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January 31, 2003

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Curious Georgians A January 27 article by the Associated Press chronicles the recent three-week visit to western Massachusetts by a group of sixteen librarians from the Republic of Georgia, arranged through a program directed by Stephen Jones, chair of Russian and Eurasian studies at MHC and a leading authority on the former Soviet state. Jones told Associated Press writer Adam Gorlick that as democracy and capitalism take root in Georgia, its libraries, which formerly functioned primarily as book repositories, have an important role to play in helping to create and support a civic society. Under the Soviet system, Jones said, "there was no volunteerism and a lack of understanding of the role and importance of free information. Now they need those things to compete in the world." Jones pointed out that the visit, funded by a $150,000 grant from the State Department, benefits not only the Georgians. "Georgia is one of the most promising places for the United States because they have oil and a strategic location next to Turkey, Iraq, and Iran," he said. "They're potentially one of our best partners in that part of the world. If we can help them, it's certainly in our interest as well." The Institute for Training and Development of Amherst secured the grant for the visit, and collaborated with Jones in choosing the participants and organizing the program. Other media organizations, including the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Union-News of Springfield, also reported on the Georgians' visit.

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