Libro Futuro

Libraries in Russia and profession. Mario Coffa interviews Albina Krymskaya

intervista in italiano

Albina Krymskaya is Associate Professor and Deputy Dean of the Library and Information Science Department of the St. Petersburg State University of Culture (Russia). She has a PhD degree in Library and Information Science. She began teaching LIS classes in 2011. Since 2014 she has done double duty working as an associate professor and a deputy dean in the LIS Department. She teaches three courses: “Analysis of professional information”, “Information resources in social and humanitarian sciences”, and “Using information analysis to avert crises in book publishing, the arts, and business”. Her publications focus on knowledge management, international cooperation in the library field, information resources, academic and cultural relations, history of information science, internationalization of library education.
In pre-COVID times she organized study trips for LIS students to Germany, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Finland. She serves both as the secretary for the IFLA Section on Education and Training (SET) and the secretary of the IFLA Division IV. In June she was reelected for the 2nd term in SET (2021-2025). In IFLA she initiated such projects as “LIS Student Voices: Global Peer-to-Peer Dialogue” for the Building Strong Library and Information Science Education (BSLISE) Working Group and “A Webinar Series for LIS students” for the IFLA Division IV Units. Both are aligned with IFLA Strategy 2019-2024 and aimed at involving LIS students into LIS international dialogue and IFLA community. She is a member of the Section for International Cooperation of the Russian Library Association (2021-2024).

According to your consolidated experience, can you briefly explain to us what it means to be a librarian in your beautiful country, Russia?

First of all, I’d like to thank you for this interview and for such a great project! You know, your question is both simple and difficult. At our LIS department in the course “Librarianship” we have an annual assignment for freshmen students – we ask them to write an essay on the theme “Who is a librarian?” And you know we get different ideas about the profession – everyone has their own librarian. At the same time if we surveyed professionals from different countries what it means to be a librarian we would get similar answers. Even in your series of interviews the answers to the question about being a librarian are almost alike!
The essence of the profession is to preserve and provide the knowledge accumulated by humankind. A librarian is not a commitment to the library as a place, a librarian is a commitment to a reader in particular and people in general. A librarian is a powerful human who has knowledge and skills to provide access to information and who helps people to communicate with each other and get knowledge. So I would say to be a librarian in Russia means to love books, love readers, and constantly improve yourself, your knowledge and skills, share experience with colleagues, look at the world with open eyes, do good and love your library!

You just got nominated as a member of IFLA Section Education and Training for a second term (2021-2025). What does this mean for you and what goals and projects do you foresee? 

You know, when I am thinking of what it means to be a member of IFLA I always have a recollection of when I was a first year student and heard of IFLA for the first time. Then it seemed unreal to ever participate in the IFLA Congress. When I visited the congress for the first time in 2017 it was unforgettable to be among people from around the world who had the same views and shared the same interests in serving communities. Today’s students get more opportunities to be involved in professional life thanks to library associations’ activities. I’d like to talk about one such opportunity I initiated. This year the IFLA Section on Education and Training proposed the project called “A Webinar Series for LIS students” for professional units of the IFLA Division IV. Its aim is to involve LIS students, as future librarians, in an international dialogue in the library field.
This project enables to implement IFLA’s strategic directions: to inspire, engage, enable, and connect. I just give you one example on how it implements IFLA’s strategic directions. The Webinar Series for LIS Students connects actors involved in the library field: members of the units of Division IV – Support the Profession who represent professional communities, LIS schools’ educators and students, libraries of various types; library associations at various levels, etc.
It aims at involving students in real professional activities and developing competencies, as well as becoming members of the IFLA professional community.
Over three months – April through June – we had 3 webinars with 14 students as presenters. They represented 8 countries – Bulgaria, Croatia, India, Norway, Palestine, the Philippines, Russia, and the United States. We had a great attendance – 300+ attendees out of 900+ registrations!
Among our speakers were well-known professionals Catharina Isberg, Loida Garcia-Febo, Erik Boekesteijn, and Kate Obille. We were delighted to also have IFLA President-Elect Barbara Lison as the keynote speaker on the third webinar. I loved her words about LIS students as the future assets of our profession!
We had a brilliant project team that included Catharina Isberg, Kendra Albright, Loida Garcia-Febo, Susanne List-Tretthahn, Magdalena Gomułka, Marija Maja Simunovic, Andrés Reinoso, and Paria Tajallipour.
I’d like to thank my colleagues in SET and the Division IV units for supporting this project. I hope we will continue this project. Three webinars showed that this project is needed!

