By ROBERT E. FISTICK
The Library of Congress's National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) hosted a reception on May 25 to honor the 2001 Soros Foundation's visiting fellows, who completed their two-month exchange program at NLS. The six librarians represented Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Georgia.
NLS Director Frank Kurt Cylke and NLS staff welcomed the participants. Mr. Cylke briefly described the experiences at NLS of the six librarians from Eastern and Central Europe and the scope of their exposure to a variety of services available to blind and physically handicapped people in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York, Boston and Princeton, N.J. The participants visited several institutions in the Washington area, including the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, Gallaudet University, the Fairfax County Public Library, the Maryland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the National Federation of the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind Inc.
Dr. Billington presented Certificates of Completion to each Soros fellow. He emphasized that the Soros Program is unique, a landmark effort that encourages the exchange of ideas, information and experiences with librarians from countries undergoing profound political and economic changes. He said that NLS is a particular source of pride for the Library of Congress, because its mission is to enrich the lives of blind and physically handicapped individuals by making a variety of innovative library services accessible to them. He thanked the NLS staff for their dedication to the NLS mission.
Dr. Billington presented Certificates of Completion to Alexander Mikhaylovich Kungurov, Yekaterinburg, Russia; Nana Merabi Alexidze, Tbilisi, Georgia; Galina Sergeevna Elfimova, Moscow; Vladimira Sykorova, Prague, Czech Republic; Daniela Tothova, Bratislava, Slovakia; and Olga Leonidovna Kuznetsova, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Associate Librarian for Library Services Winston Tabb presented Library of Congress paperweights as a personal token of remembrance to each Soros fellow. Linda Redmond, administrator of the 2001 NLS Soros program, and the other committee members—program coordinator Vivian Crump, Judith Dixon and Carolyn Hoover Sung—presented NLS plaques to each Soros fellow. Alexander Kungurov received a special plaque in braille.
Mr. Kungurov said that he was grateful for the opportunity to spend two months at NLS learning about state-of-the-art library services for blind and physically handicapped people. He said that "the real work for him is just beginning" when he returns to Russia. Ms. Kuznetsova summed up the sentiments of the entire group by expressing gratitude to the NLS staff for providing the Fellows with the opportunity to learn and establish new contacts with fellow librarians from the Library of Congress. Ms. Elfimova said that she was looking forward to visiting Washington again, on Aug. 13-15, to attend the IFLA Section of Libraries for the Blind Preconference. Daniela Tothova and Vladimira Sykorova also expressed their gratitude as participants in the Soros Program and thanked the NLS staff for their friendship and goodwill.
Mr. Fistick is head of the Publications and Media Section at NLS.