by Anne Burnett
University of Georgia Law Library
In June of 1996, I had the pleasure of hosting the Law Librarian for Albania's Court of Cassation. Elda Hoxha came to Georgia for almost two weeks of training in law librarianship as part of the American Bar Association's Central and East Europe Law Initiative (CEELI). Although we packed Elda's days with training sessions, I believe that we learned at least as much from her as she did from us. As more opportunities for exchanges of this nature arise, I thought it might be helpful for me to share some of my experiences as a host/trainer.
Because Elda's visit had been rescheduled from two dates earlier in the year, much of the preliminary planning had already been done by UGA Computer Services Librarian Carol Watson before I even started my job in Athens (meaning I got to do the fun stuff). Like most of the world's population, I knew very little about Albania, which had been isolated for years under a communist dictatorship. I asked the folks in the CEELI office to send me as much information about Albania as possible, and I trekked over to the Main Library on the UGA campus for additional resources on Albania. With these materials I was able to create summaries about Albania and its culture for the rest of the library staff. I wanted everyone in the library to be involved in the visit, and providing information about our visitor and her country served well to increase everyone's anticipation.
This background information also helped me to plan Elda's "free" time while in Athens. For example, several sources commented that Albanians do not have the same expectations of privacy that we do, and they are not often alone. Knowing this, several members of the library staff volunteered to have Elda over for dinner and to plan evening and weekend activities with her, thereby lessening the amount of time she would have to spend alone in her hotel room. In addition to visiting several staff members' homes, Elda went shopping (several times at her own request!), saw a softball game, went to the movies, toured botanical gardens, visited the local public library, a school library, ate at numerous restaurants, and tried tacos for the first time.
Before Elda arrived, I asked the CEELI liaison in Albania to provide a list of goals for the training. This helped me to plan training sessions suitable for her needs. One of Elda's priorities was to evaluate software for online catalogs. The small size of her collection (approximately 3000 volumes) meant that software suitable for our large academic law library was not practical for her purposes, but a posting to LAW-LIB produced numerous helpful suggestions. Elda was then able to observe two of these programs in use (many thanks to Linda Dekle at Troutman Sanders and Martha Lappe at the Georgia State Law Library in Atlanta for their invaluable assistance).
Elda arrived in Athens with an additional $2000 earmarked for supplies and materials. Although we were able to help her find library supplies (which CEELI subsequently shipped to Albania for us), we had to explain that it was not feasible to purchase $1900 worth of foreign law library materials at the UGA Bookstore! We did, however, provide her with a list of major legal publishers in Europe. In addition, she spent several hours with our acquisitions librarians, who discussed collection development issues and acquisitions procedures.
Elda arrived with good computer skills, and she was able to build upon these during numerous hands-on sessions with our computer services librarian, Carol Watson. She was particularly interested in the World Wide Web and the camaraderie, professional courtesy, and practical assistance shown on LAW-LIB and INT-LAW. I showed her printouts of the replies I had received to my LAW-LIB query about software suitable for a small law library's online catalog, enabling her to see the very practical value of the listservs. She will soon have e-mail access herself, so do not be surprised if you see a posting by Elda Hoxha some time soon!
Perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned from Elda's visit was to build in "break" time throughout the visitor's day. Although her English is quite good, anyone who has spent time communicating in a foreign language knows how wearying that can be. I believe I was a little too ambitious in my scheduling efforts; therefore, if presented with a similar opportunity in the future I will not pack the visitor's schedule so tightly.
I also learned just how helpful the legal community in Atlanta is. Elda spent three days in Atlanta where she was most graciously hosted by the Honorable Dorothy Toth Beasley, Chief Judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals. Along with bringing Elda into her home, Judge Beasley arranged for Elda to meet and spend a fun day in Atlanta with the envoy to the Albanian Olympic team and a former Peace Corps volunteer in Albania. In addition, Elda spent time with the law firm of Troutman Sanders, several court libraries, and the staff of Georgia State University's Law Library (special thanks to Nancy Deel for coordinating that portion of the visit).
The possibility of participating in events such as Elda Hoxha's visit is one of the many things that attracted me to the "international" side of law librarianship, and I am very fortunate to have been able to take part in such an exchange at this point in my career. I also learned how to make an ëndëshme (tasty) dish of fierëze (lentils) the Shqipëtar (Albanian) way--let me know if you want the recipe!
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