On your post on the IFLA Facebook page, you published advice on supporting the profession for library students. The legal recognition of the librarian profession is a delicate and very important issue, what can you tell us about it?

As a LIS educator I think the issue of LIS education is very important. SET initiated and launched two online projects designed to inspire LIS students. In the first project we ask LIS professionals to recommend the top books for LIS students. LIS students can make their must-read checklist that will help them to immerse themselves in new ways in the profession. The second project you asked about is LIS Professionals give their inspiring advice on how to grow in the profession. We always like reading advice from writers, politicians, actors etc. (and over the last year we like posting such quotes), so we thought why don’t we read advice from IFLA professionals? It is an honor for SET that IFLA President Christine Mackenzie, IFLA President-Elect Barbara Lison, and IFLA Treasurer Antonia Arahova participated in these two projects.
With these two projects we aim at attracting attention to LIS education that is the foundation of the library profession.

In addition to academic training, what can the Association of Libraries of a country do (in addition to IFLA’s international support) to enhance the librarian profession and allow young graduates to enter the world of work?

There are national associations that do a lot to help LIS students and graduates to enter the profession. For instance, on our first webinar “Getting Engaged with Library Associations – Benefits, Issues, Factors” we heard about the experience of national library associations in involving LIS students in professional activity. I think national associations should collaborate with LIS schools in their countries and develop such initiatives.
Just an example from Russia – since 2013 the St. Petersburg Library Society has supported a unique event – an annual student library festival “BiblioFest” organized by the LIS department of the St. Petersburg State University of Culture. We launched this festival to give LIS students an opportunity to develop their own projects (library scavenger hunts, master classes, performances, workshops, and other events) and to perform them in libraries, thereby making practical use of their theoretical knowledge. The festival provides a scalable format for engaging LIS students worldwide to work together in the library field as future librarians. The festival benefits all actors – LIS schools, libraries, national associations and of course communities. I have a dream to organize a LIS Student Marathon “There is such a profession – a Librarian” that would unite LIS students from different countries to share experiences and perspectives in the LIS field. I think it would be a great event!
A lot of countries have a national award “Librarian of the Year” that raises the prestige of the library profession. In 2017, the Russian Library Association has included two nominations for LIS students into this award.

Digital and social media: from St. Petersburg onwards, how do the libraries of your country behave in the light of this “digital revolution”, especially after the experience of COVID 19?

The period of the pandemic made all institutions switch to a new remote format. Libraries around the world have not been an exception. You know, two of my students monitored the situation on how libraries in Russia and other countries worked in new normality during the COVID 19. They discovered that the reaction of Russian libraries to the current situation was similar to the reaction of libraries in other countries. Prior to COVID 19 libraries have paid special attention to serving remote users, but during the pandemic this issue became much more serious. All types of libraries were very active in initiating different online projects. Also, they moved forward with developing online resources and strengthening their presence on social media to engage with users.
My colleagues and I were impressed that our first-year students were already very creative during the first months of the pandemic. They proposed several online projects for St. Petersburg libraries. These projects include “In pajamas with a book” aimed at increasing children’s reading; master classes and flash mobs in online formats organized by the volunteer student team “Postmen of Good”. Such LIS students’ initiatives make us optimistic that the library profession has a future.



Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa archivista e bibliotecario, laureato in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali presso l’Università degli Studi di Perugia (2005) e diplomato in Archivistica e Paleografia presso la Scuola di Archivistica dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2010). Dal 2010 Lavora per CAeB (Cooperativa Archivistica e Bibliotecaria) presso le biblioteche dell’Università di Perugia come bibliotecario e come archivista presso l'Archivio Storico del Comune di Gubbio. Si occupa di Biblioteche Digitali e formazione in ambito di biblioteconomia digitale. Nel 2014 membro del Comitato Esecutivo Regionale dell’Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB) sezione Umbria, membro del gruppo AIB sul portfolio professionale e nel triennio 2017-2020 Presidente eletto di AIB Umbria. Dal 2020 membro dell'Osservatorio Formazione dell'Associazione Italiana Biblioteche. Autore di diversi articoli e interviste per Insula Europea sul tema degli archivi, delle biblioteche e del digital lending.


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