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Veronika Selega, the author of the "Future Library" project.

"I love Kyiv. As life began here, so it goes on, fun and interesting. Until I was 7, I lived on Sofiyivska Streeе that was a part of the Starokyivskyi district. Then I moved to Pidvysotskoho Street to my grandmother. Pechersk, where I spent most of my childhood, has seared into my memory as extremely green. This part of Kyiv means a lot to me. I studied at Gymnasium No. 117 on Luteranska Street and took the 15th trolleybus across Bessarabian Square. There was School No. 78 instead of "Arena" at that time. It had a swimming pool, where we went with the class. Then "Arena" grew, and the school was moved to another place. It was incomprehensible and meant nothing at that time, but now every barbaric abuse of buildings in the historic center is a scar on the heart to bear.

If I try to describe Kyiv of my childhood memories, I would say it was slower. In a good way. In the walks through the botanical garden, one could read a taste of life.

This taste is still here, but the city is so crowded, and the pace of life is so high that this feeling has become a great value.

The artists from the 1970s made the sound of that Kyiv, although I lived in the 1990s. Zinkevych, Yaremchuk, "Vodogray" and "Kalyna" bands. This association appeared probably thanks to the concerts, radio, and sound on the Maidan during weekends.

Flavor ... There was always someone baking in our doorway. Some neighbors would bring cherries from the countryside, others — apricots, and then they baked pies and sweet dumplings. My yard friends and I popped in every house and we got treats everywhere. The flavor of childhood remained sweet.

In everyone’s mind, there is a set of postcards with the views of the capital. In my case, it is the botanical garden, the yard near the house, the Salyut Hotel, the Honchar Museum, the Motherland Monument, and the St. Volodymyr's Cathedral.

The most beautiful park for me is Mariinsky park: its scale has impressed me since childhood.

Thank God, no one spoiled it with innovative sculptures or other fantasies, you know what I mean.

I love Kyiv for the people. We have an enjoyable level of interpersonal relationships. For example, there are many new residents in my grandmother's house, but all of them are more or less familiar. They greet and easily help each other. I also observe what is happening on the streets, how eager are people to talk, help the elderly, and give tips to tourists.

Social activity is a part of one’s outlook. I never agitate for doing the same, but I understand that I can't stop doing this. After the Maidan, I remember, there was an upsurge of social activity, thousands of public organizations were created, and now the sociology is showing a setback, which is normal. In fact, the public libraries project appeared in the same period, on the wave of the desire to do something useful, but at the same time very clear.

I have a friend, Daria Dieguts. Five years ago, during a talk about stuff that really matters, we created the first vision of what we would like to see in public libraries. Much has changed since then, but the basis has remained the same. Dasha now lives and works as a journalist in Washington, D.C., and comments on what we are doing with Andriy Brazhnyk, co-founder and project architect of the Future Library NGO.

Now the project is engaged in the reconstruction of two libraries. One is Library No. 115 in Troieschyna. It is luxurious, spacious, and located in the center of the district. The other one is Kostomarov Library in Nyvky. It is two-story, inclusive, surrounded by greenery, and very special. I adore it. Last year, after the renovation, we opened the Children's Library, named after Valya Kotyk in Podil (Mezhyhirska, 25).

The library is still an underestimated resource in the minds of Kyiv residents (and not only Kyiv). Just imagine that we have ten districts, each with 10-13 public libraries.

The library has every chance to be the most popular place in the district, proving free space for work, self-education, and leisure.

If we go further and talk about supporting a more global idea — popularizing reading among the population, how can we implement this idea without libraries? Promoting a paper book is one of the methods. But given the average cost of a good publication, people's real incomes, and the tradition of reading as a process, I frankly say that the road is long, challenging, and unlikely to succeed. Libraries are the perfect tool to promote reading, provided that they change externally and work carefully with the content.

If we take the country's perspective, the public library is no longer necessary and widely visited. The status has been lost. And what is status in this context? It is significance. We have to explain that we need the library. We can restore its importance following the example of many countries where the library's status has also been lost, and the role is uncertain. Today, libraries in Ukraine have two constant audiences: schoolchildren and retirees. Retirees perceive libraries very nicely: as a place of their comfort, social connections, where it is warm and cozy, where there is a lot of exciting things to read and see. There are often examples of self-organization in libraries, from tea parties to chess competitions. For students and freelancers, a library is an excellent option for work — it has a workplace, wi-fi, and silence. And a key factor — it's free of charge. Coworking is expensive and unnecessary if you have a library. It's just not enough people around. It feels like you're alone in the library, and it's kind of uncomfortable. All right. That's what we're working on."

Veronika Selega, the author of the “Future Library” project.


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