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62nd IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 25-31, 1996

Information Services Provided for Women by the Libraries of the Ryazan Region

Lyudmilla Pronina
Ryazan Gorky Regional Library


The feminist movement in Russia has deep rooted traditions. In the 19th century this movement was democratic. At the beginning of the 20th century it was connected with mandatory public education.

The feminist movement has rejuvenated itself recently. It is a coalition of a great number of national associations and clubs. Women of different professions and religious beliefs take an active part in the political and social life of Russia. All of us would like to live in peace, be well off, and see economic, cultural and educational progress in Russia. We stand for a strong and prosperous cou ntry, the country where old people and children must be happy. We believe in future social stability.

Russia's huge move from a totalitarian state towards a functioning democracy is not expected to be unclouded. Russia is at a turning point. So the reason for the prevalence of problems is part and parcel of the immense chaos that exists when a system undergoes the changes that Russia is undergoing. In the rampant economic and financial crisis of the past two or three years, the social position of women in Russia leaves much to be desired. We are witnessing deterioration of the living conditions, impending unemployment, scant family budgets, poverty, high prices growing several times quicker than the average public income, low birth rate and many other problems. The opportunity for women to realize their dreams, hopes and ambitions is diminishing.

Chechnya has become a symbol of the cruelty and senselessness of a military conflict. It is another painful problem. Women of Russia are yearning for trust and peace to be established in Chechnya. They demand concrete projects and actions which would favour, through dialogue, the change from war to peace. Citizens should no longer sacrifice their lives in a bloody senseless war, but rather live t hem. Women are not deprived of the right to express their views. Peace in the minds of women! Violence never again! During this difficult stage in Russian history women unite and work together. Without their participation in the political life there won't be moral balance and social stability in Russia.

As women are acknowledged to be an influential force in society they need information as never before, and they come to the libraries. Within the last two years the number of women asking for information in the libraries has increased significantly. The libraries in the Ryazan Region cooperate with many social movements at the local, regional, national as well as international level. "The Unio n of Women of Russia" is one of them, and the libraries ensure access to information about their activities. Russian librarians are more active than ever. They are displaying miracles of inventiveness in their activity. They do their best to understand the needs of the library users and to fulfill their requests. The librarians in the Ryazan region work in conjunction with the local womens' o rganizations and provide adequate information services to local enterprises, associations and interest groups. The publication of a manual providing recommendations to librarians in their work with womens' organizations belongs to the achievement of the Gorky Regional Scientific Library.

In some local public libraries, librarians are at the head of the feminist movement in the Ryazan Region. The Central Public Library of the town of Rybnoye is significant in this field of activity. Having protested the Chechen War, the librarians, mostly women, collected about 5,000 signatures. They gave unaminous support to the candidates for the State Duma from "The Union of Women of Russia. " (December 17, 1995)

Over 1,500 librarians, 99% women, work in the libraries of the Ryazan Region. The Gorky Regional Scientific Library serves as an all region, universal research and information centre. Within the last two years there has been a constant increase in its users. According to recent statistics the users come to the library for the purpose of preparing for classes (50%), improving their professional sk ills (20%), and changing trades and professions (20%). 5 percent of the readers come to the library to listen to oral reviews of new publications, to see regular exhibitions or to take part in literary discussions and parties arranged by the librarians, (80% of participants are women). The library provides 3 precent of its users with fiction for leisure reading. The remaining 2 percent visit the library in search of reference material. Among the library users are students (50%), teachers and teacher trainers (30%), economists, lawyers, doctors (15%), and housewives and pensioners (5%). 45 percent have received a higher education.

More than 65% of the library users are women. Irrespective of age and religous beliefs, readers come to the libraries because it is the only place now to offer free access to self education and a pleasant past time with cultural and intellectual treasures. Today our libraries inform unemployed women about job opportunities, family problems, and give practical pieces of advice on a wide range of r elated subjects. Men's reading tends to be more pragmatic. Women read books both for education, including self education, and for pleasure. The library has a wide choice of books about family, children and domestic science. All the libraries subscribe to many periodicals for women. One can count over 40 titles of such periodicals in the Gorky Regional Library. The most popular among them are the magazines "Verena", "Burda Modern", "Sandra", and "Italian Fashion". The magazine "The World of Women" has been in great demand of late.

The Year of 1994 was known as the International Year of the Family and it was celebrated in many libraries. On the occasion in September 1994, the Gorky Regional Library, in collaboration with the Russian State Library for Youth and the publishing house of the magazine "The World of Women," organized a round table on the theme "Books, Libraries and Family." A number of experienced l ibrarians from the local libraries as well as those from the city of St. Petersburg and the Vladimir region were invited to take part in the event. They were debating the questions of information services for women, the education of the children and their future, and the painful problems of the family. Also discussed was the law on librarianship drafted by the Ministry of Culture.

