Annual Report of the Slavic Room for 1945
(for the fiscal year 1944–45)
[This report appears as part of the annual report of the General Reference and Bibliography Division, pages 1–7. Ed.]
In the process of reorganization of the Reference Department the Slavic Division was discontinued, and in April 1944 the Slavic Room was set up pending the establishment of the Slavic Center. For the time being the reference service rendered by the Slavic Room is under the direction of the General Reference and Bibliography Division.
The Slavic Room is ideally situated in the northwest alcove off the Thomas Jefferson Room and with its collections on decks 7 and 8, conveniently accessible by two stack elevators. The room is spacious and pleasant and is provided with the necessary apparatus to render service to its readers and research students. The built-in book shelves around the four walls are stocked with encyclopedias, dictionaries, directories, yearbooks, handbooks, bibliographies, biographies, etc. not only in the Slavic languages but in English as well. Two sections of shelves contain a selection of the most important current Slavic periodicals and newspapers published in the United States and abroad. Two other sections are provided for the material reserved for the use of students engaged in serious research, many of whom are able to use the facilities of the Slavic Room only in the evenings and on Sundays. On a large table in the center of the room are displayed the latest publications dealing with the Slavic world, for examination by the reader.
Due to this strategic location of the Slavic Room a more diversified type of reader is attracted, and better service is rendered. There is now available not only our cataloged and uncataloged material in the Cyrillic print, but also books on Slavic subjects in other languages. That this has been a decided improvement in making these collections available to the greatest number of Slavic students can be seen from the following statistics of the activities of the Slavic Room for the past year.
During the fiscal year 1944–45, [the] Slavic Room had 5,621 readers using 4,758 books, 5,726 volumes of periodicals and 11,743 issues of current newspapers. These figures include Sundays.
The Sunday attendance has been much better than had been expected. The fact that an average of 15 readers for each Sunday have used the facilities of the Slavic Room proves that it fills a particular need, for it makes the Slavic Room available not only to those who are unable to use our collections during the week, but also to out-of-town investigators who are able to pursue their studies during every day of their stay in Washington.
As to the type of reader of the Slavic Room an interesting fact that has been revealed is that not less than 50 percent of the readers were not of Slavic origin, but either of the Anglo-Saxon or Oriental, and most of them native born. This fact is significant in planning the future activities of the Slavic Room, for it must be kept in mind that there are numerous language classes, especially in Russian, scattered throughout the city of Washington, and it is only reasonable to expect that the demands on the Slavic collections will become greater in the years to come.
The primary interest of the average reader of the Slavic Room is mostly linguistic, though histories, current events and economics are also given attention.
The number of inquiries answered by the Slavic Room during the year are as follows: 373 by personal interviews, 110 by letters, and 3,063 by telephone.
Growing interest in the problems and culture of the Slavic peoples is unquestionably the cause of the continually increasing number of inquiries pouring into the Slavic Room. This growth, no doubt, is a result of the recent European War and the part played in it by the Slavic nations. These inquiries come from members of Congress, government agencies, schools, clubs, churches and newspapers. They range from simple factual questions which can be answered immediately to problems requiring lengthy research.
The following are but a few of the specific questions which were answered: "How far back in history do the Slavs date?" "Name several good histories on the Slavs." "Who are the Slavs?" "What is the difference between the Ukrainians and the Ruthenians?" "Name the capitol of Carpatho-Russia." "What was the total production of oil in Poland before the Second European War?" "When was the first occupation of Berlin by the Russians?" "Name some works in English on recent discoveries in science and medicine in the U.S.S.R." There were also many requests to identify authors and titles, and also many geographical and historical names which appeared in the American press.
