ROM on Genocide in Cambodia).
    8. Dr. Wallace Koehler: The Librarianship of the Web : Options and Opportunities : Managing Transitory Materials.
    9. Patrick McGlamery: Handheld Computers : Freeing Spatial Information from the Desktop.
    10. Dr. Em Claire Knowles: Educating and Training Students from Developing Countries to Use New Technologies.

    So only 10 papers were presented at the Meeting.

    After the opening remark by Dr. Chen, my paper was the first one to be presented. I spoke first in English to the foreign participants and then in Vietnamese for the Vietnamese ones.

    The proceedings of NIT'98 was already published and distributed at the Meeting, therefore, in the eyes of NIT'98 sponsors, it's over now. NIT'98 was considered as already held and proceedings as published.

    The Conference Proceedings' bibliographic data:

    NIT'98 : 10th International Conference [on] New Information Technology:
              for library & information professionals, educational media specialists
              & technologists : March 24-26, 1998, Hanoi, Vietnam :proceedings
              edited by Ching-chih Chen. West Newton, Mass. MicroUse Information, 1998.
              xiv, 288 p. : ill., map, ports. ; 25 cm.
              ISBN 0-931555-12-4
              ISSN 1053-6973.

    It contains 30 papers (Full text + Abstract) and 2 Abstracts.

    The Meeting at the National Library of Vietnam lasted all day, with a one-and-half-hour tour of the Library in the afternoon by Mr. Kieu Van Hot. Although the Library has some computer equipment, its general conditions are very poor. Most shelving units are made of wood and very old, the working areas are very crowded, and dusty. There was some talk about a new building to be erected soon.

    1.3. VISIT AT HANOI UNIVERSITY OF WATER RESOURCES

    I spent the morning of Wednesday March 25th to visit the Hanoi University of Water Resources (HUWR - Dai Hoc Thuy Loi).

    The University sent a car to Phu Long Hotel to pick me up at 8:30 AM. Mr. Nguyen Uyen accompanied me in the whole visit.

    I was met at HUWR by the Assistant Dean, Prof. Nguyen Cong Man, Head of International Relations Department, and the Director of the Library. (This University has sent a few faculty members and graduate students to study at the University of Saskatchewan. I met Mr. Nguyen Uyen when he was doing his 6-month fellowship at University of Saskatchewan last year. Right now there are 3 students from HUWR doing their Master of Science in Civil Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan). We discussed about prospects of the University of Saskatchewan Libraries helping HUWR Library. Prof. Man will be visiting University of Saskatchewan campus some time this Summer.

    After the talk in the Assistant Dean's Office, I was given a tour of the Library. The Main Library was located on the fifth floor, quite spacious, but with very old equipment, wooden shelves, a catalogue with handwritten cards, and closed stacks. Its collection of Russian and Chinese books was totally outdated and so not heavily used. However it had a very large room just for textbooks (with, in most cases, hundreds copies for each title). The Library just started an OPAC with very limited search options. We also visited the Technical Services of the Library, where 2 cataloguers still catalogued materials on worksheets. They still used a very old copy of the BBK (Biblioteka Bibliographia Klassifisia, the Russian classification system), and I heard the Director complain on the inadequacy of this classification system for his Library's highly specialized collection. After the tour of the Main Library, we came to the Office of the Director, and there I saw one brand new PC and a new photocopier, not in use yet. After further talk about possible help from University of Saskatchewan in his Office, the Director walked Mr. Uyen and me down to a new Reading Room on the ground floor. This Reading Room was just opened about two months ago. It had been used as a cafeteria for students, now renovated and capable of sitting about 200 students. They have moved down here current issues of periodicals and a small part of the book collection, consisting of titles which are being heavily used by students. The visit ended around noon.

    1.4. MEETING AT THE NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF HA NOI

    The next day, Thursday March 26th, in the morning, there was a meeting at the Conference Room of the National University of Hanoi.

    There was a large gathering of people. All foreign delegates were present, together with a large number of Vietnamese people coming from the National Library, the Scientific and Technical Information Centre, the Ministry of Information & Culture (Bo Thong Tin Van Hoa), and the Ministry of Education and Training (Bo Giao Duc Va Dao Tao).

