As in every Erasmus experience, spending some days with colleagues from another Institution and another cultural background is, the least to say, informative and fun!
Koç University Suna Kıraç Library has experience in organizing such an event as of last March, when 18 Academic Librarians from around the Globe joined our team for a week of experience sharing, best practices demonstration, cultural visits and endless amounts of Turkish tea and coffee – the 1st “International Library staff” week in Istanbul.
So, the idea to organize a new similar event under the Erasmus+ Staff Training program, it was as natural as to organize our orientation sessions for the new students. What differentiate the event this time and made it even more special, were the origins of the participants and the concept of the weekly program.
The city today known as Istanbul, Constantinople in past times, has been the site of a multinational community that formatted the city’s rich cultural heritage. Byzantium or Byzantion, an ancient Greek colony in early antiquity, was the beginning of today’s Istanbul. Thus, the city is known for some major Byzantine monuments among the Ottoman ones.
Having this in mind, we came up with the idea to bring together professionals from the two sides of the Aegean Sea, as friends would come together in a place that would mean a lot, in order to tell their news and enjoy each other’s company. Culture and mentality don’t differ much in both countries and now it was a chance to see similarities and differences in the work field.
5 academic librarians from Greece and 1 from Cyprus joined Turkish colleagues for a week, and the days became busy with conversations around Turkish/Greek coffee, Greek/Turkish baklava, ouzo/raki and many more commonalities. Participants, being all professionals with years of experience, shared practices implemented in their work along with plans and standards, advised each other and were willing to listen to others’ ideas and professional perspective.
But the event had another aspect as well…this of the cultural indulgent. Organized cultural visits were meant to add this something extra special. Our visits started with the Sadberk Hanim Museum, a “boutique” museum and the first private one in Turkey. The Museum is located in an old aristocratic mansion by the north coast of Boshporus and it includes two major sections: the archaeological one with exhibits from different parts of Turkey and the turkish-islamik one resembling a traditional Ottoman house which includes artifacts from the everyday life.
Day two and the heavy doors of the impressive Ottoman Archives building opened for us. For more than 2 hours we were fascinated by the historical exhibits, the details on the management and the preservation of the archives and the research being conducted there. The day continued with a visit to a Byzantine church being turned into a museum, the Chora church. Even though closed partially due to restoration works, its past glory couldn’t be unnoticed as we were lucky to have a guided tour of a Byzantinologist. And the day ended with the very important, for all Greeks, Ecumenical Patriarchate. There, after been given information on the history of the Patriarchate, we visited the Library with the books and manuscripts of a significant historical, theological and cultural value.
On the third day of the cultural program we here hosted at the Greek Consulate, located at the impressive Sismanoglu building at the city centre. The Consulate acquires 2 collections: the Literature collection with current publications and a private owned collection, the Sakulidis collection, of old books, journals and newspapers, all in Greek and published in Istanbul.
The event ended with a visit to remember, as we enjoyed a day trip to one of the Princess islands, Heybeliada (Chalki in Greek). Our visit was purposed in order to visit the Greek Orthodox Theological School, the first organized Orthodox Seminary. What an impressive building, on the top of the hill overlooking the island and the Marmara Sea! The priests living there were more than welcoming and they gave us a tour in the building and the surrounding area but most importantly they gave us access to the School’s Library with the unique books.
Clearly these visits were a delight to all of us, as they combined the opportunity to enjoy cultural sites strongly connected to our profession.
I don’t really know what was it that made last week a valuable experience for all those participating…was it the sharing of experience in a relaxing, accepting atmosphere? The realization that there are many common practices but also many different ones that one could try to apply in their own library with the necessary adjustments? The strolling around the City’s streets with all these flavors and images? The chance to visit places and view material that wouldn’t be possible in an individual random occasion?
Whatever that was, our bonds of friendship and the mutual will to build new collaborations (one already planned! More information to come shortly) will remain strong and will further flourish!
On behalf of all of us (Tuba, Kamil, Burcu, Feriha, Mustafa, Naz) who put this week together,
*See more in our Flickr collection
Some words from our participants…
The “Greek-Turkish Library Staff” week brought together two neighbor cultures. We had some idea about the similarity of the two cultures but during the event we certainly learned much more. During this week we shared knowledge, experience and best practice as professional librarians. After the first two days with intensive professional presentation sessions we visited cultural heritage places equally important for both nations. We compared Turkish and Cypriot lokum and learned similar words we use every day – you can’t believe how many similar words are there in both languages. During the visit to the Halki School of Theology, I prayed with a priest before lunch, this happened first in my life :). It was a pleasure to meet “Komsu” Librarians and I’ll miss them.
