There are about 5,000 books at the Maidan library’s collection. The library opened at Ukrainian House in January 26, when protesters occupied the building. Since then the library has acquired ten bookcases, employed the chief librarian Bohdan, who came from Dnipropetrovsk, and a group of volunteers. It has its own seal and a system of encouragement now – a candy for every returned book.
Oksana, a would-be mural painter from Lviv, likes contemporary Ukrainian literature. So she borrowed A Fox in the Vineyard by Myroslav Dochynets. “The library is a very good initiative, for people can not only sleep or dawdle in spare time, but also learn something new and develop,” the girl says.
Next to her sits Michal who is leafing through Newspaper Den’s Best Photographs. In a few hours, he will be leaving for Poland, his home, where he works in tourism. Michal had lived in Lviv for a year, so he could not stay away from the revolutionary events. It is his third visit to the Maidan. He says he could not even sleep a few days before the departure, for he was eager to see what had changed since he was here on New Year’s Eve. Michal had been making settees in the House of Trade Unions and building a barricade near the Ministry of Justice. “I was even a traffic policeman,” the boy says. “I controlled the traffic through a barricade next to Ukrainian House, for only one car can go there at a time.” He chose the photo album out of professional interest – he used to learn photography. He says pictures in the book are very nice. Michal posts his own Maidan pictures with comments in Facebook so that his friends know more about the events in Ukraine. The boy admires the audacity of Ukrainians. “They are not afraid of the authorities and the riot police. If protests go on, I will come again,” he says.
Bohdan, the chief librarian, has been on the Maidan since early December. He first came out on a Dnipropetrovsk square and then came to Kyiv two weeks ago. He had been building barricades until he once dropped into Ukrainian House to warm himself up. When he saw books, he could not go away and remained behind. He says contemporary Ukrainian literature, especially of a revolutionary nature, is mostly in demand. Visitors often ask if the library has The Raven by Vasyl Shkliar. “One guy took 13 books in the evening – for himself and his tent mates. He brought them all back in the morning,” Bohdan says smiling.
The student Nina also came from Dnipropetrovsk. She is a volunteer. “The duty of a volunteer is to receive, stamp, and sort books by genre. If there are several copies of the same book, we leave one or two for reading and put the rest into a box to be sent to rural libraries,” the girl explains. Nina says the library has its peak hour in the evening. All kinds of people – barricade guys, guards, and kitchen volunteers – come to borrow books. The books on the history of Ukraine and on the European Union are the most popular. The library also keeps a few publications in English and German – they are also read. “I have a library at home, but it is smaller than this one,” the girl says. The librarians also like Den’s books (for more details, see “From the Barricades to a Reading Room,” The Day, No.7, February 4, 2014).
The “revolutionary” library was founded by Viktor, a Dnipropetrovsk-based market researcher. The first books came from his friends. He also took some from his own book collection. When the Maidan Library page was set up in Facebook, all kinds of people began to bring books. “By the Monday morning, the boxes had been half-empty and the whole Ukrainian House was strewn with books. My wife suggested that we stamp all the publications to be able to identify them” Viktor says. In his words, the factor that caused them to set up the library is somewhat mystical. “The Maidan has a place for Spirit (the podium and the surrounding space) and a place for Strength (Hrushevsky St.), so there must be a place for Reason,” he says. After the Maidan, Viktor plans to carry the books to rural libraries, for their collections are practically not being updated.