Library History

The Shaninka library opened its doors on 9 September 1995. Teodor Shanin, one of the School’s founders, envisioned it as a key tool for developing independent thinking. Shanin’s vision was prompted by the obvious problem inherent in Soviet universities: the Soviet students were spending thrice the time their Western peers were in class. In the British educational tradition adopted by Shaninka, students mostly learn by independently reading academic literature rather than by attending lectures and seminars, which is why the library has become the students’ second home.

The library collection was carefully compiled so that the books would resonate with several disciplines at the same time and be useful for students from different programmes. Interdisciplinarity is still one of the book fund’s key characteristics: a book you might need for work can be found in various sections of the library. That is exactly why you should search for books on the shelves as well as the catalogue. Also, for everyone’s convenience, the library collection has been available to readers from the very start – you don’t need to fill in any forms to pick up a book.

Ian Bain was the library’s first director. Teodor Shanin proposed that he left Scotland and came to Moscow. Ian worked in the School for two years. He got everything up and running and then left to establish a new library in Singapore. Later on, he moved to Lebanon to create yet another library.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”*. The team we assembled was adapting and following my advice, even though my Russian was terrible and, probably, unpleasant to the ear. I was amazed at how calm my colleagues were in the face of incredible challenges in their professional and personal lives. I would also like to say that it was one of the most open-hearted communities I had to live in at the time.
Ian Bain, the library’s first director; *quote from “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

Ian Bain, Director of the MSSES library from 1994 to 1996
Photo by A. Artamonov

Library director Ian Bain and the engineer of the Information Division Sergey Leonov. 1996.
Photo by A. Artamonov

The Shaninka library had resided on Vernadsky Avenue up until 2018. The photo below shows the guests of the ‘Intercentre’ presentation in the library before its renovation.

Presentation of the Interdisciplinary Academic Centre for Social Sciences (Intercentre). 1994.
Photo by A. Artamonov

‘Intercentre’ brochure. 1995-1996.

British architect Dudley Yeo designed the library. In his interview for Shaninka, he explained what his vision was for the new space: “Russian libraries have traditionally been organised as book depositories, where you could come, order a book, and just take it. I am familiar with another, Western, spatial organisation model, according to which you can come to the library and be part of the process, have full access to all of the resources. The atmosphere in the Shaninka library tells you that you can come here and see all the books and they are all inviting you to read them”.

The MSSES library. 1996.
Photo by A. Artamonov

Library staff. 2003.
Photo by A. Artamonov

Shortly after the opening, students and teachers as well as guests from other libraries, foreign academics, political figures, and librarians started visiting the library. That is why library tours have become a common occurrence in Shaninka (which is true to this day).

Library research associate Olga Moskvina giving a tour. 1995.
Photo by A. Artamonov

Book exhibition in the library. 2002.
Photo by A. Artamonov

It is very important to remember the meaningful symbolic significance of the library. When you enter a university library, you feel like you just entered another world. To look and see – it’s another world. And that’s not because there are books and good employees. It’s because it is a physical embodiment of knowledge. And humanity hinges on knowledge.
Teodor Shanin

Teodor Shanin in the library. 1996-1997.
Photo by A. Artamonov

Ian Bain, Director of the MSSES library from 1994 to 1996
Photo by A. Artamonov

Karen Wilman succeeded Ian Bain to become the library’s second director. She worked in Shaninka for a year. Then Galina Karmishenskaya was appointed the next director. Before joining Shaninka, she had worked in the European University’s library, which is where she met Teodor. Shanin and the School graduates recalled that under Galina’s leadership, the library has become somewhat of a club frequently visited by students and teachers alike. Karmishenskaya and her team were also the first to subscribe the library to web-based electronic databases (such as JSTOR, ProQuest ABI-Inform).

Galina Karmishenskaya, the MSSES library director from 1997 to 2005.
Photo by A. Artamonov

Director of the Petrozavodsk State University library visiting MSSES. 2003.
Photo by A. Artamonov

The library’s team was its strongest advantage. Some of the staff members had undertaken a traineeship in England before they started working in the library. Each member of the team could give a tour of the library, everyone spoke English. “Those were very responsible people”, Galina Karmishenskaya recalled. “They were also creative and incredibly decent. We weren’t just a group of employees, we were much more than that”.

The MSSES library staffers (from left to right): Marina Sapunova, Olga Moskvina, Galina Besshchyokova, Tatyana Mayskaya. 1995.
Photo by A. Artamonov

Library staffers Irina Ibragimova and Pavel Arefyev. 1995.
Photo by A. Artamonov

Ever since the library’s first years, we have been adding new books to the collection only when approved by the Board of Deans and MSSES teachers. You could say that each bookshelf is a curated selection of publications.

Faculty of Law student Evelina Nesterova in the library. 2001.
Photo by A. Artamonov

Dean of the Faculty of Sociology Gennady Batygin working in the library. 1996.
Photo by A. Artamonov

In the late 90s – early 2000s, Shaninka had a calendar of obligatory holidays: its residents celebrated the completion of the intensive English course, the New Year, and Halloween. Also, the Pro Anima club created by Karmishenskaya would occasionally gather here. The club used to arrange meetings with teachers and the School’s allies. The first session of every year would always start with Teodor telling everyone stories from his life. Sometimes, teachers would invite their friends to those meetings and they would play guitar and sing songs. The club also used to arrange various trips. Students, staffers, and teachers would ride in the same bus to places like Yaroslavl or Rostov and visit museums, often seeing the School’s graduates among the employees.

MSSES’ Rector Teodor Shanin as a “New Year’s sequoia” at the New Year’s party organised by the Faculty of Cultural Project Management. 2000.
Photo by A. Artamonov

Student party. 2001.
Photo by A. Artamonov

After Galina Karmishenskaya left, her position was filled by Galina Zinina, who had previously worked at the Russian State Public Historical Library. At the time, the Shaninka library was leading a strict academic life and continuing to maintain the educational process while promptly responding to the requests of the growing student community. It was during that time that the School first introduced undergraduate programmes.

The library was engaged in creating electronic anthologies, among other things. It was not only digitising materials but also making compilations with links to web resources on specific topics. During this period, the library established its website that displayed all the available resources as well as lists of new acquisitions.

Under Galina Zinina’s leadership, the library’s team formed that ended up working together for the next 12 years.

Galina Zinina, library director from 2007 to 2017.
Photo by A. Artamonov

The library on graduation day. 2012.
Photo by A. Zamyatina

In December 2018, we moved to the very heart of Moscow, Gazetny Lane. Nicholas Champkins was the architect and engineer of the new library, while Alisa Mozharova designed the space.

The library looks different now. However, just as it did a quarter of a century ago, the library still puts focus on readers, their needs and dreams. The new library team learned from their colleagues’ experience: they not only update the collection but also maintain a comfortable working environment for the readers, strive to satisfy the enquiries submitted by the School’s community, and initiate the dialogue on research, contemporary academic worlds, and their stumbling blocks.

The library in the Gazetny Lane campus.
Photo by E. Makarov

The library’s current team (from left to right): Natasha Vinokurova, Liza Kanatova, Polina Kolozaridi, Veronika Khomyakova, Olesya Malyar, Elena Khomutinnikova, Nina Gondarenko.
Photo by E. Makarov

Just like in the old days, the new library serves as the School’s living room where Shaninka residents celebrate holidays together.

New Year’s party 2020.
Photo by E. Makarov

Biblionight 2019.
Photo by E. Makarov

What have we been working on at the new location in the last two years? Check out our 2019 report: