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Armenia-Diaspora Conference 2002 Report

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Armenian News Network / Groong
May 27, 2002

By Sylva Natalie Manoogian


On the occasion of the Armenia-Diaspora conference taking place these
days in our homeland, visiting fellow Armenians are using this
opportunity to participate in various productive meetings, plan
collaborative programs and reach understandings.

One such Diaspora Armenian, Dr. Vartan Gregorian, President of the
N.Y.-based Carnegie Corporation, who is especially interested in
supporting the development of library work in Armenia, visited the
National Library of Armenia (NLA) on Wednesday, 23 May 2002, to meet
with its Administration and staff and investigate the feasibility of
implementing joint projects toward that end.

Participating in the meeting were: National Library Director, David
Sargisyan; Rafik Ghazaryan, Deputy Director for Internal Operations;
Shota Keropyan, Finance Deputy; Karine Arabyan, Section Manager; Hrant
Tazayan, Assistant to Director; Juliet Kostikyan, Administrative
Secretary; Nerses Hayrapetyan, Deputy Director for External Operations
and President, Armenian Library Association.  Also present at the
meeting were: Anri Nersesyan, Director, National Academy of Sciences
Fundamental Library; and Sylva Natalie Manoogian, International
Library Consultant, Los Angeles, CA, who is a founding member and
`godmother' of the Armenian Library Association.

Dr. Gregorian expressed his observations of the changes in Armenia
since his last visit in 1966, his familiarity with the National
Library, and his recognition of the obvious economic challenges and
needs of the country.  In response to his question about what issues
are of greatest concern and importance for the National Library,
Library administrators highlighted the following areas: automation and
technology, reader services, facilities improvement, microfilming and
digitization, periodical subscriptions, reference materials,
publications, bibliographies, and indexes.

Dr. Gregorian stated that he does not make empty promises, and that he
is a person of action.  He affirmed his personal commitment and
institutional support, the latter of which made possible `Strengthening
Library Associations in the South Caucasus: A Regional Workshop,' held
in May 2001 in Tbilisi, Georgia, as a collaborative effort of the
Library Associations of the United States, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and
Georgia; and the planning and celebration of National Library Week in
Armenia's libraries from April 14 to 20, 2002, at the same time as
this event was being marked in the libraries of the United States and
the Republic of Georgia.

The gathering closed with a pleasant surprise, as National Library
Director Sargisyan and Armenian Library Association President
Hayrapetyan presented Dr. Gregorian with gifts of library and personal
publications, Armenian National Library Week 2002 posters, and awarded
him the first Armenian printer (1512) Hakob Meghapart Medal for his
`singular international contributions toward confirming the vital role
of all libraries in creating and sustaining civil society.'

Gagik Minasyan, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Hayastani Hanrapetutiun
Armenian daily, who represented his newspaper at the meeting, asked
Dr. Gregorian about his expectations of the upcoming Armenia-Diaspora
conference, to which he replied: `Armenia for us is a perception and a
people.  It is our homeland.  I always say that the Armenian Diaspora
and Armenia are one body, with two lungs, the smaller of which is
Diaspora and the larger, Armenia.  If one of those lungs becomes
disabled, the other must breathe for both; and they need each other.
Armenia cannot govern Diaspora.  She must govern herself.  Diaspora
must be able to give advice, support.  But above all, whatever
financial and economic resources we have must be used here.  I don't
think that independence has any value if Armenia has no work, no
economy, no health.  If we remain weak, in one or two years we will
become the community of either Iran, or Turkey, or Russia, which can
take our entire economy with 200 or 300 million.

Therefore, we must maintain our store, our position, and our house in
good condition.  That is why whoever comes from Diaspora (they must
come, visit, develop tourism), will help emotionally and economically.
We must bring sufficient funds here, not for charity, but for work,
because Armenians don't need charity, but work.  Next, we must raise
the consciousness that Armenians are cerebral, thinking people, and
not only shopkeepers and businessmen.  Business is good, but it is not
enough to keep us.

We must always have the ability, as much as possible, to bring
financial wealth, knowledge, and talent into Armenia. We must always
be conscious that intellect and talent are limitless.  Armenia has
always been rich in talent and people.  Individually, we can always be
on a par with any nation, but collectively we at times have no worth,
because we don't understand each other.  When it is ours, we start to
criticize and cast stones.  But with outsiders, we become subservient,
`a tireless ox.'  Obsession with things foreign has given us occasions
for disunion in the past also.  Of course, no matter how different we
are, what different ideas we have, we must not be divergent.  Let us
look around.  Turkey, with its 70 million population, has a good
economy; Iran and Russia have visions of development.  We are in an
ocean.  We don't have the time to rest our hands on our foreheads like
the Bagratunis to think and ponder; we must raise our hands toward the
sword, toward the work.  When you are in the ocean, you can't think
about what your goal is, and how you are going to save yourself.  If
you don't swim, you will drown.  Therefore, we must swim; our entire
hope, our entire life is dependent upon our swimming, our working.

Conferences are important, because many people don't know Armenia, and
the people of Armenia don't know the Diaspora.  Many want to be more
patriotic than those who live in the homeland.  Those who live in
Armenia say that if you are so patriotic, why don't you live in
Armenia? The important thing is how we can help Armenia.  We must
understand the current situation.  When your child has learned, it is
not longer a matter of honor.  People already have a need to accept
bribes, and to worship money. The Diaspora must understand that this
country has a need for necessities. It needs work, plans, and
collective energy.  Let us not be honorable beggars like Abisoghom
Agha; let us not come and be photographed with what we have brought
and shout, look, I have given one dollar to my homeland. Let us be
wise, let us come together and focus our strengths.'

In summary, Dr. Gregorian emphasized the fact that funding agencies
are interested in seeing cooperation among the three republics of the
South Caucasus - Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.  He encouraged
focus on collaboration of university and other academic libraries, and
requested that the National Library prepare a list of its areas of
need, in order of priority, including the institutions, organizations,
and individuals that have already been identified as potential
partners, supporters, and advocates.

Sylva Natalie Manoogian, International Library Consultant,
representing the American Library Association's Emerging Democracies
Committee, and working with Nerses Hayrapetyan in the preliminary
planning of the second South Caucasus Library Symposium, `Fostering
Civil Society: Improving Access to Information in Academic Libraries
in the South Caucasus,' to be held in Yerevan from September 26 to 30,
2002, commented on the success of the 2001 conference, and the
benefits of continued collaboration for all libraries concerned.

For further information regarding library activities in Armenia and
abroad, visit the homepage of the Armenian Library Association, or ALLIC:

    Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table
    American Library Association
    Contact: Sylva Natalie Manoogian
    Tel/FAX: 1-323-254-4892
    Web Site:

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