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Grisha Balasanyan

Djrahovit Library a Soviet Holdover: Poetry Dedicated to Papa Lenin Doesn't Attract Young Readers

The newest furniture at the Djrahovit library is the set of four chairs delivered in 1989.

Everything is old at the library in this village of 1,000 in Armenia’s Ararat Province – the closets, the books, the floor…even the repairs are old.

The only new thing is the village pupils and students who use the library.

The building housing the municipality, movie house and library dates to 1966. It’s never been renovated. The library has always been confined to one small room. The movie house and cultural center have long since gone the way of the Soviet Union.

Librarian HerminehGasparyan told me that village residents love to read. That’s why the library has operated continuously since Djrahovit was established in 1950.

The library has a collection of 4,150 books and periodicals and 280 active users. The first new additions to the library since independence were the 56 books received from the Artashat Provincial Library just days ago.

Everything else on the shelves dates back to the Soviet era. Most of it isn’t of interest to library goers. It’s near impossible to get children interested in reading poetry and stories dedicated top Papa Lenin.

“We really need to augment our literature, especially tailored for children. Most is worn and tattered. I can’t suggest Tumanyan’s fables to the kids because the book is falling apart,” says Mrs. Gasparyan.

The librarian tells me that a recent children’s event called “Books are Wondrous” was a big hit with youngsters in the village. More young people are visiting the library but there isn’t much to offer them in the way of interesting literature.

She relates a recent incident where a child visited the library for the first time.

“I made out a library card for her and brought out our copy of Tumanyan’s fables. Probably expecting a new book full of colorful pictures, the child looked dejected when I handed her a ragged copy bound together with scotch tape,” Mrs. Gasparyan said.

The librarian recounts that during the last parliamentary election campaign, representatives from the ministry of culture visited the village and that she pleade3d with them to see the state of the library for themselves.

They toured the library and left, promising to send a collection of new books. Those books haven’t been sent since.

“It’s the job of the ministry to oversee the state of culture in the country. Small communities like ours don’t have the resources to order books,” she noted, pointing out that the bookshelves are braced with stones underneath.

Mrs. Gasparyan doesn’t share the opinion that the number of readers has decreased and that books have given way to the internet. On the contrary, she argues that what is lacking are good books to attract a new army of readers.

Marineh Ghazaryan graduated high school in June but still visits the library. We met up with her searching for the works of Armenian historians and writers.

“I’m looking for Parpetsi, Buzand, and others. I can’t find them. Here, you can only find a limited selection of writers. For the rest I have to travel to the library in Masis or Artashat,” Marineh said.

Mrs. Gasparyan told me she often is forced to bring books from her own collection to satisfy the needs of local readers and keep them coming back.

Djrahovit mayor Hamlet Ghazaryan said that the village municipality is doing what it can but that it lacks the financial resources to invest in new books.