Symbols of the past in Wroclaw

Tonight I am heading out for the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Wroclaw, Poland. The city is special for me because I studied abroad there in 1995. In preparing the trip, I noticed that the congress meetings are being held at the Hala Stulecia. I was quite confused at first because I didn’t remember anything with that name. Finally it hit me — they had renamed the large meeting exhibition hall in the east of the city. The building I knew had been called Hala Ludowa, the People’s Hall, but that wasn’t its original name. Designed  by German architect Max Berg as a commemoration of 1813 victory against Napoleon, it opened in 1913 as Jahrhunderthalle, or Centennial Hall. Since the mid-18th century, Wroclaw, named Breslau, had been a part of the Prussian Empire and then the German Empire. After World War II, the city and region became part of Poland and the majority German population were expelled, fled, or resettled in Soviet-occupied Germany. After the fall of Communism, the hall remained Hala Ludowa until the mid-2000s when it was renamed Hala Stulecia, the Polish translation of Centennial Hall. In 2006, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. For my historians and archivists, here are some great historical photos.

Pic of Hala Stulecia

With the debates surrounding our own monuments, it might be helpful to look at this issue from another perspective. Wroclaw and all of Poland have had a difficult history to contend with many times over, and we all know the history of Poland’s emergence and demise and reemergence (hopefully).  In addition to dealing with political changes, Poland has contended with powerful symbolic politics during its history. Hala Stulecia is great example of that attempt to confront the past through shifting memorialization.

In particular, the hall when built had a large Iron Cross built inside its dome. During the Communist period, the Iron Cross was covered with large piece of fabric. When I was there, the story was that the Cross had been built into the dome and was part of its support structure (I don’t know if this is true). The Communist authorities couldn’t remove the Cross without damaging the dome so they used the sheet. That sheet was still there in 1995. Looking at more recent pictures the sheet is gone and it appears that the Iron Cross has been removed. I can’t find a good photo that confirms that it is still there or not.

While I am certain that there are some residents who would lament the loss of this specific memorialization, removing symbols does not equate a loss of the past. Removing the Iron Cross or changing the hall’s name is a recognition that the society has changed and that the symbol no longer resonates or that it resonates in a new way in the present day. Names can change without causing harm and memorials can be rebuilt or brought down without forgetting a past. In the United States, we will always have the scars of slavery and the Civil War imprinted in our books, told in our classrooms, and reverberating in our society. We don’t need the monumental reminders that the Jim Crow era tried to re-establish a racial order many years after slavery ended. Similarly, Wroclaw doesn’t need to hide its past or keep in a public hall a symbol that was later adopted by a regime that killed millions.

I look forward to seeing Hala Stulecia again with new eyes and its new name. I hope that the Iron Cross is in the Wroclaw museum, where it belongs, and I hope IFLA attendees visit the museum to learn more about Wroclaw’s past. Because people have been asking me about this trip, I will try to blog regularly and post pictures. I am new to IFLA, but I am excited to be a part of this international community of librarians.

Take action for freedom: Protect free government info!

The Free Government Information (FGI) group has been active lately in light of attempts20140616-142800-52080029.jpg to revise Title 44, Chapter 19, the governing law for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). The FDLP is what ensures your right to access government information freely through your local depository library (like UNCG) both now and in the long-term. The depository community is currently weighing in, but I firmly believe this is an issue that all Americans should learn, care, and speak out about.

FGI has made a call for specific proposals. I encourage you to read them, and then sign the petition “Protect the public right to govt information: help preserve and expand Title 44”.  The group’s main activists are based in California and Alaska and were hoping to wake up to 100 signatures. They have 100 now. Let’s double or triple that, at least.

You can also write your Senators and representatives using the model of the letter Stanford Library Director Michael Keller made public.  If you work at a library, please ask your Dean or Director to speak out!

In these troubled times, you can take tangible actions to protect our freedom by protecting our right to government information. Take action and PLEASE spread the word of the good work FGI is doing!

 

Learn about EPA info resources with Help!

