It’s hard to believe that 4 months have passed since Amy, Nancy, and I returned home from the Horner Exchange.

Since then, we’ve been talking with our co-workers and communities about the trip, sharing stories and photos.

At the Oregon Library Association’s annual conference in April, we will give a presentation for the first time together. We’re still working on the slides, but will post it when we’re finished.

We hope our friends in China are still reading this blog, and we look forward to greeting our next group of visitors later this year.

In southern Fujian Province, especially the areas of Xiamen, Jimei and Zhangzhou etc, it would be impossible not to see, hear or stumble on something that has to do with Tan Kah Kee 陈嘉庚.

Tan Kah Kee

Tan was an overseas Chinese born in Jimei, Fujian who made his fortune in rubber and other businesses in Singapore. He’s the founder of many universities in Fujian, including the famous Xiamen University. Truly a visionary, he established schools, colleges, medical facilities and other charity work all over Fujian and in other parts of Asia. He also donated facilities to libraries and many other education institutions.

Tan Kah Kee Memorial Museum

Tan's quote on the importance of libraries.








We visited the Tan Kah Kee Memorial Museum which gave us a fuller picture of his contributions to education and to society as a whole  in China and in Southeast Asia. His influence still touches lives today with the foundation set up by his family and beneficiaries.  I hope his legacy serves as an inspiration to the many wealthy people who make their fortune in modern China’s economic boom to give back to the community.

At each destination, someone from the staff of the library district we are visiting who speaks English is assigned to accompany us where ever we go.

The level of English competency varies, some were shy to speak English.  Amy, even tho she could easily have done the translations, always gave the young people the opportunity to translate for us so they could practice their English.  She helped them if they stumbled and made it a positive experience for them.  (another reason to join the Amy Lee fan club)!

These escorts became dear friends, they were our life blood and our protectors.  It was heartbreaking to have to say goodbye as we moved on to our next destination and library.  I think it was hard for them to let us go too.

Ji Jiafang, nicknamed Xiao Ji or Little Ji because she is the youngest member of the Ji family, was our companion in Fuzhou at the beginning and end of our trip.  She currently works in the General Office of the Fujian Provincial Library but recently took the Foreign Service test and was one of only two people in the Fujian Province to pass the test!  We are hoping she will be assigned to the Chinese Embassy in the US!  

Lu Jie, or L.J., is the English language cataloger for the Xiamen Children’s Library, and also a new mom.  Joy works in the same library with the English language collection donated by the Appletree Foundation.  Xiaolan, or Little Lan, is in management at the Xiamen Public Library.  She rode the train with us back to Fuzhou to make sure we got safely to our destination!

All libraries have drivers and vans to transport staff and guests because most people in China do not have cars.  These drivers are skilled and fearless in maneuvering crowded crazy city streets and can drive long distances without tiring.  Our most eventful trip was the unplanned side excursion to Tulou where the driver had to drive over debris from a landslide caused by the typhoon.  This was the only time I saw a driver be concerned; before he passed over an obstacle, he got out of the van to see if we could actually pass without going over the cliff!  He drove all night to get us back to our hotel by 11pm.  

Thank you to all the drivers for getting us around in one piece!  And thank you all our translators, we will miss you dearly.            

I expected the concept of time in a civilization that is quite possibly older than time itself to be different than my own. But I must confess it perplexes me here.

A grand library built in 1998 is old.
A temple built in the 1800’s is new.
A hotel built in 2003 is old.
A river dammed in 1955 is new.
A poem written in 990 is… well, that’s Song Dynasty.

Time is not linear here. It’s measured in relation to various milestones that shift, some personal or unique to a community. Measured against some things that have not yet happened, hoped for future events.

I no longer ask if something is old or new; I ask when it was built or happened. If you ever visit China and dates really matter to you, learn your dynasties!



Acquisition & Cataloging dept.

Research & Development Dept.







We took the train from Xiamen to Fuzhou on Monday to spend our last days meeting with individuals and departments at the Fujian Provincial Library. The pace has changed dramatically – we are staying in one hotel for 4 nights in a row, we are mostly on our own for meals and we are spending our days meeting with colleagues sharing best practices in a relaxed collegial way (and drinking a lot of tea!). This is the perfect way to wind down our trip and to acquire an in depth understanding of the ways in which we work.

Culture & Education Dept.

Mondern Technology Center