    Mr. Nguyen Huy Chuong, a former graduate student from Simmons College, gave a presentation on new developments of his Library and Information Centre, a component of the National University of Ha Noi. He used multimedia equipment (Power Point, large color monitor, etc.) in his presentation to introduce to the audience his Centre's Web-based OPAC. At one point we could even hear "Ho Hue" (Hue Folk Songs - Hue is the old imperial city, just North of Da Nang) when he introduced the CD-ROM version of the book on the 300 Old Pagodas in Vietnam. After his presentation, we broke for coffee, and when the Meeting resumed, one of his staff presented the Centre's plan to implement a bar coding program for their collection. I have to admit that I was very impressed by these new developments at this University. Later I found out that they could achieve these things because the Ministry of Education and Training had given them a lot of money, 300,000 USD last year, and 400,000 USD this year (100,000 USD = 1.3 Billion Dong VN). It was pretty obvious that the Ministry had intention to have this University's Library and Information Centre as a show case.

    I skipped the afternoon session of this Meeting because of my commitment at the Hanoi University of Technology (Dai Hoc Back Khoa), Faculty of Economics and Management (Khoa Kinh Te va Quan Ly).

    1.5. PRESENTATION AT THE HANOI UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY

    The University sent a taxi with one staff and Mrs Truong Thi Nhan to pick me up at Phu Long Hotel at 2:30 PM.

    We came to the University campus around 3:00 PM. My presentation was scheduled to begin at 4:00 PM, so we paid a visit at the Centre for Environmental Science and Technology (CEST) of the University. I was met by Dr. Dinh Van Sam, Professor and Director of the Centre.

    A few minutes before 4 PM, Dr. Sam walked Mrs. Nhan and me to the Conference Room of the Faculty of Economics and Management. I was met there by the Dean, Dr. Tran Van Binh, the Assistant Dean, Dr. Nguyen Dai Thang, and the former Dean, Dr. La Van Bat.

    My presentation was titled "Information Technology in The Market Economy". It started at 4:30 PM. Only faculty members were present, a total of 7. The presentation went well and ended around 6:30 PM. I had given a copy of my paper to the representative of the University at Noi Bai Airport so that they would have enough time to make copies for all participants, but, somehow, no copy was made for the faculty members attending my presentation. I clearly saw that the Dean had that copy with him during my presentation.

    2. ACTIVITIES IN HO CHI MINH CITY

    2.1. ARRIVAL:

    I left Ha Noi Noi Bai Airport at 2:40 PM Saturday March 28th, and arrived at Tan Son Nhut Airport in Ho Chi Minh City at 4:40 PM. I was met there, in addition to my family members and old friends, by Mr. Le Ngoc Oanh, Director of the Open University Library, Mr. Nguyen Nha, Vice-Rector of Hung Vuong University, Responsible for Student Affairs and the Library, and Mr. Nguyen Tuyen, representing Mr. Nguyen Minh Hiep, Director of the Graduate Library, National University of Ho Chi Minh City (not yet returned from the United Kingdom).

    2.2. PRESENTATION AT THE FEDERATION OF SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL ASSOCIATIONS OF HO CHI MINH CITY:

    My first official activity in Ho Chi Minh City was at the Federation of Scientific and Technological Associations of Ho Chi Minh City (Lien Hiep Cac Hoi Khoa hoc Ky Thuat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh) at 43 Nguyen Thong Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. My visit took place at 2:00 PM, Tuesday March 31st. This Federation had given their assistance in the distribution of our ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science, English-Vietnamese edition, in the Summer of 1996.

    I was met there by Dr. Huynh Van Hoang, Vice-President and Secretary-General, and Mr. Vo Khac De, Secretary, of the Federation.

    The Federation invited about 40 people from various libraries in the City. I had not been really prepared to present any paper at this institution. But the night before, both my friends, Mr. Nguyen Nha and Mr. Le Ngoc Oanh insisted that I talk about something. So, at the Meeting at the Federation I gave a presentation which consisted of the following topics:

    - Summary of my paper on standardization presented at the NIT'98 in Ha Noi.
    - Keywords Vs Subject Headings.
    - Ownership Vs Accessibility Within North American Academic Libraries.

    2.3. VISITS AT HUNG VUONG UNIVERSITY AND OPEN UNIVERSITY:

    The next day, Wednesday April 1, 1998 in the morning, I visited Hung Vuong University and The Open University.

    Hung Vuong University, a private university, with a student population of 3,113, is located in a 5-story building at 736 Nguyen Trai Street, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City. At Hung Vuong University I also had a meeting with the Rector, Dr. Ngo Gia Hy and the Vice-Rector, Dr. Nguyen Thong Minh. It also has classrooms in other locations in the City. Its Library has a book collection of about 4,000 titles in Information Science, Management, Foreign Languages (English, French, Chinese, Japanese), Economics, Tourism, and Hospital Administration. The serials collection includes only 30 titles. It has a staff of 2, 6 PCS, and a photocopier. Its stacks are semi-open, i.e., students are allowed to go into the stacks and browse the collection, but they will have to sign out materials before bringing them into the Reading Room. The Library, in close cooperation with staff of the Information Science Department, has just started an OPAC. The OPAC was down during my visit so I did not have a chance to see how it operated. At Hung Vuong University I also had a meeting with the Rector, Dr. Ngo Gia Hy and the Vice-Rector, Dr. Nguyen Thong Minh.