The Children's Central Library in the city of Ryazan has analysed the reading circle of our women within the last two years. The results are as follows. Pensioners (women at the age of 55 and older) like to read both Russian and foreign classics as well as detective stories. The reading circle of young women includes reading guides in the aid of young mothers, books about children and how to take care of them. Well educated women prefer to read fiction, literary magazines, memoirs, literary criticism, historical novels and books on the history of Russia and other foreign countries. (The U.S., Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, Japan, China) Of late we have seen a public love for the Bible, books by A. Solzhenitsyn, V. Nabakov, M. Bulgakov, I. Bunin, V. Pikul, V. Sol ovyov, Z. Bentsomi, L.Ron Hubbard, D. Carnegie, E Hemingway, S. Maugham, O. Wilde, T. Dreiser, J. London, A. Hailey, F. Archer, S. Sheldon, E. M. Remark, A. Camus, J.R. Tolkien, M. Mitchell, C. McCullough, and D. du Maurier. Detective stories by A. Christie, D. Hammett, E. Gardner, E. McBain, R. Chandler, S. Chase, and D. Le Carre are very popular among the library users and also in great demand. All women love to read books on needlework.

The 8th of March, International Women's Day, is annually celebrated in all the libraries of the Ryazan region. Last year they organized interesting literary and family parties for women: "Reading in My Family", "Family Thursdays", "On Saturday Evenings" and others; debates and competitions "Charovnitsa" (A Girl Who Makes Miracles), "Dochki Materi" (Daughters Mothers), "SuperBabushka" (Super Grandmother) and others; topical exhibitions such as "A Woman's Theme in Foreign Literature", "Russian Women" as well as displays of photographs of the most prominent women.

Since ancient times women have glorified the Ryazan Land. We can find their names in the chronicles: Fevroniya, a peasant woman doctor, later the Murom Duchess; Ardotya Ryazanochka, who came to the rescue and released the Ryazanovites (the Ryazan "polon") from Mongol Tatar captivity; Natalya Naryshkina, Peter the Great's Mother; Nadezhda Khvoschinskaya, a writer; Anna Golubkina, a famous sculptor ; and the tractor driver, Darya Garmash, who organized the first tractor brigade of women during the Great Patriotic War (WWII).

In 1995, in the village library of Bagramovo, eight surviving women who worked in this tractor brigade, gathered together to reminisce and to remember those years. The attendants sang songs, recited poems and listened to stories of the accomplishments of the Russian people during the Great Patriotic War.

In the region more than 20 women's clubs and interest groups gather in the libraries, such as "Frontovichka", "Nezabudka", "Prochanka" (Female War Veterans), "Bereginya" (Preserving the Family and House and Home), "Rukodelnitsa", "Khozyaushka", and "Umelye Ruki" (Women who are clever with their hands). The librarians arrange meetings with cultural activists (teachers, doctors, lawyers, artists, actors) and often invite mothers to these meetings. They help single mothers, senior citizens, invalids, and unemployed women of all ages.

The Gorky Regional Library is involved in library science research. In 1992 93 it participated in the research work on "Reading of Librarians in Russia" conducted by the Russian National Library. The librarians from almost all the libraries were asked to give answers to the following questions: How do they spend their leisure time? What books do they read? How do they plan their reading? What books do they recommend to their library users for reading?

It turned out that 95% of the librarians spent their leisure time reading books, 62% working in the garden, 49% doing needlework, 40% going to the cinema or theatre, to concerts or exhibitions. In recent years 73% of the librarians have shown an increased interest in new books and periodicals and planned their reading themselves, 67% have found the information about new books in the newspaper "Knizhnoye Obozreniye", 89% from talks with colleagues, and 46% from conversations with library users. For development of their professional skills the librarians are reading such periodicals as "Biblioteka" (The Library), "Bibliotekovedeniye" (Library Science), "Kultura" (Culture), "Literaturnoye Obozreniye" (Literary Review), "Knizhnoye Obozreniye" (Book R eview), "Scientific and Technical Libraries", "Literature at School", "Voprosy Literatury" (Questions of Literature), and "Slovo" (Word).

In the libraries of our region much attention is paid to the improvement of professional skills. Experienced librarians transfer their knowledge to the young personnel. They gain knowledge through lectures and conferences, seminars and workshops, debates and contests, business games and competitions, and exhibitions and presentations. Within the city of Ryazan, some libraries have begun to recogn ize exemplary librarians through the activities of "Benefis Bibliotekaya" and "Benefis Biblioteki."

For many years the Gorky Regional Library has compiled and published methodological manuals to assist librarians. Some examples are "Information about Literature on Librarianship and Professional Reading of Librarians" and "Extension of Knowledge about the Profession of Librarians." Quarterly lists of new books for librarians, teachers, and agricultural workers are sent to the local libraries.

So the public library is the local centre of information, making all kinds of knowledge and information readily available to its users. The library services are adapted to the different needs of the communities in urban and rural areas. Professional and continuing education of librarians is indispensable to ensure adequate services. In the world of unlimited information, knowledge must include th e intellectual skills necessary to find, screen, analyse, and synthesize information.