Question: On your web-site, much is written about the University’s Library and about what has been done to save the library collections. Could you provide some more details on what has already been done, what is to be done and who is responsible for what was happening to the library in the past?
Answer: SPbU Press Secretary Aleksey A. Zavarzin
1. Library of St Petersburg Society of Naturalists
In early 1990s, based on the so-called Library of the Imperial St Petersburg Society of Naturalists (“The Imperial St Petersburg Society of Naturalists was established at the St Petersburg Imperial University in 1868), the book collection, with some of the real treasures of XIX – early XX centuries (tens of thousands of unites in total), was housed in the University at 5 Mendeleevskaya Line V.O.; in 1992 it was registered and handed over to the Regional Non-Governmental Organisation “St Petersburg Society of Naturalists”. The transfer of the state property to a recently established organisation was justified on the grounds of an application submitted by its founders, which stated that the Society was a “legal successor” of “The Imperial St Petersburg Society of Naturalists”. Thus, it gave grounds for a “revived” Society to regain the ownership of the book collection, which preserved its historical name. (Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting from April 04, 2011 and from April 27, 2015).
SPbU Rector interfered with the process of ownership transfer and therefore SPbU regained the book collection. Currently, the University is consistently including the items of the book collection into the e-catalog to register with the University’s library and accountant department. All data on the registered materials are subject to check against inventory books. All the books are divided into sections by publications and source of origin: monographs, periodicals, continued editions, reprints, and dictionaries. As many as 27.5 thousands of publications, which now reside at their permanent places, have been by far registered in due manner with the SPbU Library and accountant department, introduced to the scientific community and prepared to be borrowed by the library users. The University has no information as yet on whether all the books from the collection have been preserved or some of them “lost”, which hopefully will be known after the catalogisation is complete.
2. Library of the Bestuzhev courses
7 years ago, one dean of the University’s faculty applied to Rector to move the so-called “Library of the Women’s Higher Education Institution (the Bestuzhev courses)” from the building where it had been historically housed at 33 10 Line V.O. to another place, and to let her own the premises. This historic building, to her mind, which had housed the library from the moment it had been created in 1885, with remains of oak panels, was to be renovated “at the expense of her own funds” and used for filming by the University’s TV studio, which at that time occupied the adjacent premises. The library was literally at the extinction, said the dean. The inspection initiated by Rector showed that both the premises and book collections were in a dire state: some books were randomly piled on the floor; others distorted and needed restoration; no access control. During the previous months before the inspection the premises were repeatedly trespassed, but no one reported to the police, said the librarians. (Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting from February 27, 2012).
Nowadays, the University, following the Rector’s decision, is taking consistent measures on introducing the library to the reading public, which implies registering books with an e-catalogue, description of the stock by collections and restoration. Also, the project “E-Library of the Bestuzhev Courses” is well underway, which is going to comprise archives of the Bestuzhev courses, historical materials and documents, professors, teachers and graduates’ works. E-catalogue and e-library are available on-line. The section «The Library of the Bestuzhev Courses» on the web-page of the SPbU Library provides an insight into the book collection, its history, people, and publications on the history of the Library of the Bestuzhev Courses. The SPbU Publishing House produced a number of papers and two publications on the book collection.
3. Newspaper stocks
Spring 2008, the dean of the Faculty of Psychology addressed Rector to vacate the premises at 6 Makarova emb., which, at that moment, housed “some parts of the library”; she explained that the faculty was facing room shortages to implement the educational programme on Phycology. The information on who, when and why had moved to these basement premises was missing. The inspection showed that there was a newspaper stock and bindery. A quarter of the premises were occupied by the equipment, including the old and faulty one, just for a rainy day. No record-keeping on who had ordered the book to be bound, how many books and what kind of books there had been. What is more, an overwhelming majority of the books, as the inspection revealed, was not even related to the University. Yet there was a record-keeping concerning the newspaper stocks and how they were used. As records showed, there were four cases a week at most when someone had access to the stock. The newspaper stocks before 1917 and during the first years of the Soviet Union up to 1945, by the Rector’s decision, were moved to SPbU main building, where they are now stored with the main stock of the SPbU Research Library. The premises at Makarova emb. were disposed for the educational purposes.
