An Intern's Perspective: Nayeli Sanchez
Fall 2017 - I met my first international delegation on a Friday morning. It was a beautiful day and Kalamazoo was bustling. I took an Uber to meet with the group of Librarians from Kazakhstan and Jodi, the Executive Director. The visitors were here through the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program, spending five days in Kalamazoo. When I arrived, they were all standing in a circle, outside the Kalamazoo Public Library. As soon as I got out of the car, Jodi introduced me and I watched one of the two translators in action. I took the time to observe and listen before trying to do or say much. I wanted to know habits, emotions, personalities and cultural traditions of the group and individuals before I made any moves to connect.
When the library opened, we all moved together in a friendly herd to a conference room where I learned right along with our delegation about how our library functions. They asked insightful questions and made fascinating comments about how their own libraries in Kazakhstan work. We proceeded to tour the Kalamazoo Public Library and I felt special, to have a “backstage pass” to a place I constantly frequented.
We moved onto the streets of Kalamazoo, taking lots of pictures and bonding over our experience in the library. We took a tour of the Kalamazoo Valley Museum and ate at Lunchtime Live in Bronson Park. Food trucks lined the road and our group dispersed in the growing crowd of hungry patrons. After some waiting, we all met up around a table and chatted until Jodi showed up with the van to take us to our next appointment: The Vine Neighborhood Association with Steve Walsh.
At this point I had learned names and was able to identify the members of the delegation, which consisted of six people, five women and one man. At our meeting with Steve, I learned some more about my own home city of Kalamazoo. I learned more about the Vine Neighborhood, where Little Lending Libraries were scattered, opening opportunities for children and adults to borrow and replace books amongst each other.
A nice walk around the block and some pictures, then we were off to Western Michigan University’s own Waldo Library. I love my university and was extremely excited to show our visitors what I could. I showed them the cursed “W” under the clock tower and took them into the library where I led them to the “You are Welcome Here” sign that was covered in friendly post it notes with positive messages from visitors and students.
We met with Julie Garrison, Dean of University Libraries, and after a sit down to discuss and ask questions, we took a tour. I learned about the shifts in spaces and got to see and test the new furniture with all of my new friends. When we left Waldo, the delegation asked to see more of Western Michigan University’s campus and I obliged happily while Jodi took the van to meet us at Miller. I showed them the back half of main campus, including buildings like Knauss, Friedman, Dunbar, Dalton, Sprau Tower, Brown, and Miller Auditorium. They were also able to see structures like the Greek steps and our beautiful Miller Fountain. It definitely felt like a great day to be a Bronco!
My feet hurt a bit, and I was tired at the end of the day, but it was such a lovely experience to spend the day with our amazing Librarians from Kazakhstan. I am so happy to have met individuals I wouldn’t have otherwise crossed paths with in my lifetime. I learned some new words and shared in moments that I will never forget, right here in my own city.