Consul General’s Corner
June 6, 2011
The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok contains a hidden resource, a gateway to knowledge about everything related the United States. Like U.S. embassies around the world, ours here is called the Information Resource Center.
When I worked in Bangkok in the 1990's, the U.S. Information Agency had a library at the American University Alumni Association (AUA) on Rajadamri Road. Our reference librarians met with students and members of the general public to answer questions about the U.S., using everything from textbooks to American literature to online databases. When the United States government began to close embassy libraries around the world in 1995, the Embassy in Bangkok donated our library collection to AUA. Our reference librarians came to the Embassy to open the first Information Resource Center (IRC) here.
As the Embassy’s Assistant Press Attaché, I was the IRC’s first boss. This was the 1990’s, and I barely knew how to use the Internet. Then-Director Penporn Satiensawasdi dragged me into the Information Age as we designed the Embassy’s first website. We had CD-ROM towers with information on U.S. education and access to the Factiva and Lexus/Nexus databases. This was a time when using a cell phone was novel – I still the thrill of making a phone call while walking down Bangkok’s crowded sidewalks – and the IRC led the way in getting the Embassy connected to the World Wide Web.
The IRC, which has now moved to GPF Wittayu Tower A, still has books and periodicals. It now also has Internet connections, DVDs, access to databases, and the same terrific reference librarians to answer questions from the general public. As a specialized reference and research facility, their goal is to provide the public with free, comprehensive and authoritative information on the U.S., our people and policies. Over the years, my colleagues have researched everything from U.S. environmental standards, federal election laws, and U.S.-Thai bilateral treaties to why U.S. election day falls on Tuesdays or how Americans celebrate Thanksgiving.
Many a Thai student finishing a term paper on U.S. foreign policy or a Thai legislator seeking information on U.S. law have availed themselves of the Information Resource Center's services. In addition to answering reference questions, the Information Resource Center has also organized reference camps for Thai students to learn about online resources and where to find information about America. The IRC also launched a bimonthly, bilingual magazine called SAM, targeting Thai youth with fun facts and quizzes about the United States. Thai teachers can use this resource in the classroom, while students can access it directly by subscribing.
How do you reach this vast source of information? The Information Resource Center is open Monday to Friday 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at GPF Wittayu Tower A, 9/F, 93/1 Wireless Road in Bangkok. You can visit in person or send your reference questions to IRC@state.gov. You can also call tel. 02-205-4000 to make an appointment. You can even subscribe to their products at http://bangkok.usembassy.gov/serviceform.html.
The IRC shouldn't be a secret. They are here to help the general public. Take advantage of them today!