Potaninskaya Library - Interview with Angelica Conner


Reporter: Lika, your flat looks like a library. How many books do you have ?
Lika: About a thousand of volumes of Russian classics and about four thousand of books in English.
Rep.:  Where have you got all these books from?
Lika:  Some books I brought with me after marriage, some of them belong to my husband, but the main part of our family library we collected together.
Rep.:  For how long are you married?
Lika:  On November, 15, was the fifth anniversary of our marriage.
Rep.:   Are you from Novosibirsk?
Lika:   No. I lived and studied in Tomsk.
Rep.:   When Potaninskaya Library was opend for the first time?
Lika:  About three years ago, in the school No 204 in microregion "SHA".
Rep.:   And why there?
Lika:  Our friend, Anna Samouilovna Nesvetailo, a teacher of the school, came to terms with school administration, and it gave us a room free of payment. Of course, the place is not very convinient for most our readers, but we had no money and agreed to the proposal with gratitude.
Rep.:   How many books are there in Potaninskaya library?
Lika:   About ten thousands.
Rep.:   Where did you collect all these books?
Lika:   In the summer of 1992 my husband and me went to America, in order to collect books and bring them to Siberia. Of course, we could not even imagine, how difficult it will be.We were very naive.
Rep.:  And what were the difficulties?
Lika:  We did not get any help from the government, from any institutions or organizations, and we had too little money of our own. Besides, we never did anything like that and did not understand clearly enough, what were were really doing. We supposed, that we would collect the books and somehow send them to Novosibirsk.
Rep.:   And still, how you managed to do it?
Lika:   Richard worked for many years as DJ at the Santa Crus radio, in California, and this radio station at our request translated our appeal. After that, thousands of people called us and offered books - someone a volume or two, and someone a box. We were choosing the books which seeemed wholesome. During three months we had gathered 19 tons of books. Than we packed them carefully, so that they wouldn't be damaged during transportation.
Rep.:   How you managed to transport 19 tons of books to Russia?
Lika:  It was not easy. We had a load of books and very moderate sum of money, evidently not enough to deliver the books to Novosibirsk. Several months later a Russian ice-breaker agreed to take the books to Vladivostok, in case if we'd present 9 tons of them to Vladivostok libraries. The agreement was achieved with the help of one of our friends, director of the program "Takoma-Vladivostok - brother cities". Other 10 tons of the books we transported to Novosibirsk by railway.
Rep.:   It sounds like a rather complicated matter.
Lika:   It was really not easy. The difficulties grew with each further step and seemed almost unsurpassable, besides, we had too small experience, but the people whom we met at our way were very kind and helped us, especially the custom-house officers in Vladivostok and the workers of the Russian railways.
Rep.:   How many time did it take?
Lika:   We arrived to California in July,1992, and in December, 1992 we were already in Khabarovsk. Then we had spend more than a month in Vladivostok, and the books arrived to Novosibirsk in May, 1993.
Rep.:  And that was the time of the library foundation?
Lika:  When the books had arrived to Novosibirsk, we supposed our work to be finished and were very glad. But then we understood, that it was just the begiining of the real work, because our idea was to make the books available to everyone. It was evident, that there is a lot of work in future. But our experience had alredy shown, that working hard and with great patience one can do even impossible. That is why I am sure in the success of the library.
Rep.:  In the previous article it was written, that in Potaninskaya library only volunteers work, and that nobody receive any payment. Who are these volunteers?
Lika:  They are teachers, students, scientists, retired people, businessmen, librarians and others.
Rep.:  Who is the Director of the Library?
Lika:  We have no director. All the questions are solved by the majority of voices.
Rep.:  And you are the Chairman of Potaninsky Center?
Lika:  I an the Chairman of the Commitee of Potaninsky Center, the Novosibirsk public organization, and the Library is onle one of our projects.
Rep.:  What are the other occupations of Potaninsky Center?
Lika:  We translate and publish scientific articles and books, teach.
Rep.:  What are you teaching to?
Lika:   My husband and me teach doctors, psychologists and teachers the modern methods of psychotherapy. I also teach English.
Rep.:  Where does the Library get its profits?
