CSI Librarian Travels to China for Faculty Exchange Program

This past Spring I participated in the CUNY Shanghai Library Faculty Exchange program where I spent 4 weeks at Shanghai University as a resident in the Library department.  The program was made possible by CUNY’s Office of Library Services and the Library Association of CUNY’s International Relations Round Table, coordinated by Professor Kenneth Schlesinger, Chief Librarian at Lehman College.

I lived in the International Student Residence on the new Baochan campus of Shanghai University.  My residency involved learning about academic libraries in China, teaching, and visiting other academic (and public) libraries in Shanghai and surrounding cities.

The Shanghai University Library system is comprised of three libraries on three campuses; the main library on the Baoshan campus, Wenhui Library on Yanchang campus and the Lianhe Library on Jiading campus. The library at the Yanchang campus was mostly used by graduate students and the library at the Jiading campus was mostly used by Science students. The branch libraries at the Jiading and Yanchang campuses were also structured into self-enclosed rooms with service desks in each room.

At the Baochan campus, there were information desks throughout the library building at the entrance to each department.  The main floor’s information desk functioned like a reception desk and very few students asked reference questions. Any research-related questions were referred to librarians in the Information Retrieval department, a department that is similar to our Reference Services department at the CSI Library. The Information Retrieval department also provides mediated literature searching and (non-credit) Library instruction classes.

My weekly working schedule included teaching, visiting academic institutions, and visiting other departments in the Library. I worked from 7:00am-2:00pm Monday to Friday.  Most mornings I worked in the Library and in the afternoon I went on academic visits in the city.  Some afternoons I shadowed librarians on the main floor reference desk. I also facilitated 4 workshops with Librarians and participated in conversations comparing the functions and activities of academic libraries in the United States with China.

In addition, I provided 16 hours of classroom instruction over the course of the month to students in the Library and Information Science program. The lecture topics were selected by the students.

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 9:00am-11:00am, I gave 2-hour lectures to approximately 10 students. Their English language skills were proficient and they were a lively group so early in the morning.  Several lecture topics included Introduction to Information Literacy, Cloud Computing 101,  Social Responsibility in U.S. Academic Libraries, and Library Liaisons in U.S. Academic Libraries. Many came to class with questions and the classes were interactive and dynamic.

I found the students at Shanghai University to be studious, courteous, and respectful. I also found that the Library made a clear distinction between student study space (without computers) and a designated space to access technology.

One of the most enjoyable parts of my residency was teaching. I enjoyed interacting with the students and giving lectures about various topics in U.S. academic librarianship.

When I was not working,  I explored Shanghai’s downtown in the early evening, and on weekends. I took 4-6 hour walking trips where I would follow the Metro (subway) lines and explore various neighborhoods in the City.

During my residency, I visited Zheijiang University in Hangzhou (pronounced Hong-Joe) with ten other librarians from Shanghai University for a 2-day business trip. We all took a high speed train that traveled at speeds of 217 miles/ hour.   Towards the end of my residency, I visited Beijing for the weekend.  On that short trip I visited the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and hiked up the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.

My residency would not have been made possible without the support of Chief Librarian Prof. Wilma Jones. I would also like to thank the CUNY-Shanghai Library Faculty Exchange Committee: Prof. Kenneth Schlesinger, Prof. Wilma Jones, Prof. Ewa Dzurak, Prof. Kachuen Gee, Prof. Songqian Lu, Prof. Robert Shaddy, and Prof. Zuwang Shen for awarding this residency. I had an amazing learning experience and I am truly grateful.

For more information, please contact me at:

Prof. Mark Aaron Polger
Instruction/Reference Librarian
(718) 982 4065