With age, it gets only younger

National Library of Belarus among premier IT-rich libraries in Europe

By Larisa Minakova

The country’s main library was established 90 years ago but, of course, now occupies a modern new building. “We’re getting younger every year!” jokes library director Roman Motulsky. “To remain relevant, we have to move with the times, rather than relying on technologies from past centuries.” According to foreign experts, the Belarusian ‘diamond’ is one of the most innovative and information-rich libraries in Europe today.

Electronic catalogue
It used to take librarians some time to find particular editions, rummaging through card files. Now, everything is listed on a computer database, searchable by title, author or theme. The electronic catalogue of the National Library of Belarus includes not just books and periodicals but dissertations, documents from international organisations, music books, audio and video materials, visual arts documents, maps and atlases.

Virtual enquiry service
The library’s online facility also allows readers to locate the books they need without leaving home. Librarians can even conduct specific research, with requests received daily in Russian, Belarusian and English; these tend to take two working days to complete.

Electronic document delivery
From the comfort of your own home, you can request electronic copies of documents from the library. Required chapters from books, magazines pages and snippets of audio documents can be sent to your email address for a fee: Br700 for a black and white copy of a single page up to Br7000 for a digitised page from a 16th century manuscript.

National electronic library
The electronic library of the National Library currently includes about 300,000 digitised items — all outside of copyright. The idea of digitising every book in circulation is still a distant dream. “We’re doing everything legally possible to ensure that every citizen has access to information, including in electronic form,” says Mr. Motulsky. “Creating an electronic library for Belarus will take many years and will be the work of more than just our National Library. Our task is to create a roof under which a variety of projects initiated by libraries and other institutions across the country can be implemented.”

Virtual reading room
How convenient would it be to sit at your home computer, sipping hot tea, while reading documents remotely, from the National Library of Belarus? The ‘International Resources’ category is accessible from within registered libraries and other organisations but ‘Resources of the National Library of Belarus’ and ‘Resources of Partner-organisations’ are both available online from your own home.

From within the National Library, you can read texts being used, for example, by students and professors from Oxford or Cambridge universities. The National Library provides access to approximately 150 databases worldwide.
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has congratulated National Library staff on the 90th anniversary of its foundation, saying, “Today, the library is the repository of a unique collection of books and other ancient documents electronically; it is the largest information and social and cultural centre in the country, leading research and policy in the field of librarianship and bibliography.”

Mr. Lukashenko has also wished staff and readers of the National Library good health, success in their work, happiness and prosperity.
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