A week in Azerbaijan, the land of fire…
This year, for the third time, I participated in the Erasmus program. And while someone might ask what is the point after having already participated twice (once as a student and once as a professional), I can assure that nothing beats the excitement of getting to know new people, experience and enjoy a different working environment and being lost in tiny unknown streets while exploring a city.
On June I flew to Azerbaijan for a week, as a participant in the Staff Mobility Exchange program, in order to spend 1 week at ADA University Library.
ADA University is a leading University in the country established in 2006 and since, it is dedicated to preparing innovative global leaders and to promoting useful collaborative research on diplomacy, public and international affairs, business, humanities and sciences, information technologies and system engineering.
The Library couldn’t have a different direction but working to be at the forefront of information delivery. Featuring the very latest in infrastructure, the library systems ensure that the ADA University community has the most efficient access to both quality print and electronic resources which focus on the subjects of the departments of the University.
Throughout the week I was introduced to all departments of the Library and colleagues there kindly shared with me their policies, procedures and way of work. Elchin, the Library’s Director welcomed me the first day and he gave me general information on the Library, its’ mission and ethics. Mushvig and Nigar presented the Reference department, the research services and tools the Library provides students and faculty members and we discussed about the instructions and workshops they organize during the academic year. With Vafa and Elchin I got a glimpse of the Circulation department, the procedures on material and borrowing rights and the overall organization of the front end of the Library. Naide, Khayala and Alakper introduced me to the Technical department and the processes of new acquisitions, budgeting, orders, cataloguing and general processing of material and donations. Iltifat is the Systems Administrator and he informed me on the Library’s infrastructure, the equipment, the software and online systems.
My contribution to the week’s program was a presentation about Koç University and our Library. Our organizational structure, our services and tools, how we support the academic community on research and teaching, our campaigns in order to raise awareness among the users, our events and collaborations.
The most important part though was the exchange and sharing of each side’s perspective on the profession, worries, difficulties in everyday tasks, current practices and future plans and the ideas on potential collaboration(s). Erasmus is all about learning something new and share what you already know. The more you interact and you are open to teach and be taught, inform and be informed and experience what is out of one’s so called “comfort zone”, the bigger the benefit.
Apart from the ADA Library, I also visited the National Library of Azerbaijan, having a guided tour in the different departments and learning about the collections and procedures by a Head Librarian.
(both images from the card catalog of the National Library)
But you know, the Erasmus experience couldn’t be complete without one indulging in the culture of the hosting city. Baku, the capital and commercial hub of Azerbaijan, is a low-lying city with coastline along the Caspian Sea and the largest city in the Caucasus area.
If you haven’t visited yet, do so before it becomes one of these overcrowded super popular touristic destinations. In Baku the visitor won’t be disappointed: a long promenade where you can enjoy your walk either by the sea or through the park, the old city surrounded by walls, wide boulevards with aesthetically pleasing buildings, commercial streets with green squares, museums, the Opera and the Ballet hall, the flame towers overseeing the city, numerous restaurants with delicious local food, cozy cafés, and cultural centres. And out of the city the National Park of Gobustan with the magnificent petroglyphs for the lovers of archaeological monuments, or the famous Yanar Dag – the fire mountain, the Atashgah Zoroastrian fire temple and many more.
I left Baku with a full luggage…a bottle of Azerbaijani wine, a package of the mouthwatering “pakhlava” – equivalent to the Turkish baklava – and something else, more important and “heavy”: the bright smiles of the colleagues I met there who made it hard for me to leave, new ideas, a broader vision and perspective on the profession and so many memories from places, tastes and people.