ALMA 2021: Moscow Meeting of Library Leaders at Inostranka by Svetlana A. Gorokhova and Daria Beliakova

On April 20, 2021, prominent representatives of the world library community took part in a four-hour discussion, which highlighted the role of libraries in modern society. At the anniversary session the 100-year history of the Library for Foreign Literature (LFL) was presented as an author project of its founder Margarita Ivanovna Rudomino and other leaders.

Each April LFL hosts an annual ALMA (April Library Moscow Agenda) international forum „Shaping the Future of Libraries”, which involves IFLA leaders and representatives of other professional associations. This year the forum took place in a hybrid format. Among its 147 participants were heads of Russian and foreign library associations, directors and specialists of federal and regional libraries of Russia, LIS specialists and representatives of professional media. About 1500 people viewed the stream at the Russian Federation Culture portal and you can see the recording of the meeting here.

Traditionally, the forum was organized by LFL specialists who are responsible for the LFL international activities and cooperation with professional associations. Svetlana A. Gorokhova, RLA Board Member,  IFLA CPDWL SС member, led the event team and moderated the meeting.

Opening the meeting, Pavel L. Kuzmin, LFL Director General, passed the greetings by Deputy Minister of Culture Olga S. Yarilova.

Quotation: “The difficult year 2020 motivated the Ministry of Culture of Russia to look with more attention to the activities of public libraries, to reflect on the contributions of library institutions to preserve Russian culture, to strengthen the national unity and to improve  the quality of life for everyone.”

Deputy Minister of Culture Olga S. Yarilova

The IFLA President Christine Mackenzie and the Russian Library Association (RLA) President Mikhail D. Afanasyev welcomed the participants on behalf of the professional community.

The LFL Director General Pavel L. Kuzmin and the LFL Deputy Director for Interregional and International Activities Miguel J. Palacio spoke on the leadership role of the Library in the development of international activities of regional libraries and showed how its complex cultural, scientific and educational projects are being implemented today. Among the presented projects were programs for teaching foreign languages and professional development, on preservation of the world cultural heritage, promotion of the Russian language, literary translations of classical and modern literature, international library dialogues, Diplomatic Subscription project, the electronic international resource Libraries as Witnesses of Great Victory and many others.

Speaking of the anniversary session, the participants took stock of Inostranka’s long-term cooperation with regional partners, its flagship role in the development of the library sector. Among those who shared their vision were Mikhail D. Afanasyev, RLA President and Director of the State Public Historical Library, Lyudmila A. Kanushina, Director of the Saratov Oblast Universal Scientific Library, Svetlana A. Tarasova, Director of the Novosibirsk State Oblast Scientific Library, Zoya V. Chalova, Director of the V.V. Mayakovsky Central City Public Library in Saint-Petersburg, and Natalia N. Grishina, Director of the Ryazan Oblast Scientific Library.

Quotation: “We have always felt the deep interest on the part of the Library for Foreign Literature in the development of regional libraries…as well as its need to improve life around it. Your visits to us, participation in the professional events make our community united.”

Natalia N. Grishina, Director of the Ryazan Oblast Scientific Library

This year the forum’s topic is defined as : ” Is Library a Leader or a Non-Player Character?” In this context, the «non-player character» is interpreted as a «character outside the game, with which interaction is impossible». This is the way the issue was formulated and discussed at the international, national and regional levels.

At the international level, IFLA President-elect Barbara Lison described how the Federation had reorganized itself in line with the global trends in the profession and how this reorganization would affect the future development of the entire library field. Following her presentation, Barbara Lison answered the questions about the demands on libraries in the future and about the work of libraries in the post-pandemic era.

Quotation: “The ALMA annual international conference at the Library for Foreign Literature gave me the opportunity to talk about IFLA and the leadership in the international library community that should inspire”

Barbara Lison, IFLA President-elect

The next discussion panel addressed leading national projects of Russia and the USA.  Director General of the Russian State Library Vadim V. Duda described the background and results of the national project „Culture” aimed at supporting Russian regional libraries and setting up model libraries throughout Russia. Loida Garcia Febo, an international library expert, ALA president (2018 – 2019) and IFLA Governing Board Member (2013-2017), spoke about the nation-wide leadership projects of the American Library Association.

The moderator of the third discussion panel devoted to the regional libraries’ leadership was Lyubov A. Kazachenkova, Director General of the company «ID Modern Library», Editor-in-Chief of the Modern Library magazine, SC member of the RLA Section for International Cooperation.

Heads of regional libraries joined the online forum and shared their ideas and practical experiences on the development of legal education, IT literacy, scientific and technical creativity, the tourism cluster, art spaces and other activities defined by their communities.

Quotation: “The well-thought-out and well-conducted event format. One looks, listens and sees for real: a new generation of talented and bright people has arrived. Young, beautiful faces, concise speech and, most importantly, clear understanding of WHY and FOR WHOM today’s library operates and implements new practices. Thank you. Very inspiring!”

Slava G. Matlina, library scholar

The Director of the V.V. Mayakovsky Central City Library in Saint-Petersburg Zoya V. Chalova spoke about the leadership role of her library in the development of the library sector of her region, about the system modernization of the Saint Petersburg  libraries and about their focus on socially significant activities.

The Director of the I.I. Molchanov-Sibirsky Irkutsk Oblast State Universal Scientific Library Larissa A. Suleimanova looked into the library’ role as a digital curator.

Larissa M. Magazevskaya, Director of the B. Shakhovskoy Astrakhan Oblast Library for Young Adults,  devoted her contribution to youth projects.

Tatiana P. Zhuravleva, Deputy Head of the Centralized Library System in the city of Norilsk, spoke about the development of scientific and technological creativity among the city population and the creation of FabLab, a well-equipped technical laboratory. Her presentation included a video about the opening and first outcomes of the laboratory’s operation.

How to create an art space in the library and attract creative people to the library was the main highlight of the two contributions: the first one by Anna R. Galeyeva, Deputy Director for Project Activities and Development at the Novosibirsk State Oblast Scientific Library, Head of the Da Vinci Casa Art Library Cluster ( and the second one by Olga S. Vovk, Deputy Director for Informatization and Development at the Murmansk State Oblast Universal Scientific Library.

It was decided to collect the best practices mentioned during the session (and many other projects as well) and create Map of Library Leadership which will be located at RLA and LFL resources.

Quotation: “Many thanks to the Organizers – our well-loved Library for Foreign Literature…! We had a great discussion that brought up a vital topic of leadership. What clever and nice leaders we have! Bravo!”

Svetlana A. Tarasova, Director of the Novosibirsk State Oblast Scientific Library

In conclusion, the LFL Director General Pavel L. Kuzmin announced that the Library for Foreign Literature, with the support of the RLA Section for International Cooperation, established the Rudomino Award in honor of the LFL founder Margarita  Rudomino and the LFL centenary. The award will be given to Russian libraries for significant achievements and creative approach to  international activities in the region. The first winners will be announced in a year’s time at the next ALMA meeting.

The tour of the Library for Foreign Literature allowed the forum’s participants to see several outstanding LFL projects, including the multimedia center on book history Gutenberg Universe, the educational cluster of the Rudomino Academy and national cultural centers: Francotheque, American Cultural Center, Ibero-American Center, Center for Slavic Cultures, Center for Children’s Books and Programs. All participants received forum certificates.