According to UNESCO data, 30-60% of library holdings of US, Western Europe and Russia are at stake, and about 15% of paperback editions, being kept in libraries and archives of Europe, cannot be saved. There are about 60 million archive documents of XV-XX centuries, three million of which are located in Ukraine.

The collection of early books and manuscripts in foreign languages, kept in the National Historical Library of Ukraine (NIBU - Ukrainian abbreviation), is of special historical and cultural value. It numbers 1130 items, 900 of which date from XVI-XVII centuries.  NIBU supplies students of history departments and scientific workers from all over the country, who often request literature from rare collections. As a result, eventually books wear out and in order to preserve the collection NIBU has decided to create electronic versions of the books with the help of special equipment and to conserve the originals. In July 2011, library administration launched the large-scale project "Historical heritage of Ukraine - world access in electronic format". ForUm has checked into the process to learn about the progress, made for saving history.

President of the youth public organization "Intellectual leadership" Olena Krykun has become the project manager and the anti-crisis humanitarian program of the International Renaissance Foundation joined the project in September of this year. On September 13 the organizers and library administration presented the second stage of the project and summed up the results of the first one.

As Olena Krykun told, for the period of July 2011 - August 2012, the NIBU website was updated and image-catalogue of all editions was created. The project workers have also started creating E-reference room and have already digitized more than 120 unique regional natural history and other editions.

Within the next nine months, the organizers plan to engage the youth, to teach librarians how to use technologies of safe scanning and save a few dozen old books, providing free public access to their electronic copies.

"We are planning to establish a center of distant employment for low-income categories of population. Distant workers will fill in the database with information from scanned copies and will be paid for the number of typed characters. However, before starting the work, new employers will have to pass testing," the project manager explained. 

To continue scanning early books NIBU will install a scanning station on its territory and will hold free of charge classes for those who wish to learn the skill.

After the presentation of the second stage of the project, library workers displayed the gems of the collection, kept in archives.

Head of NIBU department of rare books Nina Khivrenko told that there are more than 20 thousand unique editions in the department.

"The collection of manuscript books is of special value. It includes the handwritten commemoration book of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra of the end of XV century - the oldest book of the collection. All books in our department are of great value, and books issued before 1800 are provided only after receiving a letter from an organization or educational establishment, which stipulates the purpose of the order," Khivrenko said.

Apart from the collection of manuscripts, the library holdings have two books dated to the beginning of XVIII century and printed with civil type, introduced in Russia by Peter the First, and the original editions of  'Tale of Igor’s Campaign'.

The reference room regularly holds issue-related displays.

The book storage of the library keeps the principal and duplicate holdings. As Svetlana Gazaryants, head of the social and cultural communications department, told journalists, storage workers regularly clean books from dust and maintain necessary temperature in the facility.

"We have editions, for example dated to 1905, which are in a bad condition and must be readjusted. They are not rare and we can give them for readjustment to a printing house. However, the problem is that because of carelessness of printing house workers, only half of the book remains after the readjustment. That's why digitalization is the most important task for us now," Gazaryants told.

The book "Notes of Odessa society" of 1844 without cover may be lost soon as well.

Due to fast development of computer technologies, we have already forgotten that information can be found in libraries, and we do not even think that half of the recorded heritage of mankind is not on internet yet. Let's hope that thanks to similar initiatives of caring people our historical heritage will be preserved and interesting pages of Ukrainian history will be available soon to any reader of the planet.

Anastasia Pika, photos by Viktor Kovalchuk


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