Giant that looks into the future

National library will first and foremost collect and accumulate necessary information resources, create their search patterns, and perform as navigator and coordination center in global information space
A great deal has been written about the new National Library of Belarus. We seem to know for sure how its halls, passages and archives should look. But we only seem to know it as library construction is a live creative process and more and more new ideas emerge and are implemented during it. So, according to Protocol of commissions by President Alexander Lukashenko of May 17, 2005, establishment of Republican information and socio-cultural center based on National library was launched the other day. This is the main topic of our interview with Roman MATULSKI, director of National library.

— Could you please tell what will be National library enriched with as a result of establishment of Republican information and socio-cultural center? How will implementation of this idea influence library functioning?

— I must note here that realization of National library’s role in life of our society goes on simultaneously with the construction. President has set missions to establish an international press center, a summit hall and a 550-seat capacity multifunctional conference hall in National library building.

The concept of Republican information and socio-cultural center was approved by resolution of Cabinet Council. Fundamental idea of the Concept is the so-called “intellectual building”, where all systems will be united into a common complex and managed from common center. Another idea of the Concept is to let library building stuffed with “intelligent” systems to serve as the basis for development of modern technologies of information resources establishment. I emphasize that automation is not an end in itself but a means to grant quick access to necessary information with no regard whether it is stored in our library or in another continent, and whether subscriber comes immediately to library building or he is a village teacher somewhere in Poles’ye who sends inquiry via net.

— How do you reckon to achieve this?

— National library will first and foremost collect and accumulate necessary information resources, create their search patterns, and perform as navigator and coordination center in global information space. We obtain and will continue obtaining electronic databases of most diverse types. So, during last quarter 2005 — first quarter 2006 we plan to purchase about 15 databases most necessary for our readers, according to research. This year we have created a master project reading room of Russian state library, which enjoys big demand among our attendants.

— Still, functions of Republican information and socio-cultural center are not limited solely to optimal satisfaction of demand for particular knowledge, aren’t they?

— The socio-cultural center will be comprised of many elements; in particular, it will host a picture gallery and a book and library museum. Now we are in the process of negotiations on purchasing special showcases to display rarity old books previously hidden from public eye. There will be a system of reading rooms devoted to literature and art, where creative people will find all necessary, and art connoisseurs will be able to have good time, too. Some elements of socio-cultural center will follow the make-out principle. They are: observation deck on library roof, which will allow to view panorama of Minsk and outskirts, and sport and health improvement complex, beauty parlor, restaurant and cafe. Yet I would like to drive your attention to the fact that this infrastructure will occupy only some hundredth portion of overall building volume. Several thousand visitors and a thousand of personnel will work in the library daily and they all will need catering services in comfortable conditions. And in evenings the cafe will open its doors to tourists and give entertainment shows.

— I believe a club of creative intellectuals would be in place in the socio-cultural center…

— The project involves an art and literature parlor. It will be always open for those who adore art in all its manifestations. We are waiting for requests from creative unions and clubs. In general I cannot point out a single creative person of those whom I talked to, who wouldn’t show interest and wish to join cultural life of National library, to develop ideas implemented in it. Yet first they would like to enter the new building, to feel its atmosphere and see its opportunities.

— How will checkpoint system of the new library will be arranged like?

— There will be one main entrance facing Independence Avenue. All visitors will be re-registered and given new plastic passes with electronic chips. Main entrance control system will not allow anyone to penetrate into the building without a pass, or bring hazardous materials, or retrieve books from the library. Yet there is a reasonable rule of library arrangement: flows must not cross. Therefore particular areas of socio-cultural center will have their own entrances — for instance: the observation deck, the cafe, and the beauty parlor.

— Do you expect any difficulties for library personnel while putting into operation the new building stuffed with ultra-modern technologies and systems?

— The tower of National library erected literally in a glimpse, is unique and unparalleled throughout former Soviet territory. Yet we have adequate personnel for the new conditions. Last year Ministry of culture developed and approved a program, according to which we have sent our employees to professional development courses in Belarusian State University of culture and art and Belarusian State Institute of problems of culture; secondly, we have hired over 80 young specialists possessing foremost knowledge.

The “intelligent building” of National library controlled as single unit, can be viewed as a prototype of future architecture.

by Svetlana Ishchenko
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