Symposium Recap: Ukrainian Libraries in the Ongoing Russian-Ukrainian War

iStudent Blog

Published: June 22, 2022 by Eori Tokunaga

The San Jose State University iSchool presented a symposium on June 15, 2022, regarding the conditions and services of Ukrainian Libraries during the Russian-Ukrainian war. The audience was welcomed by iSchool Director Anthony Chow and Assistant Professor Ulia Gosart, with Ukrainian and English translations provided by Oleksii Deikun.

“I would like to thank everyone who came from Ukraine, from the US and Europe, and also from all over the world!” — Assistant Professor Ulia Gosart

Oksana Boiarynova, Ukrainian Library Association

Oksana Boiarynova, representative of the Ukrainian Library Association (ULA), led the opening remarks with her presentation, reminding us that Russian authorities have led a full-scale invasion of Ukraine for 112 days, as of June 15, 2022. Following her address, Boiarynova asked for a moment of silence “in remembrance of all the Ukrainians perished during the war with Russia.”

Ukrainian RemembranceBoiarynova touched on some of the atrocities that have occurred in Ukraine due to Russian occupation, including the destruction of Ukrainian historical literature, as well as the deaths of over 62 civilians, which include two librarians, during the shelling at Kramatorsk Railway Station. Nevertheless, Boiarynova reported that many libraries in Ukraine are operating with little funding to maintain key staff only and are gathering support from local community members to provide social services. Additionally, Boiarynova encouraged librarians to become active moderators of the international platform #MyWar, in order to maintain accurate information, as “its mission entails collecting oral stories of eyewitnesses on the war in Ukraine.”

“We do know that we are not alone in this struggle. In these dark and difficult times…I am eternally grateful for everything done for Ukraine.”  ULA representative Oksana Boiarynova (Translations provided by Oleksii Deikun)

Libraries in the Kharkiv Region

National Literary Memorial MuseumLiudmyla Glazunova, chair of the Kharkiv branch of ULA, and Natalia Petrenko, director of the Kharkiv Korolenko State Scientific Library, presented on the current state of Kharkiv and its libraries, noting that over 97 war crimes against Ukrainian cultural heritage have been committed by Russian authorities in Kharkiv alone. Among them are damages incurred by the National Literary Memorial Museum of Hryhoriy Skovoroda, the Korolenko State Scientific Library of Kharkiv, and the Central Scientific Library of Kharkiv National University. 

  • 7 libraries in the Kharkiv region have been destroyed and cannot be renovated.
  • 26 libraries have suffered heavy damages, requiring renovation and repair.
  • 12 libraries in the Kharkiv region have lost equipment (e.g., computers).
  • 12 libraries have reportedly lost half of their book collections.

Libraries in the Cherkasy Region

Taras Shevchenko Regional Library of CherkasyLiudmyla Diadyk, director of the Taras Shevchenko Regional Library of Cherkasy, presented a different perspective on the impact of libraries in Ukraine. While Cherkasy is not in the active combat zone like Kharkiv, Diadyk reported that ballistic missiles and fighter aircrafts continue to fly through the region. As the war continues, Cherkasy is serving as one of the regions housing displaced Ukrainians all over the country. With 120,000 Ukrainians currently in the region, libraries in the Cherkasy region are actively involved in supporting the needs of this population by serving as information hubs for current events. Libraries are also supporting the army by creating camouflage nets, collecting food supplies, and sending letters to soldiers.

The digitization of library materials, book collections, and rare publications is also a struggle that the librarians are trying to overcome. Cherkasy librarians are in desperate need of scanners and digitization tools, in order to preserve their historical and cultural heritage. Diadyk and her colleagues are also continuing to conduct various projects on Ukrainian patriotism, in collaboration with historians, linguists, and activists.

Libraries of the Chernigiv Region

Chernigiv libraryAs the director of the Korolenko Regional Scientific Library of Chernigiv and chair of the Chernigiv branch of ULA, Inna Alifenko touched on the damages incurred by Chernigiv libraries, noting that their necessary equipment devices (e.g. computers) have been taken by the Russian Federation all over the region. Alifenko also presented on the destruction of the Korolenko Regional Scientific Library of Chernigiv by armed forces on the night of March 30, 2022. Funds to provide restorative work and repair the library are in urgent need.

Marina Latamarchuk, director of the Chernigiv Regional Library of the Youth, highlighted the library services that they offer, mostly focusing on youth education and older adult services. Before the war, the Library of the Youth acted as a hub of resources for the community, providing legal aid literacy classes for young audiences, craft workshops, and art exhibitions. However, as a result of the destruction caused by the Russia-Ukrainian war, many resources have been halted, requiring financial need for staffing, services, and physical repair.

Concluding Remarks

Following the presentation on Chernigiv, Dr. Gosart led a short Q&A session with the guest speakers. 

Dr. Chow provided concluding remarks, recognizing the courage and bravery of all Ukrainians and the librarians who presented at the symposium. Special shoutouts were made to the iSchool marketing and technology teams for promoting the event and providing technical support, Oleksii Deikun for providing translation services, and Dr. Gosart for helping to organize the event.

“Be safe and know that our thoughts and prayers remain with our Ukrainian colleagues.” Dr. Anthony Chow


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