    The Open University (a semi-public university) Library, located at 97 Vo Van Tan Street, HCM City, has been closed pending the construction of the new building of the University on the site of the former Ky Tuc Xa Nu Sinh Vien Tran Quy Cap (Tran Quy Cap Women Students' Dormitory). The building is to be finished in one year. Mr. Le Ngoc Oanh, the Libray Director, took me there to take a look at the construction site. For the time being, Mr. Oanh and his 2 staff work in a very small room. All library materials are being kept in bags waiting for the new library to be opened. They have an OPAC that works quite well with many search features. I had a chance to test these features and I was quite pleased with what I saw.

    2.4 VISIT AT THE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION (DAI HOC SU PHAM)

    In the afternoon, I came and talked to the staff of the College of Education Library. One of my former staff (I was Head of this Library from 1975 to 1980), Mrs. Ho Thi Minh-Tuong is now Assistant Director of this Library; I met her at the meeting at the Federation headquarters the day before, and she insisted that I visit her library, and I just could not refuse; this meeting was, therefore, totally unplanned.

    I was met at the College of Education by the Assistant Dean, Mr. Le Vinh Quoc, and the Director of the Library. All Section Heads were present, a total of about 10 people. Again I gave a summary of my presentation on standardization in Ha Noi. Then I talked about the basic steps in automation. Since this was a rather small group, many questions were asked, and the discussion was really good. I was glad that I could answer all questions asked, especially those by Mr. Le Tu Hy, Vice Director, Computer Center, College of Education. I had only one regret: no time to see the Library.

    2.5 PRESENTATION AT THE GRADUATE LIBRARY, NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF HO CHI MINH CITY.

    The one-day seminar at the Graduate Library, National University of Ho Chi Minh City, located at 227 Nguyen Van Cu Street, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, was held on Thursday April 2, 1998.

    The seminar was held in the big room with multimedia equipment. It was a big success with about 60 participants, with some people even coming from Ha Noi and Can Tho.

    The topic of my presentation was: "Current Issues in Cataloging". The following issues were presented at the Seminar:

    1. Evolution of the OPAC.
    2. Cataloger's Working Tools.
    3. Cataloging of INTERNET Resources.
    4. Trend in Distribution of Responsibilities Between Librarians and Library Assistants.
    5. Outsourcing of Library Technical Services.
    6. Problems and New Developments of AACR2.

    Although I gave all printouts to Mr. Nguyen Minh Hiep, the Library Director, two days ahead, none was made for the participants, and they had to take notes of my presentation, a living proof that they were really interested. Mr. Nguyen Minh Hiep did not make copies of my paper probably because of too much photocopy to be done (about 50 pages X 60 participants). Besides I also donated all 28 papers (mostly journal articles + all papers presented at the Toronto Conference on AACR2) I had used for my presentation. I officially asked him to make them available for anyone who is interested to read at his Library. I did a demonstration of the Classification Plus CD-ROM donated to the Library by the Modesto Junior College Library, Modesto, California, USA, through its Librarian, Ms. Le-Huong Pham. Lunch was provided by the Graduate Library to all participants.

    2.6. MEETING WITH VIETNAMESE FRIENDS OF LEAF-VN:

    After the Seminar, Mr. Nguyen Nha invited Mr. Nguyen Minh Hiep, Mr. Le Ngoc Oanh and me to have dinner at his home.

    After dinner, I talked to them about new developments of LEAF-VN and distributed the document from Mrs. Lien-Huong Fiedler. They were all very enthusiastic about LEAF-VN and promised to provide strong support to the Foundation's future activities in Vietnam. They also provided me with information about their libraries, which will be very useful in LEAF's writing of project proposals in the future.

    This official activity put an end to my two-week trip to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

    I left Ho Chi Minh City in the morning of Friday April 3rd and arrived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada at 10:40 PM the same day.

    CONCLUSION

    The trip gave me an opportunity to meet not only old friends and former colleagues still in Vietnam but also to witness real changes that are happening in the country's library community. Although the level of library development is not the same in those universities I visited but their leaders were all willing and ready to move their libraries into automation. They need and seek our assistance to make it happen. I believe that we have an obligation to provide them with such assistance.



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