Libraries of Ukraine – Together We Can Do More!

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April 8, 2024, 9 a.m.
Libraries, created thousands of years ago to support the vitality of communities, nowadays help Ukrainians to survive in war conditions and provide physical, informational, psychological, and spiritual protection.
Tetiana Hranchak in square box with Bird Library in background

Foreword by Nicolette A. Dobrowolski, Director of Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries

“On March 7, 2024, in a talk on the libraries of Ukraine, Dr. Tetiana Hranchak described the Ukraine libraries community as one that provides a safe place to seek out knowledge and informed conversation, two pillars that form a structure holding up the very soul of what a library is and should be. Preserving and providing access to information and cultural history can help people feel connected to their past, contextualize and value their present, and provide a grounding effect, a foundation, to participate in their own future and the future of humanity. Librarians play a strong role in leading such efforts to safeguard our histories and to provide safe and welcoming communities.”

by Dr. Tetiana Hranchak, member of the Board of the Ukrainian Library Association, D. Sc. in Social Communications, Visiting Assistant Teaching Professor at the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs in Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

Ukraine is suffering. Our communities are being ruined. Our souls are devastated. But we are alive. On February 24, 2022, the Ukrainians suffered a powerful blow from Russia. Nowadays, the Ukrainian people are facing destruction and heavy losses. Our communities and people's lives are being destroyed, and we need support and protection more than ever. Libraries, created thousands of years ago to support the vitality of communities, nowadays help Ukrainians to survive in war conditions and provide physical, informational, psychological, and spiritual protection.

Here are the many ways libraries support the community:

Ideally, libraries' memorial, socio-political, cultural, educational, and other activities must be directed to the formation and establishment of national memory, contribute to information security of the state, and help its integration into the world humanitarian space.

In addition to the promotion of Ukrainian books and culture in general, there are numerous events of Ukrainian libraries which commemorate the Holodomor, those who died during the Stalinist repressions, and the Chornobyl tragedy. These events combat the myth about the USSR as a country liberator and pre-World War Two as a golden age and restore the truth. Continuing this work requires considerable effort and is part of the reason that libraries are under attack.

Ukrainian culture is under the gun. Many libraries’ funds were lost, and buildings were damaged. 700 public and university libraries are damaged or destroyed and more than 4,000 are under occupation. An important achievement of the Ukrainian Library Association was the establishment of interaction with partners for reconstruction and the preservation of library and information resources, assistance to libraries to maintain service, and organization of efforts to restore damaged library buildings and lost library collections. At the same time, the American Library Association, in cooperation with the Ukrainian Library Association, launched the Fund for the Support of Ukrainian Libraries.

The war changed the contours of our libraries, our spaces were transformed into virtual worlds. As evidence, one library in Ukraine, even against the backdrop of the others, has experienced a real mutation and was reborn into a new library. The wandering library. The Luhansk Regional Universal Scientific Library was twice under occupation and twice lost its building and funds. In 2014, leaving occupied Luhansk, the institution found refuge in Starobilsk. As a result of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation on February 24, the library was officially relocated and placed in the Cherkasy Regional Youth Library named after Symonenko. Librarians scattered across different parts of Ukraine and stretched to the West, to the Center, and a little to the South. Still today it remains alive as a wandering library project. The librarians recognize that where there are people, there is work. Their goal is to develop a model of library service that is flexibly implemented by migrant librarians in different parts of Ukraine.

I am proud to say that among all the changes, what remains unchangeable is the dedication of librarians to their readers and the library work, the belief in victory and the capacity of the library community.

Interested in learning more? “Resilience Against All Odds: Libraries in Ukraine” is an exhibit which will be hosted at Soule Branch Library, 101 Springfield Rd, Syracuse, NY from March 26 to April 23, 2024. It will feature the stories of 17 libraries from across Ukraine, drawn from surveys conducted with librarians from these institutions. It will showcase the ways in which they have been negatively impacted by the war, as well as how they have overcome these challenges to re-vitalize their collections, provide psychological support to their community, become volunteer centers, host refugees, and safeguard Ukrainian cultural heritage while it is under threat.

About Dr. Tetiana Hranchak:

Tetiana Hranchak is a historian with a Ph.D. in History, a Doctor of Sciences in Social Communications, a Professor, an expert of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation and a member of the Board of the Ukrainian Library Association. Hranchak's research interests include issues related to political and cultural communication, libraries' participation in the implementation of the politics of memory, preservation and transmission of historical memory, formation of critical media literacy and countering information manipulation and propaganda. She is the author of the monograph "Library and Political Communication" (Kyiv, 2012) and a scientific and methodological guide "Libraries Participation in the Implementation of the Politics of National Memory" (Kyiv, 2021). During the Fall of 2023, Dr. Hranchak joined the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs as a Visiting Assistant Teaching Professor. She is currently conducting research and teaching a course "History of Ukraine in European Context." Before joining Syracuse University, Dr. Hranchak was an Adjunct Instructor at the School of Information Sciences of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (Summer 2023), where she taught a course "Library and the Politics of Memory." Before the University of Illinois, she researched for 20 years at the VI Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine (2003-2023). She also has 10 years of experience teaching at the Kyiv National University of Culture and Arts.

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