Books in never-ending motion

Librarians are saddened by the fact that young people tend only to borrow reference books rather than reading fiction for pleasure. Perhaps it’s unfashionable to read these days. However, a new trend is emerging, with literary lovers leaving their books in public places, to be picked up and ‘borrowed’ by others. It’s a wonderful way of widening the readership of a single edition, with cafes and clubs being used as exchange points

By Denis Brovorov

The Belarusian National Technical University was the first to support the idea in our country. Several years ago, the Director of its scientific library, Alexey Skalaban, passed an internship in Sweden. At the airport, he saw a huge glass case of books, which he learnt were available for anyone to read. After reading, the idea was to leave the book in another safe place, so it could continue its journey. It was a great idea. The question was only where such books might be kept in Minsk.

“Initially, we created a shelf in the reading hall of the University’s scientific library. Later, we installed a case in the main building. It’s available to everyone,” explains Mr. Skalaban. “You might ask why we need such a facility. Simply, we want to encourage young people to read. Book-crossing is an easy way to do this.”

Alexey is looking at a website devoted to book-crossing. “Look, we’ve set free almost 700 books,” he admits with pride. “Our editions have been swept away from the shelves.” On the day I visited, I saw only two books in the case, each inscribed: ‘This book is not forgotten’ or ‘The edition you hold in your hands is no longer a book in its usual sense; it’s part of a global library’. The inside cover has a plate stating that it is part of the book-crossing programme, alongside a registration number showing who donated the book and when.

The case is being replenished by library staff, students and even residents of neighbouring apartment houses. Additionally, publishing houses have donated some editions. Every year, more such ‘safe’ places are found. Not long ago, a Minsk night club installed a shelf of books. While some people dance, others gather by the shelves of books, magazines and discs.

“We’ve subscribed to several magazines, while books are brought in by our guests, staff and musicians. This is how our collection grows,” says Yan Busel, who co-owns the club. “We don’t play pop music, so you won’t see books written by popular authors either. We don’t register our editions on the special websites devoted to book-crossing either, as our visitors usually just read at the club. They seldom take an edition home, although it’s not prohibited.”

Book-crossing is gaining momentum, with safe shelves found in many libraries, as well as public catering and educational establishments. No doubt, it’s a great way to attract visitors.

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