4. Discovery of the books at SPbU’s premises in Petrodvortsovy district of ST Petersburg
Hundreds of thousands of books were discovered, quite accidentally, during the inspection of the premises in Petrodvortsovy district, after Rector had received information that the University’s premises had been used as a horse stable, which was, surprisingly, true. In the premises completely inadequate for book storage the inspection discovered the book collections from the so-called special libraries: “The Library of the First Sociological Society in Russia” and “Exchange and Reserve Fund”. Presumably, the books first appeared there as far as 1983, when LSU had to transfer the ownership of the premises in the Smolny Institute at 3 Smolnogo ul. to the Lengorispolkom and other authorities. As a result, most stocks on sociology were transported to the building at 41 Sredny pr., V.O. In late 90s- early 2000s, when most SPbU premises located in V.O. were used by different businesses, not related to the University: restaurants (2/11 lit. A 9 Line, V.O.; 15 lit. A 6 Line, V.O.; 66 lit. A 5 Line, V.O.), private clinics (5 lit. A Mendeleevskaya Line; 20 korp. 1 lit. A Korablestroiteley ul.; 77 lit. A 8 Line V.O.), hotels (20 korp. 1 lit. A Korablestroiteley ul.; 3 lit. A Kapitanskaya ul.), shops (20 korp. 1 lit. A Korablestroiteley ul.; 7-9-11 Universitetskaya nab.; 41 lit. A Sredny pr.), private entities affiliated with the faculty administrations, the University had to vacant those premises which housed book collections. In 2001, the University administration made an attempt to transfer the Research Library’s collections from the premises at 41 Sredny pr., V.O. to the vacant bomb shelters and basement premises at 7-9 Universitetskaya nab. (Order №851/1 from October 04, 2001). The Research Library’s director N.A. Sheshina refused to follow the order, as those premises were frequently flooded and completely inadequate for book storage, Vice-Rector for Facilities Management L.V. Ognev (Learn more: “Petersburg Legal Portal”, “Garant.Ru”, “Lenizdat.Ru”, “Zaks.Ru”, “Pravda”, “Komsomolskaya Pravda”) ordered to collect all the books in the construction waste bags, which was done by the students of the Khroulyov Military Academy of Logistics located nearby, and to transport them on the lorries to Petrodvortsovy district (Learn more: “Books returned to their readers”, “SPbU Rector is open about incomes”, “How the University administration bring income to the University”).
Currently, the University is taking consistent measures on structuring and storing the collections. The collections were divided into sections and marked by the year and type of publication: Russian books up to 1917, from 1917 to 1945, from 1945; foreign books up to 1945 and from 1945. The way how SPbU/LSU publications have been stored is also optimised. A part of the stock is for permanent storage. All the publications are neatly arranged on the shelves in alphabetical order and described online. Russian publications up to 1917 are now being arranged in alphabetical order, which is to be followed by a check against the general alphabetical catalogue to identify missing publications. 12.008 publications from the depository stocks have been selected to be introduced to the scientific community and prepared to be borrowed by readers.
5. 100 thousands of books in the basement of the Jeu de paum
When inspecting the Main building of SPbU and its outbuildings, Rector N.M. Kropachev discovered approximately 100 thousands of books in the basement of the Jeu de paum. The inspection was carried out with the Director of the Russian State Archive Professor A.R. Sokolov and showed that the storage of the books violated all the relevant rules and regulations. Some books were scattered in huge piles between the shelves: two compartments (6 and 14 sq.m.) were so crammed full of books that when opening the door the books literally poured out. Besides, it was not the guard who was responsible for the key, but deputy head of the Department of Physical Training and Sports (his room was located in the same building). The inspection also showed that some of the books on some topics, as RGIA’s director said, were likely to be transported off the premises
In order to save the collections, the University is currently transporting them to be stored temporally in the premises which were specially allocated to that end. The publications are being treated with special chemicals (dust removal and treatment with 1 % methatine). After treatment, the publications are arranged on the shelves in those premises which were allocated for temporary storage.
The situation with the book collections at the University was primarily as a consequence of either deliberate policy or inadequate attitude to library collections of the previous administration. Law-enforcement authorities are well aware about the situation, yet it is not of major concern as seemingly it causes no harm to society.
Should you or other users of SPbU E-Office know about unregistered book collections and premises where they are housed, please inform SPbU by contacting Vice-Rector for Facilities Management G.S. Vasiliev.