The virtual reading room has been active for one week, and already six people have visited it. I didn’t imagine that I would find anyone here in the morning on a week-day. However, there was one visitor. It was Nikolay Vlasyuk, architect of the enterprise Brestrestavratsiyaproekt, he was subscribing to the library’s rea-ding room. He urgently needed to find specific literature on the subject of his research. Registration is quick, and the librarian runs a special programme. A user friendly interface appears on the screen. The necessary book or document can be found quickly. If it is unavailable it will be ordered, as in a usual library. Director of the centre, Yelena Maslova, explains the principle of how it works, “The Yeltsin Presidential Library in St. Petersburg opened in 2009. It contains only digitized documents which were not previously available to a wide range of readers. In particular, they include the most ancient books from the 11th-12th centuries onwards, ancient historical documents which are important for research, modern literature, research which was held at the time of the Russian Empire and during the times of the USSR. In total there are up to 400,000 units of storage. Remote reading rooms are created so that people living in distant places can use them. There are 170 such places in all.”
The 400,000 books are not all publicly available. Many need to be ordered using the library’s own ordering system, which can usually deliver the item digitally in less than 15 minutes. Eight people can use the system at the same time. According to Yelena Maslova, despite the fact that the resource is virtual, books can be examined using the three-dimensional view, “We see the book exactly as it is, including its cover, all we are lacking is the feel and smell of it. When we turn the pages, we even see notes on edges which were made 100-200 years ago...”
In Brest, the reading room opened at the end of November during celebratory activities devoted to the 90th anniversary of national diplomacy. It is actually the second remote reading room of the St. Petersburg library in Belarus. The first opened in 2010 in Minsk.
“Our reading room is certain to generate great interest,” Yelena says. “The library has a collection devoted to relations between Russia and Belarus from ancient times to the present. It will certainly attract the attention of researchers of this theme.”
The expansion of the network of reading rooms opens new horizons for the Yeltsin Presidential Library. One of the oldest libraries of Belarus in Brest is the M.Gorky centre. Yelena Maslova says that they already have plans to transfer interesting books, researches and documents into digital format there. She confirms there are plans to establish the same interaction with the museums of Brest, “As well as the digitization of printed editions, there is the digitisation of rarities and artefacts to consider. For example, imagine such a project for the Brest Fortress, regional museum of local lore with their documents and exhibits...
By Alexander Mityukov