Night at the Library

It is no wonder that self-proclaimed “international web-action” Biblionight (site in Russian only) was conceived and takes place in the territory of Russia and some Former Soviet Republics. In the land where Libraries are revered almost as (or sometimes even more) than churches, an event where people get a look at the inner-workings of the temples of knowledge sounds very natural and exciting. During the day, libraries and archives are a somber, academic place, “policed” by super strict librarian ladies, one night a year, the motto becomes “Be Loud, you’re in the Library!”.
On the night from April 19 to April 20th, hundreds, if not thousands of institutions throughout the region (from tiny countryside libraries to giant state archives) opened their doors for the enthusiastic public and tried to make it as fun as possible. The main focus of the event is promoting literature and reading, while using various formats to attract as many people as possible and getting them interested in books and libraries.

One of the major organizations that took part in this year’s event (which begun in 2011 but has already gained wide popularity) is the famous Russian State Library in Moscow, known affectionately as “Leninka” (quite naturally, it used to be named after Lenin). The State Library is home to millions of artifacts (books, journals, periodicals) from state and over 200 private collections. It’s vast collections are accessible to the general public (over 18 years of age) during normal business hours, although it might take about 2 hours to receive a requested volume from the storage area. The old building still employs some archaic contraptions for book transportation as well as a pneumatic inter-office messaging system. From a conservation point of view, the system doesn’t seem very sound (even the older, fragile looking books don’t seem to have protective individual enclosures) but there’s a massive dust-removing machine, supposedly the only one of it’s kind in Russia.

As part of Biblionight, Leninka opened its’ back doors to curious book lovers, who got to experience the library from the inside. Late at night, small groups were given the guided tours of the common areas (even the ones that are currently under construction), as well as various book repositories, archival storage room and shelves filled with rare collections. Participants got to leaf through some aging tomes with gorgeous original illustrations, and look at thematic collections of periodicals and other printed materials. The night was truly magical!   All images courtesy of photographer Nina Takovaya