Lika:   They simply do not exist. There is not any bank account. The Library works absolutely free.
Rep.:   And how can the Library function?
Lika:   We receive help from the citizens of Novosibirsk. They work in the Library in their free time, support us financially.
Rep.:   Why didn't you try to get financial help from Soros and other funds?
Lika:  We don't suppose it to be necessary. Many generations of siberians lived without "humanitarian help". Perhaps Pjtaninskaya Library is not large, but it is a concrete deal which we do for ourselves by our own forces.
Rep.:  How did you find your new apartments in the building of SPSL?
Lika:  Director of the Branch of SPSL in Akademgorodok, Vera Aleksandrovna Dubovenko, offered us the area. Together with Director of SPSL, Boris Stepanovich Elepov, she essentially supported Potaninskaya Library. Vera Aleksandrovna is one of the volunteer workers of the Library and a member of the Commitee of the Center.
Rep.:  When the Library will be opened again?
Lika:  The Library was opened in April, after a year of repair works: the rooms were to be plastered and painted, we had to make floors and shelves. We are very glad to receive help from so many people.
Rep.:  What else is to be done?
Lika:  The next step is to make catalogues.
Rep.:  So the Library will be free of charge for everyone?
Lika:  For everyone and free of charge. We posess the books for every age, including childrens' literature. In order to join the Library, you have only to take your passport with you.
Rep.:  Can the readers take the books home?
Lika:  Undoubtedly, it is the very idea. Though we wouldn't give dictionaries and encyclopedia home, of course.
Rep.:  The article said, that the main part of the books in Potaninskaya Library are humanitarian.
Lika:  That's right. Prose, poetry; history, philosophy, psychology ect. We also have a lot of guides, dictionaries and encyclopedia. Most of the books in our Library are in English, because we collected them in California, but this is just the beginning. In future, the Library will become multylingual.
Rep.:   Including the books in Russian?
Lika:  Yes.
Rep.:   Why the library is called Potaninskaya?
Lika:   Grigorij Nikolayevich Potanin was an explorer and enlightener of Siberia, scientist and public man, geographer, biologist and ethnographer, initiator of the first in Siberia Tomsk University. He served at Altaj in Cossack division and fall in love with Siberia. He began to study local flora and fauna, later became interested in botanics and natural sciences. Then, in 1858, Potanin, with the help of Bakounin, entered physico-mathematical faculty of the Sanct-Peterburg University. Being a participant of students demonstration in 1861, he was excluded from the University and spent three months in Petropavlovskaya fortress.
Rep.:   And what was he doing after jail?
Lika:  He reterned to Siberia together with Nikolaj Mikhailovich Yadrintsev, with whom later on he founded the first in Siberia Tomsk University. Potanin supported "regionality", the rights of siberians and the preservation of siberian natural resources. He worked a lot as a publicist. In 1867 he was arrested again on the accusation in separatism: "The case about the separation of Siberia from Russia and the formation of a republic, similar to the United States". This time Potanin spent three years in jail and was condemned to 15 years of penal servitude, later it was cutted down to 5 years. In jail, he wrote a book in history of Siberia.
Rep.:  What an extraordinary life!
Lika:  That's not all. Potanin was also interested in ethnography, and he wrote books about siberian legends and folk songs. Potanin trevelled in Mongolia and China and during his trevel published a number of scientific works. Later he began to publish his own newspaper, headed the Siberian Geographic Society, was exiled again, founded a library and music circles, was arrested for support of the revolution of 1905. All his life till the very death in 1917 he devoted to Siberia and siberians, wrote a lot of scientific works.
Rep.:  Lika, where from did you know so much about Potanin?
Lika:  My step-father is historian, he worked in Tomsk archives. I had read a lot of Potanin's letters to his wife and friends.
Rep.:   Lika, I am interested,why did you begin this work?
Lika:  I agree with Potanin, that education is nesessary to solve the problems, which we come across. I love Siberia, too, I wouldn't agree to live in any other place.
Rep.:  Thank you. We wish luck to you and your library.

Address of Potaninskaya Library:     Akademgorodok, Ul. Ilyicha, 21
Working Schedule:     Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday - from 15.00 till 18.00

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