New plans include digitizing entire book collection

For Immediate Release ~ February 22, 2011

Yerevan, Armenia – Earlier this year, the Shushi Library began operating in a completely renovated and newly furnished space. The transformation of the venerable landmark, at a cost of approximately $227,000, was sponsored by the Armenia Fund U.S. Western Region.

The library now is poised to function as not only an extraordinary destination for reading and research, but a hub for a range of educational and cultural events. It will serve Shushi, Stepanakert, and nearby rural communities, helping enrich the lives of students and the population at large.

The renovation project has resulted in a complete makeover of the library, which comprises a two-story main building and a single-level administrative unit, with a total area of 624 square meters. Both structures were reinforced and rebuilt around new floor plans, the roofs were replaced, and the floors were covered variously with ceramic tiles and hardwood. Improvements also include the installation of up-to-date electrical and climate-control systems.

The administrative building consists of an entrance hall and four offices. The main building comprises a large reading hall, a storehouse, and a basement used for various library needs.

The people of Shushi have long cherished the dream of seeing their city restored and teeming with Armenian life, says Mikayel Khachatryan, deputy head of the Shushi Administration. Today that dream is becoming reality, through key improvements including rebuilt roads and the refurbished roofs of over ten apartment complexes as well as ongoing redevelopment projects such as the renovation of the Shushi Cultural Center and the Abovyan School, and installation of an internal potable-water network.

Khachatryan has high hopes that the Shushi Library will regain its former stature as a regional intellectual center. In the Soviet era, he says, the library had up to 60 visitors a day. Moreover, it hosted a regular stream of lectures and book presentations featuring renowned authors and scholars. All that came to a grinding halt with the onset of the Artsakh War. In 1992, when the residents of Shushi returned to their native city, what they found was utter devastation. Their beloved library, like all of Shushi’s once-vibrant institutions, was far from being able to resume its activities.

Now that the library has received a new lease on life, its management is hard at work to optimize it. The library’s book collection, comprising over 16,500 volumes, will shortly be moved back to the renovated premises, after having been temporarily stored at the Muratsan School. The management has already taken steps to considerably expand the collection. Another significant addition will be realized thanks to Moscow-based ethnographer Karen Yuzbashyan, who has donated his private collection of ethnographic studies, totaling 265 pieces, to the library.

Currently the library employs a staff of seven, with plans to expand it in the near future. One critically important position the management is seeking to create is that of a bibliographer. Another top priority is to digitize the entire book collection.

“One after the other, redevelopment projects launched in 2009 are coming to fruition,” says Ara Vardanyan, executive director of the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund. “And with the completion of every single initiative, we feel proud for bringing hope and joy to Shushi, as we continue to do our share in helping restore and beautify this magnificent city-fortress of our ancestors.”

Armenia Fund, Inc., is a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation established in 1994 to facilitate large-scale humanitarian and infrastructure development assistance to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Since 1991, Armenia Fund has rendered more than $190 million in development aid to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Armenia Fund, Inc. is the U.S. Western Region affiliate of “Hayastan” All-Armenian Fund. Tax ID# 95-4485698