New age libraries: urban breakfasts, lecture halls and workshops

New age libraries: urban breakfasts, lecture halls and workshops
Moscow libraries will launch a new format by 2018. What novelties will they have, and what already exists at state-of-the-art libraries?

Moscow authorities have carried out the My Library crowdsourcing project, which produced 290 unique ideas. Some of them provided the basis for 79 initiatives. They were approved and are being implemented as part of the programme until 2018. Also, the Active Citizen system launched a poll on libraries in late 2015. The poll was divided into four sections, with several questions each. Over 11,000 people took part in the poll. The Moscow Government received 4.7 million opinions from Moscow residents on 24 questions.

They include changes in the working hours, the creation of user-friendly navigation, a way to check book availability remotely, and an increase in the number of clubs and workshops.

Library life has been changing, so to say, conceptually. Libraries are no longer focusing on their original goal: providing access to news, reference information and fiction. Certainly, they are improving this function, too. They have become a sort of navigator for getting knowledge in a world which suffers from an information overload, rather than a deficiency. But libraries have also been transformed into comprehensive cultural and art centres, as well as intellectual and informal education centres, and this trend will only grow in the future. After a while, libraries will turn into places that attract people seeking art and spiritual self-expression. In addition to loaning out books, the libraries hold lectures, presentations, tea times, art meetings, theatrical performances, discussions and workshops. But further development is only possible with active cultural and art work, when more and more people get interested in reading.

Library Night, which took place on 23 April in Moscow, was aimed at increasing the popularity of books and reading in general.

Libraries have also adapted themselves to digital technologies. Some of them replace paper catalogues with an electronic format and provide access to databases, electronic libraries and services. Many of them have official websites and groups in social networks, where one can follow their news. 

Moscow's state-of-the-art libraries 

Some of Moscow’s libraries are innovating rapidly. They have changed their format and turned into multifunctional cultural centres. The new trends are particularly obvious in three libraries: Dostoyevsky Library No.19, Nekrasov Central Universal Research Library and the Gogol House Library. Interestingly, two of them are considered to be the city’s oldest libraries.

Dostoyevsky Library No.19 is a perfect example of being up to date on modern trends. Its managers support the “library in a big city” concept, which is broader than merely book lending. The library features several areas of education: lecture series held jointly with its partners (for example, the Vysokovsky Graduate School of Urbanism or the Institute of Philosophy at the Russian Academy of Sciences), workshops and presentations. Recently, the library launched a new format, urban breakfasts, i.e. morning meetings, where visitors are treated to snacks, coffee or tea during a lecture. The library has various clubs and project groups, as well as several language communities, offering more opportunities than language courses. For instance, there’s the Spanish club, where people meet to talk and listen to native speakers who give lectures on Spanish and Latin American culture and history. Graduates from the Higher School of Economics have formed the Lifestyle community in the library, where they study various professions with high school students. The Robot League, which offers a course on robotics for children, and the Children Academy of Success are open on weekends.

Nekrasov Central Universal Research Library, Moscow’s largest public library, opened after renovation on 19 February. The renewed space got new information services and an art laboratory. Nekrasov Library can scarcely be called a typical library: it is a co-working space and a lecture hall, an exhibition and information centre. It takes part in all thematic city events on a regular basis, including Library Night, Museum Night, Arts Night, Music Night and Read Moscow. Like Dostoyevsky Library, it has many clubs and communities: Searching for Sense with the Cheshire Cat English club, the Vinyl Secret Life music club, a cinema club and many others. Researchers from the local lore department arrange tours around the Foreign Quarter. At present, seven routes are available, and several more are being developed. The library provides many digital and multimedia services: remote and local access databases, multimedia electronic publications, mobile applications and services. The LitRes: Library project allows Nekrasov Library users to order free electronic books and read them using a computer or a mobile device. The library has its own official website, which offers a virtual tour, Facebook and VKontakte accounts, a Twitter microblog and a video channel on YouTube. The library publishes professional materials on LiveJournal (Nekrasov Library is an important venue for library experts and bibliographers to share experience), while users can take virtual tours around the city and review the lists of new books on Moscow in the blog about Moscow. Nekrasov Library cooperates with libraries in various countries: the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia and China, as well as in Russian regions. It also supports the World Countries Book Traditions and Multiethnic Moscow projects.

The Gogol House Library is one of Moscow’s oldest and state-of-the-art libraries. Its employees call it a multi-purpose centre rather than a library: it houses a reference room, a delivery desk, reference, bibliographic and music departments, and a memorial museum. The library holds exhibitions as well as academic and cultural events. The music department is very popular among students of specialised schools, as it can provide the necessary books, vinyls, CDs and DVDs. The department offers keyboards with headphones so that musicians can try out new tunes. The Gogol House also produces electronic copies of rare books, thus making them accessible to readers. Many books are posted on the library’s official website. To help the visitors of the Gogol House Memorial Museum learn more about Nikolai Gogol’s works, the Gogol – Third Millennium Mystery exposition features light and sound effects, as well as audio guides in Russian and English.

Facts and figures for Moscow libraries

Over 1,600 libraries are now open in Moscow, including:

Seven federal libraries (over 60 million books);

441 city and district libraries under the Moscow Department of Culture (148 children’s libraries, seven youth libraries, 79 family libraries, 207 adult libraries; 22.7 million books). The library updates its book collection with 240,000 copies of various publications on an annual basis, which is financed from the city budget;

Over 550 university libraries (over 60 million books);

528 libraries at schools and colleges (over 42 million books);

1,200 various clubs, hobby groups and workshops in Moscow libraries, visited by some 20,000 people on a regular basis.