Fulbright Scholar from Russia, studying the Rutgers Libraries
Students and faculty at Rutgers who know the strengths of the campus library system might still be surprised to hear that an international scholar traveled halfway across the world to study how the Rutgers University Libraries operate.
Fulbright Scholar Victor Zverevich, formerly the head of the department of research and development at the Moscow City Library Center, arrived in November 2013 and began his research in the Alexander Library. Libraries Administration welcomed him warmly, providing him with an office and an open invitation to meet with staff across the system.
Victor’s research project focuses on “Virtual Space and the US Academic and Public Libraries: Structure, Operation, Services.” It looks at the way libraries arrange their “virtual” spaces (websites and/or pages in social media), the services libraries provide to their users in “virtual” mode (from websites and/or pages in social media) and users’ accessibility of those services. He chose to study the Rutgers University Libraries because, in many ways, it represents a close to ideal type of virtually connected library system. A cohesive central library administration enables individual library facilities on Rutgers campuses across the state to fluidly share human resources and library materials. The Rutgers library system also works with a broad range of regional and national library consortia, encompassing academic and public libraries, allowing the system to provide a robust range of services that no one library could possible offer on its own.
The Rutgers University Libraries are distinctive as well because they are situated in a prominent university, with a well-regarded library and information science school, and are a short distance to two major US cities – New York City and Philadelphia. This proximity further increases the potential resources and opportunities available to the Rutgers University Libraries.
As part of his research Victor has taken a close look at the Ask A Librarian, chat reference, electronic and media reserves, and interlibrary loan services at Rutgers as well the different librarians and staff who work to manage those services. He’s met with the Associate University Librarian for Research and Instruction Services Melissa Just, Copyright and Licensing Librarian Janice Pilch, Interlibrary Loan Services Head Glenn Sandberg, Government Resources Librarian Mary Fetzer, Media Services Supervisor Jan Reinhart, Dana Library Head of Public Services Natalie Borisovets, and others.
Victor also met with representatives of the School of Communication and Information (SC&I): Acting Dean Dr. Claire McInerney, Director of the MLIS Program Kay Cassell, Chair of the Department of Library and Information Sciences and Director of the Ph. D. Program Dr. Marie Radford, Director of the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries Ross Todd, and Associate Professor Daniel O’Connor.
Victor is no stranger to the United States and is pleased to be back. He received his Masters of Library Science (MLS) degree from Leningrad Institute of Culture in 1985 and began work in the library field. In the early 1990s he spotted an opportunity to broaden his perspective on the world of librarianship through the US State Department’s Program, the Freedom Support Act, which supported educational exchange programs. The office managing these exchanges provided Victor with scholarship funds that enabled him to spend three semesters in New York City and obtain a second MLS degree from St. John’s University in Jamaica, NY in 1995. He made many friends and professional contacts in his time in New York City.
A few years after his return to Russia Victor took a position in the National Public Library for Science and Technology, which entailed regular travels to the United States to participate in professional conferences.
Victor has already observed a number of critical differences between how academic libraries function in Russia and how they work in the United States. He notes that Russian universities and the libraries within them have restricted access to the public, only granting entry to those showing university ID’s or who have set an appointment with a university staff person. This contrasts sharply with United States academic libraries and especially those at state universities like Rutgers, which are open to the public and designate resources for their use.
Russian libraries also have very limited online resources, with large databases such as EBSCO and ProQuest and email reference available but there is still no chat reference or licensed streaming video of library video holdings. And electronic interlibrary loan is in the very beginning of development. Many of these limitations are due to economic constraints but some are also attributable to political or legal concerns.
Victor hopes that his research project will provide a framework for a regional network of services that can be readily adopted and replicated in Russian libraries. He is optimistic that policy changes by the Russian government, which allow broader access to resources, will provide important new momentum to the consideration of the framework developed in his research.
The Rutgers University Libraries look forward to seeing the results of Victor’s Fulbright Scholar’s research project, when he concludes his work in April. And we wish him much success in getting to that point.