Thank you to those of you who supported the Francis Skaryna Belarusian Library and Museum in 2015. Your kind donations exceeded £4,100 and, together with modest income from the library’s endowment, allowed the charity to continue its work.
The main concern of the Library trustees in the past year has been to find ways of ensuring that the Library collections become more easily accessible to the public. For the foreseeable future it will not be possible for the Library to be open on a daily basis, but a rota of members of the Board of trustees has now been established to enable access to users for set hours on Saturdays.
One aspect of ensuring wider access to the Library, particularly for Belarusians living in London or the surrounding area, is the need to play an active role in the work of the Saturday/Sunday school organized in Marian House, by making the reading available and ensuring that the collection of childrens’ books in Belarusian is maintained and augmented.
Modern technology makes it possible to reach out to a potential readership worldwide. A digital platform has been created to make books and journals – in the first instance, rare or even unique items – available free of charge online. Valuable contacts have been made with experts in the field of document digitization in Belarus to help with this process. The trustees are also considering ways of digitizing the Library’s important archive collection, and of ensuring that the archives are preserved in the proper conditions.
The museum section of the Library is one that is in urgent need of development. One of the tasks of the Board for 2016 is to identify priorities for display and labelling of the items that comprise the collection of artefacts. It may also be possible to consider ways in which a selection of these artefacts could be photographed for display online.
The Library participated in meetings organized by the Anglo-Belarusian Society; of these the most notable in 2015 – in the aftermath of the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Svetlana Aleksievich – was the evening devoted to other winners of Nobel Prizes from Belarus.
Members of the Board have also been active in promoting the Library in international conferences, eg the quinquennial Congress of Belarusianists held in Minsk in May 2015, the Library Congress in Minsk (also held last year), and the International Congress of Belarusian Studies, held annually in Kaunas (Lithuania).
Dr Aliaksandr Suša, a Deputy Director of the National Library of Belarus, visited the Library in 2015. One of the outcomes of the detailed discussion with trustees held during his visit is closer co-operation with the National Library, in particular in, eg, holding events in 2017 to mark the 500th anniversary of the appearance of the first Belarusian printed book.
The trustees are well aware that, in order to sustain and raise the present level of activities, a regular income stream is essential. To this end part of the ground floor of the Library building has been converted into a self-contained one-bedroom flat. The rent (and modest income from our endowment invested in bonds) provides a steady monthly income to cover the essential expenses of the charity, but more is required. The Board is therefore seeking additional donations to implement specific projects, eg digitization of a particular part of the Library holdings, development of a catalogue, proper organization and preservation of the Belarusian archive housed at the library, organisation of further meetings and conferences.
We rely on your generosity to continue this unique Belarusian project! Please see the attached letter for details on how to donate.
The Trustees of the Francis Skaryna Belarusian Library