Help! I’m an Accidental Government Information Librarian presents … Preserving the Environment: Information Resources of the EPA

The Government Resources Section of the North Carolina Library Association welcomes you to a series of webinars designed to help us increase our familiarity with government information. All are welcome because government information wants to be free.

epa-logoThe EPA’s National Library Network consists of 25 libraries and repositories located in the Agency’s offices, research centers, and specialized laboratories. The Library Network serves the needs of EPA staff and the public by using the latest information technologies and innovative services to acquire, organize, and deliver timely access to information. Areas of focus include basic and applied sciences, management, legal information, and other special topics. This presentation covers several aspects of EPA library collections, including the EPA National Library Catalog, the National Service Center for Environmental Publications, epa.gov, and some information about the EPA publication process.

Anthony Holderied is the Assistant Director of the Library at the Environmental Protection Agency in Research Triangle Park, NC, operating under the contract of the School of Information and Library Science at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Anthony has 10 plus years of experience providing research assistance and instruction at a variety of libraries and academic institutions, and has also worked as an instructional technologist. He has published and presented in the fields of information literacy and educational technology and holds a Master of Library Science and Master of Arts in Educational Media.

We will meet together for Session #72, online on Thursday, June 8 from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. (Eastern). Please RSVP for the session using this link:  http://tinyurl.com/grs-session72

We will use WebEx for the live session. Information on testing and accessing the session will be made available when you register.

The session will be recorded and available after the live session, linked from the NCLA GRS web page (http://www.nclaonline.org/government-resources).

 

Summer goals and language learning

I’ve been obsessed with learning languages since I was a kid, but have had a difficult time keeping up momentum on any of them. I think this started when I was about six or seven and my grandparents gave me a Hebrew letters book from their trip to Israel. Considering none of us spoke Hebrew, it was more of a novelty. When I was twelve I tried teaching myself French and learned a few words. I did the usual French and forget in high school and college. And by the time I was in college I had switched to stumbling along in Russian. Much to the sadness of my Russian professor, the only one I kept up with was Croatian, but that was mainly because I lived in Croatia. So, I have passing familiarity with several languages, speak none of them, and have forgotten than I have remembered.

As the Assistant Director of International & Global Studies it is a crying shame that I require students to learn languages and yet I still struggle to learn myself. Now that the semester is over, I have time to try and get back up to speed. My French is pretty good as I’ve been studying every day for a year, but I still can’t hold a conversation. (But I can read Harry Potter books in French.) I’m visiting Poland in August so I figure that I can try to re-learn basic Polish to get around. But both of these tasks require I be able to hold at least a basic conversation, which I honestly struggle with because I am shy.

So what’s the best of approach? The world of learning languages has changed so much since I was a kid too. When I studied in Poland, the only book I could find on Polish was a grammar library book from the 1970s. Never mind finding actual Polish speakers in North Carolina.Most of my time learning languages has been spent sitting in a classroom learning grammar and to be honest it was always a struggle to keep my interest up. While I wish there was a less social way, I’m pretty convinced by the argument that the way to learn a language is to speak it. Yes, starting as a kid is great, but I am no longer a kid and I’m not giving up. So, last week I took the plunge and joined a few language convo sites like italki and HelloTalk. I strongly encourage any language student to try to take advantage of these sites. While there have been some awkward moments (think chatting with a Polish teenager), everyone there really wants to learn languages and almost everyone has been very gracious to my attempts to speak or chat.

Italki is a networking site that connects people who want formal instruction as well as informal language exchanges. Most of the actual instruction/exchange goes on in Skype. HelloTalk allows you to have informal chat conversations through the app. I have both on my phone and the more you use them, the more language partners you will get. Today I was having a long conversation with a Polish speaker and I ended up with quite a few additional attempts at conversation. Many people want to learn English so native English speakers will certainly find chances to learn.

Of course, use your discretion about giving out information and maybe avoid anyone without profile information. You can block anyone and HelloTalk blocks inappropriate content automatically. I would also set up a Skype account just for language conversations if you tend to use Skype for work. That way you don’t have language exchange calls trying to come through when you are talking to your boss through Skype, which happened to me.

In addition to the convo apps, there are lots of great free language learning apps out there like Memrise and DuoLingo. Truly there is no excuse NOT to learn languages. And in the world we live in, learning languages and cultures is almost an act of resistance.

Go forth my friends and speak the world! Hvala za čitanje! Merci d’avoir lu!

lNG