11 February 2010

An Interview with Trang Huynh

Trang Huynh is visiting Tucson from Cantho University in Vietnam where she is the Director of the Learning Resource Center. She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study library leadership in the U.S. and the implications for the libraries of the Mekong Delta. Prior to arriving in Arizona, she visited libraries in New York, Massachusetts and Illinois.

What kind of training do you need to be a Librarian in Vietnam?
After you graduate from high school you must apply for a Bachelor’s of Library Science at one of the four training centers in Vietnam. It’s the first level and most important degree. At Cantho University the degree plan consists of 138 hours, with courses ranging from Knowledge Organization and Management to Programming. Some of the courses that are required for all students include Military training and Marxist-Leninist Philosophy. Also, Library Science students must complete a practicum in their last semester. Right now we need more Information Technology courses for our students.

What’s the library system like?There are four library systems in Vietnam. The first is Public libraries. It’s governed by the Ministry for Information, Culture and Sports. The second is Academic which includes all school libraries and is governed by the Ministry of Education and Training. The third is Scientific and Technical libraries governed by the Ministry of Science and Technology. The final category is Military libraries which are under the jurisdiction of the Military. All of the groups have their own library associations.

The salaries are the same for public and academic librarians because it is a national system. The only advantage that academic librarians have is that there are more opportunities for continuing education and to attend conferences.

Tell me about the Learning Resource Center (LRC) at Cantho University.The Learning Resource Center is a new building that is very busy because we have 550 computers and it’s the only air-conditioned building on campus! I have 55 staff and 4 managers that report to me. As the Director of the LRC, I report directly to the Rector of the University. Our students are given free internet access and the quota depends on how many credit hours you are taking. We have a software system that the student logs into that calculates their usage. If you go over your quota you have the option to purchase more time. In the beginning the access was unlimited but students began to complain because they could not get to a computer.

What is the size of your library collection?We have 300,000 volumes in our library system. This includes the LRC and 13 branch libraries in campus departments. We process all of the items that go to the branch libraries and train the staff to circulate and maintain the materials. The collection is about 50% Vietnamese, with the remaining split between English and French. Last year our total circulation was at 2.2 million items.

What reference tools and electronic resources do you use at the LRC?
We have a union catalog called “ILIB” which is Vietnamese software that we bought in 2000. It was customized for us and satisfies all our requirements. From 2002 to 2008 we used EBSCO and Blackwell through the INASP program. INASP is a UK charity that provides scientific publications to developing nations at a 90% discount rate. We stopped using the databases because they were supposed to be full-text but still requested a fee whenever you tried to access the articles. We switched to ProQuest and purchased it through a consortium of fifty libraries. They even have a branch in Vietnam with a local representative that conducts training to use the resource.

One big difference is that we don’t have as many students that come to the reference desk. Most students will only have 3 to 4 assignments and a final examination every semester. They don’t have weekly assignments like you do here.

What concepts will you bring back to Vietnam?
I really like the Information Commons. I will bring this concept back as a proposal for when we build new academic libraries. I also like the idea of volunteers helping in the library. I am thinking about getting some for my library because my staff are so busy.

Danielle Walker is a SIRLS Master's Student and President of UA LSO.

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