By JOHN Y. COLE
In late June, the Center for the Book headed a seven-person delegation of U.S. librarians and reading promoters to Russia to participate in an international conference, "Reading World and World of Reading," in St. Petersburg. The delegates also toured libraries in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Vladimir. The visit, which culminated the first phase of an international project developed by the Open Society Institute (OSI, Soros Foundation-Moscow), the institute's Pushkin Library Megaproject, and the Center for the Book, also helped initiate an OSI project that is creating 22 "reading centers" throughout Russia. The second phase of the project (2002-2003) will include two publications (the proceedings of the June 23-24 conference and a reading promotion handbook) and joint presentations at book fairs and library conferences in the United States and Russia.
The mission of each Russian reading center is "to develop effective reading promotion projects and campaigns, to stimulate public interest in reading, and to foster understanding of the vital role of books and libraries in society."
A total of 202 libraries throughout Russia applied to OSI to host the reading centers. The 22 reading centers will be established in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg; in regional scientific libraries in Arkhangelsk, Belgorod, Cheliabinsk, Nizhni Novgorod, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk, Murmansk, Pskov, Smolensk, Tomsk, Tver, Vladimir and Ulianovsk; in public libraries in Kamensk-Uralski, Orel and Stari Oskol; in the national libraries of Chuvash Republic and Daghestan Republic; in youth libraries in Krasnodar and Sverdlovsk; and in the Stavropol Library for the Blind.
The June trip was preceded by visits to the United States in April and October 2001 by two delegations of Russian regional librarians. The 20 Russians, most of them heads of regional libraries, visited the Center for the Book, libraries in Washington, D.C., and selected state centers for the book and public libraries in Virginia, Connecticut and New York. (See LC Information Bulletin for July/August 2001 and December 2001.) The Section on Reading of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) is a project partner.
In addition to this author, U.S. delegation members in June 2002 were Anne Boni, program specialist, Center for the Book; Robert Wedgeworth, president, Laubach Literacy International (a member of the Center for the Book's first National Advisory Board from 1977 to 1985 as executive director of the American Library Association); Jean Trebbi, director of the Florida Center for the Book (established 1984), the first of the Center for the Book's 47 state affiliates; and three hosts of the October 2001 visit by the Russian librarians: Louise Blalock, chief librarian, Hartford Public Library, the home of the Connecticut Center for the Book; Nancy E. Gwinn, director, Smithsonian Institution Libraries; and Gary E. Strong, director, Queens Borough Public Library.
More than 140 Russian librarians, authors, journalists and academics attended "Reading World and World of Reading" on June 23-24. The conference sponsors, in addition to OSI and the Center for the Book, were the Russian National Library and the Nevsky Forum International Book Fair. Principal sessions were devoted to Reading Promotion in the U.S., Reading Promotion Programs in Russia, Children's World of Reading, and International Book Promotion Ideas and Experience.
The keynote speaker, Ekaterina Y. Genieva, director general of the All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature and OSI president, emphasized that "libraries are the fusion of the reading world and the world of reading." Other speakers at the opening session included Vladimir N. Zaitsev, director general, Russian National Library and president, Russian Library Association; Maria A.Vedenyapina, executive director, Pushkin Library Megaproject; Vladimir O. Pankratyev, director general, Nevsky Forum International Book Fair, St. Petersburg; John Y. Cole; and Robert Wedgeworth.
Members of the U.S. delegation presented three papers: "The Center for the Book and its National Network of State Affiliates," by John Y. Cole and Jean Trebbi; "Adult Literacy and the Information Society," by Robert Wedgeworth; and "Reaching New Readers," by Gary Strong.
The program of professional visits, arranged by project coordinator Valeria D. Stelmakh, senior researcher, Russian State Library, included the Russian National Library, the Nevsky Forum International Book Fair, the St. Petersburg University Library, the St. Petersburg City Library and the State Hermitage Museum, all in St. Petersburg.
In Moscow, the group visited the All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature, the Russian State Library, the State Public Historical Library of Russia and the Kremlin. A highlight was the overnight visit to Suzdal and Vladimir, two towns about 120 miles east of Moscow, which contain some of Russia's most beautiful medieval kremlins and churches. The Vladimir Regional Library, which will be one of the new reading centers, is headed by Nina G. Rasputnaya, one of the librarians who visited the United States in October 2001.
John Y. Cole is director of the Center for the Book.