Sunday, 1 December 2013

Lithuania's fans, we have now got a dedicated bookshelf for you

Opening the new Lithuanian literature section. Left to right: Lithuanian charge d'affaires for Bulgaria Darius Gaidys, Sofia City Library's deputy director Spaska Tarandova, EVS volunteer Agne Drumelyte. 

Sofia City Library is known for its international and otherwise eclectic character. Downstairs we have a bar, on the first floor a gallery and a theatre, and on the fourth floor there are multiple reading resources in foreign languages.

So far on the fourth floor there have been books in English, Portuguese, Chinese, Turkish, Spanish & Latin American, German, and in four Scandinavian languages, most of them donated by the respective countries' embassies and cultural institutions.

Although I am officially a UK volunteer and do my best to represent the sending country, I am also a Lithuanian. Since there already were many books at the library donated by the UK, I decided to have a look if there would be any resources from/about Lithuania.

Surprise surprise, with the help of my tutor I found only several dry-ish (and, often, dated) information materials. Looking at the aforementioned countries' example, I thought, it would be nice to have a dedicated Lithuanian book shelf at the library too. I set up (besides the shared EVS blog and my free time Bulgarian travel etudes) a third personal project. 

An email and then a trip to the Lithuanian Embassy in Sofia followed; I was invited to meet the Lithuanian Charge d'Affaires Darius Gaidys. The Embassy took the matter enthusiastically. Soon afterwards Mr Gaidys came to visit the library and to meet the deputy director Spaska Tarandova.

After arranging the place for the new book shelf and the opening date, the donation of books & CDs from the Embassy and from a few people of the local Lithuanian community was brought in. Then the official opening event happened, with speeches from Mr Gaidys and Ms Tarandova, and a small wine reception.

The books will now have to be registered at the library's catallogues. They should be available for everyone to borrow from 15 January 2014.

The new book shelf is at the Nordic & German reading room (402) on the fourth floor. The present reading resources are in Lithuanian, English, Bulgarian, Russian. There are quite a few books for children & beginners in Lithuanian language. The collection is likely to expand in the future.            

The Embassy and the Library have plans to continue the recently set up collaboration.

In the nearest future, at 5 pm on 11 December at the American Corner there is going to be a presentation of a new book, the Bulgarian translation of Lithuanian classic poems by Justinas Marcinkevičius ('Mindaugas', 'Mažvydas', 'Katedra').

In the second half of 2013 Lithuania held Presidency of the Council of the EU.

The new book shelf. In the future I would love to see there also English/Bulgarian translations of 'Vilnius Poker' by Ričardas Gavelis and of novels by Jurga Ivanauskaitė & Kristina Sabaliauskaitė; 'The Jungle' by Upton Sinclair; 'Lost Vilnius' by Vladas Drėma; 'Forest of Gods' by Balys Sruoga; works by the Lithuanian-American anthropologist Marija Gimbutas; arts albums & music recordings by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis; photography album 'Unseen Lithuania' by Marius Jovaiša; materials about Lithuanian artists such as Fluxus persona Jurgis Mačiūnas, filmmaker Jonas Mekas, designer Juozas Statkevičius; film 'The Other Dream Team'; Lithuanian jazz music recordings; more history books & memoirs, especially about/from the 20th century /.../ To mention a few.      

Opening, wine reception.
Opening, having a look at the new book shelf.

The immortal Christmas poster from USA. Our former sister library

Season's greetings from Golden branch of the Jefferson County Public Library, USA.

Christmas is mercilessly approaching. People put up festive decorations; Here at Sofia City Library we have got a permanent one. It has been given to us by Golden Public Library, USA, and it has been hanging above the door of the English & Portuguese reading room for several years now.

How come we have got a festive decoration from a library in Colorado, one that is almost 10.000 kilometres away from ours? Not a bad question.

Apparently, the said friendly library and our library had been 'sisters' for some years in the past. They used to exchange books, invite each other's staff over for visits, conferences and trainings, send each other Christmas greetings like the one pictured above.

It all started when, back in 1995, a Bulgarian librarian Iskra Mahailova went to the USA for five months to work at the Colorado State Library. There she met Nancy Bolt (pictured below) who turned out to be a Bulgaria enthusiast.  

Nancy Bolt, the initiator of the American-Bulgarian partnership. She remembers, in the early days of the friendship the Americans used to send video greetings to their Bulgarian colleagues as back then were still the pre-Skype times. Photo (c) Nancy Bolt.
Over the next few years Ms Bolt made repeated trips to Bulgaria: to visit her former colleague, to do a lecture tour, to take part in conferences. Partnerships were formed between various Bulgarian and Colorado libraries - one between Sofia City Library and Jefferson County Library was among the first.

Later a grant from the USA government was received for the ABLE (American-Bulgarian Library Exchange) project. Eighteen partnerships between American and Bulgarian libraries were covered; Bulgarian and American librarians were enabled to visit each others' countries.

''We also did training for 14 Bulgarian librarians on how to become a community information center and these librarians trained anther about 900 librarians'', Ms Bolt says.

The grant in the end was discontinued; some of the partnerships fell apart. Sofia City Library & Golden Library stopped their official sisterhood several years ago. However, some of the librarians have been keeping in touch and meeting informally.

Ms Bolt still goes to Bulgaria every year, usually in May so that she can attend the Rose Festival in Kazanlak. She participates in conferences in Bulgaria, gives trainings, stays in touch with some of Sofia City Library's staff, and is about to publish a paper at the BLIA* magazine on the changing role of the library.  

The Colorado librarians were pleased to know that Sofia City Library still has the poster.

* Bulgarian Library and Information Association.

Chestita Koleda.