Wars are fought by soldiers with arms. But in Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia last week, resistance is taking many forms with even academics and staid librarians joining the fight, albeit unarmed. Libraries are repositories of knowledge and cultural wisdom. And the librarians of Ukraine have emerged as firm custodians of the nation's heritage and public image.
Since the start of (and even before) the active Russian invasion, librarians of Ukraine have been actively participating in the resistance. Libraries under the Ukrainian Libraries Association (ULA) have been helping civilians and military personnel alike by providing training in home care for the injured and also doubling as temporary asylums for civilians displaced by war. According to statements issued by ULA chief Oksana Bruy in the past few days, the libraries are also at the forefront of defending Ukraine in cyberspace by countering a barrage of misinformation.
In a February 23 statement, Bruy called out to the librarian fraternity across the world to support the Ukrainians in countering the Russian onslaught.
Referring to libraries as "places of security and freedom", Bruy said that "Libraries are a strategic weapon of the state in the hybrid war waged by the Russian Federation for many years!".
Reflecting on the role of librarians in society, Bruy said that libraries are places of power where people find themselves and librarians do their best to make everyone who comes to the library not only love books but also love the Ukrainian language and culture.
"The relevance of libraries in overcoming the challenges facing individuals, communities and society in Ukraine has become apparent during the last eight years of Russian aggression. Today, when we face the threat of an open war with Russia, you and I, Librarians, are aware of our importance and our responsibility!," the statement on ULA's official website reads.
Bloody hell. Looking at a message from the Ukraine Library Association concerning the cancellation of their forthcoming conference. it basically says "We will reschedule just as soon as we have finished vanquishing our invaders". Ukrainian Librarians, I salute you— Nicholas Poole (@NickPoole1) February 28, 2022
The bravado of the librarians in Ukraine is not going unnoticed. Nicolas Poole, CEO of UK's library and information association CILIP, tweeted about a message regarding the cancellation of a conference in view of the ongoing situation in Ukraine. The ULA's Facebook page has been active with updates from the ground as well as information for helping those affected by the war. The libraries together have also come up with an initiative to involve civilian Ukrainians in the war against Russia by engaging them to fight the misinformation battle in cyberspace. The "Internet Military of Ukraine" initiative is an attempt to bring together ordinary Ukrainians who cannot or do not wish to fight the war on the ground but want to contribute nevertheless.
While the Ukrainian army has been facing Russian tanks, artillery and bombings, civilians of Ukraine have emerged as a strong force of resistance in the former Soviet country. After viral images of elderly women distributing sunflower seeds to Russian soldiers or tales of unarmed civilians blocking tanks and scolding soldiers, the bravery of Ukraine's librarians in the face of war is now inspiring thousands on social media.
Libraries themselves have taken the brunt of the Russian shelling. ULA shared images of war-ravaged libraries in Chernihiv. After the shelling by Russian troops, the city's central library as well as children's library were damaged and no longer remain functional.
To avoid loss of precious information, the libraries across Ukraine are now trying to create a digital repository under the umbrella body 'National Digital Libraries of Ukraine'.