In an effort to diversify and include some institutions outside of the traditional Anglo-North American sphere, I’ve decided to take a look at Moscow’s Russian State Library(homepage in English). The homepage has links to five different social media sites, including one that is specifically Russian, http://www.vk.com, (VK, or VKontakte, is essentially a Russian version of Facebook). The links are easy to find and are located at the bottom of the side navigation bar, along with information on virtual reference services. This is a great place for them, because anybody hoping to contact the library virtually will be looking there anyways. Being a state library, it’s not necessarily surprising to see that they employ several different methods of connecting with their patrons and the world at large, although I’m a little suspicious of the variety of media. They have a Facebook page, LiveJournal blog, VK page, Flickr account and Twitter. Surely they’re spreading themselves a little thing?
The English-language version of the homepage has been translated well, and doesn’t appear to have been thrown through a translation service like other Russian institutions in the past (the Russian Science Academy famously translated its webpage to proudly declare that it was the “Squirrel Institute“). Presumably then, one would expect a language other than Russian to appear on the Facebook page. Unfortunately, that’s not so. The entire page is in Russian, with no equivalent English-language version to be found. The only page that comes up when you search Facebook for “Russian State Library” is essentially a copy of the Wikipedia page, which, although interesting, doesn’t quite serve the same purpose. However, they are friends with IFLA, which would indicate that it would be beneficial if they posted in English once in a while.
A quick look at Twitter reveals much the same thing. The library is followed by 582 users, and follows 102 other accounts. It is active, and ticks all the boxes for ‘things a library Twitter should do’. They’ve customized the background and added their official logo as their Twitter avatar. The account provides a link to their official homepage, and they tweet about events and post images to a series they’ve called “Pearls of the Leninka” (The library is named in honour of Vladimir I. Lenin, and ‘Leninka’ is its pet name). If I was a patron here, I’d love to follow their Twitter account. They evidently have a sense of humour, and they post many interesting things. They reply to questions, and are even tweeting about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation…but it’s all in Russian.
Although Flickr accounts are outside the scope of this blog, I decided to take a look at theirs just to prove a point. Their Flickr account is maintained in English. Obviously somebody on the staff speaks English, and speaks it quite well from the looks of it. The library even hosted a delegation of publishers from the UK! This isn’t surprising, given the fact that the Leninka is located in Moscow and its staff must be quite highly educated. So why then, don’t they post to their Twitter or Facebook in English as well? Twitter would probably be the easiest, due to the shorter message space. The social media accounts are easy for patrons to use and communicate some great information, but only to Russian-speaking patrons.
Now, I can hear you asking, “Well, it is the Russian State Library! Why should they have an English page anyways?” The answer is simple, and is even stated on the Library’s homepage. The world is effectively getting smaller by the day – more collaborations are sprouting up, and institutions need to communicate with each other. The homepage states that the “Russian State Library boasts of long-term work connections with peer-libraries around the globe as well as with the relevant international bodies, such as International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) and UNESCO.” Despite how you might feel about English becoming the international language, let’s face it. We need a lingua franca, and it just so happens that it’s become English. For the state library of the world’s largest country to have social media in only one language is a real shame. Part of having a web presence in the first place is to connect with patrons, users and those who are interested, and it’s a real limitation to have four of your five social media pages in Russian only.
Despite the linguistic drawback, I am tempted to use at least one of the variety of social media tools to connect with the Leninka. At worst, it’ll be a good way of practicing Russian, and at best, I’ll learn something interesting about the library at the same time!