An open livery campus, happy students and a modern library is what I faced right upon my arrival at the Koc University Campus on Monday October 8th. State of the art services, for the support of the users, and hard working librarians is what I sensed in the Library. Serious exchange of ideas and good practices were shared during the first two days of these meetings in a very warm and working environment. Unique visits to historic libraries and archives, with highly informative tours by specialists followed the next days. A full week of learning and exchanging of ideas and experiences passed so very fast, mainly because it was so pleasant, fruitful and well organized. I left Istanbul and the dear colleagues with very rich memories.
Thank you Tuba Akbyturk for the invitation, the experience and the hospitality and thank you all dear colleagues, Vasia, Kamil, Mustafa, Senem, Burcu, Naz, Aleca, Eleni, Arietta, Soula, Liza and all the rest. Hope to see you all soon.
With all kind regards and best wishes,
Lilian Voudouri Music Library of Greece
That was a very valuable visit for me. Our close relations with our neighboring countries and our shared culture should always be at the forefront. Thank you so much for pioneering such a meeting. It was enjoyable to learn about the libraries of our Greek colleagues. Perhaps new meetings can be established through this meeting. If such a meeting is repeated, I would be happy to attend.
Koç University Library staff arranged two days campus seminars for learning each other’s names and personal/professional information and getting familiarized with the services and work routine of participating libraries. It was an amazing opportunity to meet new colleagues and exchange ideas and valuable concepts for information literacy, cataloging trends, archival and manuscript description and special collection management. Genuine hospitality was shown all during our stay and we had several pleasant conversations and more coffee, delicious tea, plus Turkish baked goods!! What a kind welcome. Outdoor visits to the Sadberk hanim museum and Sariyer, the Ottonan Archives, the Chora Museum, the Patriarchate, other Byzantine monuments in the Phanari area, the ANAMED & NIT libraries, the Sismanogleio, and the Theological School of Chalki were professionally organized and guided by experts! Kariye Müzesi (Chora musem) is one of the most magnificent specimens of Byzantine architectural heritage. Mr Nikos Kontogiannis enlightened us with the history of the church and provided us with all the cultural and historical information about the area of Phanari.We also had an amazing opportunity to see the collection of special books and manuscripts of the Ottoman Archives, the Patriarchate and the Theological School of Chalki. In the Ottoman Archives we had the privilege to attend to a small presentation on how to preserve a Ferman (royal mandate or decree)! A unique experience
It was a most eye-opening, inspiring, multi-activity, cultural trip. We had such an amazing time!
Arietta – Elisavet
University of Ioannina Library and Information Center
I had the chance to join the event just for two days, but in that time I got so much info about the libraries in Greece and Cyprus. From events like this one, we get opportunities to notice what is going on outside our country, what the strict rules are, how workflow is being arranged and managed and we are also taught practical ideas that we can share with our own library. We can see the libraries’ limits and common issues that we can achieve together. So with that kindly and well-organized event, I’ve felt that librarians should come together more often to share their aspects and thoughts mostly on everything that libraries have to deal with.
Thank you so much for letting us to be a part of this event. Hope we meet again.
Sehir University Library
Our visit to your library was a unique experience. We had the opportunity to meet new colleagues, exchange ideas and get to know new developments in the field of information science. The two –day on campus library program was an excellent opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the tasks and working models each participating library implements. The presentations offered an overview of the numerous projects each academic/research library undertakes. We are looking forward to future collaborations. All events were very informative and thanks to your well-organized schedule we were able to visit numerous venues of extreme importance (both cultural and professional). Thanks so much for letting us experience your magnificent working environment as well as the true vibe of your beautiful city.
We only hope to see you again very soon.
Eleni – Evdoksia
University of Ioannina Library and Information Center
I am glad to have participated in the “Greek-Turkish Library Staff” Week. Mainly, I acquired useful information about the interesting and rich collection of the Greek Music Library which drew my attention because it was a thematic library.
Thank you for hosting us in this beautiful and efficient organization.
Sehir University Library
I was happy to come together with the rest of the team in order to collaborate with librarians from 2 neighbour cultures and countries.
Mef University Library