The most important service of the Slavic Room has been rendered to numerous groups and research students pursuing research of the most serious nature. Not less than 18 groups and 36 individuals representing various government agencies, universities, libraries, and manufacturing companies, utilized our facilities and source material. Those representing the government were engaged in research of strictly secret nature which, for obvious reasons, cannot be disclosed for the present. The non-governmental research workers represented the following institutions: Crown Cork and Seal Company; Dumbarton Oaks Library; Catholic University; Cornell University; General Electric Corporation; Johns Hopkins University; Northwestern University; Oklahoma University; Soviet Purchasing Commission.
The subjects investigated have been varied and in some cases the results of the research have been published. The following list is of some of the most important subjects investigated: Father IUvinalii, the early Russian missionary to Alaska; Russian immigration; life and customs of the Don Cossacks; the first Slavic settlers in California; Fort Ross California; the frozen soils of Yakutia; Russian religious architecture; Russian iconography; experimental agriculture in the Arctic; and experiments in growing cork trees in the U.S.S.R.
One other function of the Slavic Room which is steadily growing in importance is the translating service. During the year 21 translations were made from practically every Slavic language, for members of Congress; 5 for government agencies; 6 for various divisions of the Library of Congress; and numerous translations of titles and passages from books and newspapers for the readers of Library of Congress. Several translations of quotations from the works of Slavic writers were rendered over the telephone for teachers and clergymen.
All indications are that with the increasing interest in the Slavic peoples the demands on this particular function will be on a still larger scale, for the Slavic Room is looked upon as sort of a "clearing house" on all questions pertaining to Slavs.
VISITS TO THE SLAVIC ROOM
In the course of the year the Slavic Room has received visits from several distinguished Slavic scholars and writers such as: Prof. V.N. Ipatieff, of Northwestern University; Prof. Paul Haensel, of Northwestern University; Prof. S. Golubinsky, of Academy of Science U.S.S.R.; Prof. S. Krylov, of the Higher School of Diplomacy and other Judicial Sciences, Moscow, U.S.S.R.
An opportunity for discussing common library problems in the field of Slavic Culture, and closer cooperation between libraries interested in this field, came with informal visits from the following librarians: Miss Sina Fosdick, American Russian Cultural Association, Inc., New York, N.Y.; Miss Sonya G. Mechelson, American Cyanamid Company, Stamford, Conn.; Miss Anne Cohen, American Soviet Medical Society, New York, N.Y.
PROBLEMS AND NEEDS
The primary objective of the Slavic Room is to help to establish closer understanding between the people of the United States and that of the Slavic world by providing expert guidance to the students of Slavic culture and by making available to them accurate information on the cultural, scientific and educational activities of the Slavs.
In reviewing the records of the activities of the Slavic Room for the past year it must be noted with regret that not all objectives have been attained, because of the difficulties under which the Slavic Room has had to function. One of its major difficulties was the condition of the collection, which in the process of moving to its present location had suffered a certain amount of disarrangement and, therefore, required more effort to find the material needed. Limitations in shelving space has also added to the burden of locating material, as it became necessary to maintain 3 different sections, each with a separate arrangement in alphabetical order. Recently, however, this condition has been remedied. With the aid of the staff of the Slavic Cataloging Project, under the supervision of the Curator of the Slavic Room, not only the cataloged material was arranged in satisfactory order, but also the great bulk of the unprocessed material was arranged alphabetically and thus made available to the public. The other problems were: lack of sufficient personnel, making the service possible by day only; lack of complete catalogs of holdings of Slavic materials in the Library of Congress and other American libraries; absence of its own temporary catalog and the Union Catalog, both of which have been transferred to the Slavic Cataloging Project; serious gaps in the non-Russian Slavic reference works of importance; and great gaps in the representative works in all fields of the most important non-Russian Slavic writers.
Some of these problems are now receiving careful attention and it is hoped that the gaps in the reference works especially will soon be filled. With the completion of cataloging of the arrears in the Slavic Collection, the bibliographical apparatus in a more complete form will be returned, which will add considerably to the efficiency of service of the Slavic Room.
Curator, Slavic Room,
[Signed by John T. Dorosh, Ed.]