Community Grapevine

Back to the future: U.S. Embassy library is history

The U.S. Embassy library and reading room have been converted to an "Information Resource Center." That means computers. From now on, access to the Center will be restricted to "specific research projects" on an appointments-only basis, says John Finn at the embassy's U.S. Information Service (USIS) office, which has run the facility since the embassy was a consulate in 1991.

"All we're excluding are the people who want to come in and leaf through books and magazines," Finn says. While conceding that this policy will in effect banish the largest traditional group of people to patronize libraries anywhere, Finn insists that the new center reflects the hallmark of Progress, despite those who might call it a skidmark on the Super-Information Off-ramp.

"I know a lot of people will be disappointed," said Finn, "But wait till they see all the new equipment we installed... Ultimately, we'll be able to access even more information than before" via e-mail and the Internet. However, Finn said, installation of the "Information Platform" as the database is tentatively known, still seems "rather uncertain," adding that he "couldn't really say" when it would be ready.

Finn says the cost of keeping the library's thousands of reference books, periodicals and texts primarily dealing with political, social and economic issues in the U.S. up to date exceeds that of installing the Center's three new PCs.

Finn said said that projects qualifying for research at the Center can include "anything that touches on the U.S." Would the Center's database be helpful in writing a book report on Huckleberry Finn? "We could provide useful information," replied Huck's surname-sake.

Asked how the Center compares with that of the French Embassy, where leafers and broswers can stroll through the latest "Paris Match" while sipping espresso, or the wide-open public library at the British Council, Finn sounded chagrined. "[Those institutions] have their own policies," he noted.

Some reference books will be kept at the new center. "We're reviewing our collection now to determine which [books] would best serve our new mission," Finn said. Books that don't make the grade will be unloaded at Bratislava's University Library, on Michalská ulica. Meanwhile, Finn says USIS plans to bring in a "trained American librarian" to help determine which volumes should remain at the Center. Let's hope they hang on to their copy of Fahrenheit 451.

Democracy Network awards grants to 8 NGOs

The U.S. Ambassador Ralph Johnson announced in mid-September the award of $182,500 to each of eight Slovak NGOs in the third round of the Democracy Nework grant program, organized in part by the U.S. Embassy Democracy Commission under the USAID-funded Democracy Network Program, which is administered by the Foundation for a Civil Society (FCS).

"The projects are all designed to identify citizens' interests, articulate those interests in public debate, and finally to help defend those interests," Jan Surotchak, director of the program at FCS told the Grapevine.

Reflected in the choice of grantees is the fact that all but three new recipients are from outside Bratislava. Surotchak said a "main goal" of the program is to reach NGOs outside the capital "so they don't feel like they're laboring in the wilderness," adding that applicants from the interior stand a better chance of getting the award.

The next deadline for grant-applications is Nov. 29. Contact FCS, V Záhradách 29/A, Bratislava, at tel. 07/580-2112, or 580-1060; or fax 531-1622.

New administrators at Baťa Junior Achievement

Baťa Junior Achievement League, the Canadian foundation that coaches high school kids and MBA university students the world over on how to get a business up and running, has announced the organization's first Slovak general and regional directors since the organization set up its offices in Bratislava, Banská Bystrica and Košice a few years ago. Outgoing Baťa general director for Slovakia Caroline Jenner will be replaced on October 15 by Oldrich Vanous, formerly the regional coordinator of Regionálne Poradenské a Informačné Centrum (RPIC) -a Slovak NGO that works to develop small and median-sized local businesses-at the NGO's office in Považská Bystrica.

New regional director for central Slovakia Marián Paulos, for 20 years headmaster at the elite Tajovského Gymnázium in Banská Bystrica, was installed at Baťa's Banská Bystrica office on September 16. "We've been looking forward to hiring Slovak directors for some time," says Dianne Shultz, advisor at Baťa's Banská Bystrica office. For more information, contact Shultz at tel. 088/726-013.

Set your clocks back

Last but not least, daylight-saving time in central Europe kicks off this year at 3 a.m. October 27, when the clocks will be moved back an hour. Those too punctiliously-challenged to observe the switch at its official nanosecond can re-set their watches the night before. The time change is set to occur a month later than last year by order of the European Parliament and the Board of the European Union, in conjunction with the god Chronos.

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