UI Confucius Institute reaches community with Chinese donations

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By Cassidy Riley, The Daily Iowan

Books printed in English and Chinese are soon to make an appearance on the shelves of local libraries, including the Iowa City Public Library, which received its donation last week.

The University of Iowa Confucius Institute began its Chinese Book Exhibition project early this year. The institute has hosted different lectures, festivals, and workshops throughout the year to educate the public on different aspects of China and Chinese culture. As part of this project, officials have collected and purchased hundreds of books, CDs, DVDs, and games printed in English and Chinese to donate to local libraries and schools.

Erin Mullins, a program coordinator for the UI Confucius Institute, said the group received $30,000 from an organization based in Beijing called Hanban, the Chinese National Office for teaching Chinese as a foreign language, to fund the project.

“[We’re] bridging the two cultures to help Americans have a better understanding about China,” she said.

Mullins said the institute has 10 collections, some already donated and others sitting ready for donation, and each collection has close to 100 pieces of multimedia.

“[We’re] just trying to get as much information as possible out to people,” she said. “[And] we thought that public libraries are one of the best places for people to access materials.”

A handful of local libraries and schools have accepted donations, including the Iowa City Public Library, Wellman Elementary, and St. Ambrose University.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 5.4 percent of the Johnson County population is of Asian ethnicity. A total of 1,737 Chinese students attended the UI in 2011.

Xi Ma, curriculum coordinator at the Confucius Institute, said she helped in the selection process of the materials, and she believes this project is very beneficial to the community.

“There is so limited information [community members] can have to learn about China,” Ma said. “There is a need out there. People are curious about China.”

Ma said this is why most of the materials are printed in English or in both Chinese and English. The main audiences for the donations are Americans with a curiosity about China, therefore English print is considered important.

Barbara Black, collection services coordinator of the Iowa City Public Library, said officials are very excited to have accepted the donation.

“Our mission is to share information about the world,” Black said.

She said the library often accepts donations from different organizations and they are glad to do so in order to get the information out there. The library already has a collection of books about different languages and printed in different language, so the donation will fit nicely.

Jean Hussey, a faculty member who teaches Chinese in the Wellman Elementary School of the Mid-Prairie School District, said she received a donation and was excited for the many children’s books, games and art instructional books available for her to use.

The school began teaching Chinese six years ago, when it received a federal grant, but since then, the federal money has run out, and Hussey said she needs new materials.

Each donated collection contains materials for children and adults. After taking the materials beneficial to her students, she took the rest of the materials to the Kalona Public Library on Monday.

“We have a very small multilingual collection, so this will be added to the collection to be available to the community,” Anne Skaden, director of the Kalona Public Library, said.

Hussey took approximately 15 materials from the collection for use at the school and about 25 items were leftover for the library. The library intends to contact the Confucius Institute for more children’s material as well.

“I appreciate the Confucius Institute for contacting us,” Skaden said. “I think it’s going to be a wonderful addition to the library.”

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