The Liverpool Central Library signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Odesa Regional Universal Scientific Library named after M. Hrushevsky with the support of the Library Country Foundation.
On April 26, a solemn ceremony was held to certify the twinning of the Liverpool Central Library and the Odesa Regional Scientific Universal Library named after M.S. Hrushevskyi. His Majesty King Charles III together with Queen Consort Camilla raised the blue and yellow flag over the memorandum of partnership. The king delivered a speech honoring the losses of Ukraine and emphasized the important role of libraries in the modern world.
"We are incredibly pleased to be here today and join the celebration of the twinning of libraries, the Liverpool Central Library and the Odesa Regional Universal Scientific Library named after M.S. Hrushevskyi. I find it really terrible that more than 300 libraries in Ukraine have been destroyed in recent months. Our hearts are with all those who suffered, as well as with those who lost a lot in this terrible disaster.. If the boundaries of our language are the boundaries of our world, then the role of the library is to protect these boundaries. Books and the stories of humanity in them give us the opportunity to expand our experience, deepen our knowledge and, most importantly, deepen our understanding of humanity, which is common to all.
In addition to the royal family, the guests of the event were the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, who thanked the British people online for their unprecedented support to Ukraine.
The executive director of the "Library Country" Charitable Foundation, Liusiena Shum, had the opportunity to tell the royal family about the state of Ukrainian libraries after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine and about the importance of cultural diplomacy in a difficult time for Ukraine.
"Library sisterhood" will continue the tradition of supporting Great Britain and Ukraine in all spheres. Unexpectedly pleasant for Ukrainians, but such a logical and important partnership, because libraries at all times are guardians of the culture of the nation, its achievements, its values and virtues. We still have a lot of plans for the development of international library cooperation," says Kateryna Alekseenko, head of the "sisterhood" project of the "Library Country" charitable foundation.
The twinning of libraries is the initiative of Veronika Yasynska, who became an integral part of the Liverpool community after being forced to leave her native Kyiv last year due to the war. Veronika, Eurovision 2023 project assistant at Culture Liverpool, explains: "The Liverpool Central Library became a place to which we wanted to invite as many Ukrainians as possible. So that everyone has the opportunity to gain new experience, get to know and feel the modern concept of the library as an open space for everyone and, of course, to find a book in their native language."
The book "Birds of America" by John James Audubon (held in the Liverpool Library) became decisive in my desire to start working with the library. This work of art survived the May Blitzkrieg in 1941 and was saved from fire when the city was bombed. Of course, it reminded me of the events that are happening right now at home, when a key part of the war strategy against Ukraine is the destruction of culture, universities, libraries and museums. And, of course, this book became an example of how cultural heritage should be protected and protected. The book "Birds of America" is now kept behind bulletproof glass and is valued at around £12,000,000.
During World War II, most of the library was destroyed by bombing. In the 1950s and 1970s, the institution was rebuilt and expanded. After closing in July 2010 for renovations, it reopened on May 17, 2013.
Cabinet Secretary for Culture Harry Doyle said: “The purpose of libraries goes far beyond housing a collection of books. For many soldiers during World War II, libraries were a place to relax, read, boost morale, and learn. They were a safe haven for both soldiers and civilians. We want to offer the same comfort and sense of belonging today to those who sought refuge in our city from the conflict in Ukraine." "Liverpool has always been a welcoming city and the library has long been regarded as a sanctuary, but it is more important than ever that we make it as inclusive as possible, providing a bit of a home for our new residents and educating our original residents." Veronika has already organized an exhibition of more than 100 Ukrainian books in the Liverpool Central Library, and is currently working on the addition of books about the history and culture of Ukraine in English to the library.
"We know that propaganda is a powerful tool, and many materials about Ukraine and its history that have been disseminated over the years could have been distorted, rewritten, or completely erased, which is why one of the key areas of the memorandum is to help verify existing funds and remove content that has false or altered information.
Ціль співпраці із бібліотекою та ініціація укладення меморандуму була спровокована війною, а також позитивним досвідом, який я отримала при співпраці із Центральною бібліотекою Ліверпулю. Безбар’єрність, діджитал інклюзивність, потужний історичний контекст та цінність поваги до минулого — це те, що мені хотілося показати українцям, які переїхали до міста через війну. Впродовж п’яти місяців з працівницею бібліотеки Елісон Кесседі ми проводили тури спеціально для переселенців. Мені дуже приємно знати, що українці в місті тепер мають доступ до книжок рідною мовою та насолоджуються спокійним простором бібліотеки.”
Liverpool and Odesa have been twin cities since 1957. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of the russia, the Odesa Regional Universal Scientific Library not only did not stop its activities, but also increased the number of educational and cultural initiatives, taking into account the needs and requests of users:
- restoration of historical memory in the context of nationwide processes of decolonization and decommunization;
- promoting the fight against disinformation;
- promotion of modern Ukrainian books as part of the implementation of the Reading Strategy;
- actualization of library funds of the library and libraries of territorial communities of the region;
- providing a safe and comfortable environment for work, study and communication.
"From the partnership with the Central Library of Liverpool, the project team expects to gain new interesting experience in providing users with cultural and educational services based on the principles of inclusion, non-discrimination, and the multifacetedness of a person. In the implementation of the partnership project, we will try to emphasize the common features of Odesa and Liverpool - the atmosphere of port cities, multinationality and multiculturalism", - notes the Odesa Regional Universal Scientific Library named after M. Hrushevskyi.
Like the Liverpool Central Library, the Odesa Regional Universal Scientific Library named after Hrushevsky has a very long and complex history. It was founded in 1875 as part of the Odesa Society of Mutual Aid of Jewish Guides, but was also a public library for all. During World War II, the library was occupied by Nazi-Romanian soldiers. The books were exported to Romania. After Ukraine gained independence in 1998, the library received its modern name. Named in honor of the famous Ukrainian historian and public figure Mykhailo HRUSHEVSKY.
Like the Liverpool Central Library, the Odesa Regional Universal Scientific Library named after Hrushevsky has a very long and complex history. It was founded in 1875 as part of the Odesa Society of Mutual Aid of Jewish Guides, but was also a public library for all. Today, the Hrushevsky Odesa Regional Scientific Library is a progressive cultural center of Odesa. A favorite place of leisure for Odessa residents and guests of the city. In this collaboration, librarians from Liverpool and Odesa will have the opportunity to share best practices and offer residents a better understanding of their European colleagues. The scheme will also provide more resources for residents to improve their language skills and expand career opportunities.
"Libraries of Ukraine are developing rapidly, despite the devastating impact of the full-scale invasion of Russia. They provide a wide range of diverse services and support communities in their immediate needs. Taking into account the European aspirations of Ukraine, it is important to form close partnership relations between the libraries of Ukraine and Great Britain in order to exchange experience and vision of new roles of libraries, joint initiatives and cooperation. Therefore, the "Library Country" charity sees its task as establishing international cooperation for the development of the library business," - Liusiena Shum, executive director of "Library Country".
As a result of the full-scale russian invasion of Ukraine, 528 libraries were damaged or completely destroyed, more than 300 libraries in educational institutions were destroyed, at least 20 university libraries were damaged, and the book collections of 42 libraries were completely destroyed. Information as of February-March 2023.