Located in typical rural houses scattered across Russian villages and small towns, local libraries remain central to the survival of social life in the regions. Dull and unnoticeable facades of library houses hide their true beauty and important mission – educate, inform and unite local communities, and provide a much needed level of intellectual stimuli. And it is done the old-fashioned way. One can navigate through aisles of books cramped in tiny reading rooms and manually catalogued by the librarians, from Fedor Dostoyevsky to Oscar Wilde. The reading rooms are small and some lacking refurbishment but all are decorated with care by the librarians creating a unique atmosphere and charm for visitors. Any local can come to a library to get a book or take part in a weekly scheduled book club meeting or lecture or just to chat with the others.
Most librarians work at the local libraries most of their professional life and at some point become so irreplaceable and dear to the community that even after official retirement some continue to carry on their duties to keep the libraries going. One of the librarians, just celebrated her 80th birthday, and is determined to publish her own poems about the region next year. Another librarian, who worked at her library post for over thirty years is organizing a regional writing competition for the best short story about local life. Indeed, an integral part of librarian’s job duty is to preserve the history of the local community and educate young generation about its past. Hence, often, librarians organize exhibits and expositions about their regions in reading halls of their libraries and invite historians or professional speakers to deliver series of lectures on the subject to the locals.
While, seems orthodox, the local libraries are considered the place to be by the community members. It is a townhall, community center and a “house of knowledge” all in one place. As one villager noted: “there is nothing positive or educational about television and the library has all one needs for the soul and the intellect.”