With growing number of Chinese students, Bird develops Mandarin book collection

With a growing number of Chinese students at Syracuse University, the E.S. Bird Library has been working in partnership with the Chinese Students and Scholars Association on campus to build a collection of Mandarin language books.

The project to collect the Mandarin books began in 2007, and now the collection totals about 600 books, said Yuxin Yang, a Bird library technician. The books, along with a collection of magazines, are located on Bird’s second floor and include novels, textbooks, reference books and dictionaries.

Yang, who is the only library staff member fluent in English and Mandarin, has cataloged all the Mandarin books since the project began. Students can now search for them using English or Mandarin characters on the library’s Web site.

The library has been responsible for cataloging and shelving the books, but beyond that has spent no additional resources or funds on the project, said Pamela McLaughlin, Bird’s director of communications and external relations.

‘It is the generosity of these students that have made this project happen,’ McLaughlin said about the student-run organization.

She also added that the shelves where the books are located in Bird have become an unofficial gathering place for Chinese students.

As many as 300, of the 600 titles, have been checked out at one time this semester, said Hui Zhao, a committee member of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association responsible for coordinating the project with the library.

The association is a student-run group that organizes events for Chinese students such as the Autumn Moon Festival in September. This year more than 500 SU and State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry students are involved with the group.

The Chinese organization both purchases the Mandarin books with fundraising donations and gives books to Bird that students involved with the organization have donated, said Ronghong Lin, the organization’s former president and a graduate student.

In fall 2006, Lin first got the idea for the project shortly after getting elected president of the Chinese Student and Scholars Association.

‘The number of Chinese here is growing, and they are graduating and don’t know what to do with their books,’ Lin said. ‘And students came to the CSSA to talk about this.’

Lin tried proposing the project to the library, but it didn’t express any interest, he said. So he tried a different approach.

‘In December of 2006, the university had an event for students to meet with Chancellor Nancy Cantor,’ Lin said. ‘I brought this project to her, and in two weeks, I received a letter from the dean of libraries saying they were interested.’

Lin worked with William Garrison, then associate dean of libraries, to create a pilot program for the following year. In April 2007, the Chinese Student and Scholars Association’s proposal was accepted, and the books first went on shelves in August 2007.

The first group of donated books included 50 titles, and every donation from the group has allowed the collection to grow, Yang said.

The number of Chinese students entering SU as undergraduates has risen in recent years, said Lin, who added that when he came to SU, in 2004, he was one of 37 incoming Chinese undergraduates. That number has risen every year since then, and this year’s class is the biggest yet, he said. SU saw a record-high number 62 incoming Chinese students this year, according to an article The Daily Orange published Aug. 26.

The Chinese Students and Scholars Association’s main goal for the project right now is to get more books for the collection, said Zhao, the committee member responsible for coordinating the project.

The organization will hold fundraisers to purchase new books and ask Chinese students to bring Mandarin books back from China to donate. The group also has an arrangement with a number of Chinese scholars from Beijing who provide them with donations, Zhao said.

jdgenco@syr.edu

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