At the beginning of the school year in elementary school, we were usually given the assignment to write about our summer. I dreaded the assignment. Summers were spent running around from dawn to dusk, maybe a road trip packed into the family car to see relatives, nothing worth writing about. I now understand that it was a great way for teachers to get to know their students; a chance to visit the world through the students’ eyes. I am on my last day of ten days at Duke Kunshan University in Kunshan, China. I was tasked with helping their library as they grow, and this is DKU through my eyes.
Duke Kunshan University is located in Kunshan City, Jiangsu Province. The Province is home to many ancient water towns with buildings lining ancient canals, sidewalks for pedestrians, and shops on the first floor of most buildings. DKU pays homage to the area’s water towns with a pond in the center of campus, small fountains and reflecting pools in front of the academic building. The conference center, the academic building and faculty residences surround the pond. The academic building is home to the canteen, the library, team rooms, and classroom auditoriums. There is a building called the Innovation Center under construction that will house faculty offices and classrooms, with two more phases of buildings and a Duke Gardens area planned. In the center of the pond is a pavilion with arches in tribute to the architecture at Duke.
The library has seven full-time staff and two interns. All staff have Master’s degrees, and the interns are studying for their Masters in Library Science. The staff are from China and Australia and need to wear multiple hats to keep the library running smoothly.
We worked on setting up loan policies and discussed their need to load patrons into our integrated library system. DKU Library is expanding they types of items they’re loaning and expanding borrowing privileges to family of DKU faculty, staff and students as well as DKU alumni and visitors. Extending privileges to DKU family is very important, as DKU as a whole wants to feel like a strong community to everyone who has a link to the University. We started work so they could use the acquisitions module to track budgets and orders, and we solved some technical issues, allowing the staff to send loan notices to patrons and to print spine labels for books.
It wasn’t all work and no play. I visited two local water towns, the cities of Suzhou and Shanghai, and experienced the historic culture of the Kun Opera. I toured an ancient private garden, ate delicious food, shopped in Shanghai, and rode the bullet train which traveled between Kunshan and Shanghai at a speed of 268 km/h. I was honored with a special traditional dinner with the staff that included regional specialties like hairy crab soup, tender loofah and jellyfish. The DKU staff have been welcoming, friendly, and generous. I’m sad to leave and hope I get the opportunity to return. In the meantime, we’ve forged new friendships, new working relationships, and made lasting memories. It was the best summer vacation ever!