Whenever the student Ekaterina feels like reading her favourite writers, she visits the Gogol Library. There she can read for hours and exchange ideas with other lovers of literature.
For me, the Gogol Library in St. Petersburg is more than just a library. It is a dreamlike place out of a children's fairy tale. Even as a little girl I loved books, but reading them in my own bed was not nearly so exciting as in a cave under a table. A blanket, a chair, a bedside lamp, a few pillows – and I had a perfect place to read where I could spend the whole day, the whole night, and even the whole summer holidays. When I visited the Gogol Library for the first time three years ago, it seemed to me that little Kathi’s dreams could come true here. This was the paradise populated by my favourite writers – Sergej Dovlatov, Joseph Brodsky and Nikolai Gogol, who slyly looked over at me from a mural.
There are many different places where you can read, also directly in front of the bookshelves | © Andrej Dudyrev
In the Gogol Library there are no strict “babushkas”, older ladies who keep watch and scare you. Here you can look for your favourite novel and devour it, sit comfortably with your legs crossed in a chair to immerse yourself in an adventure.
You may also cover a whole table with philosophical and artistic tomes to study and bathe in a mountain of notes – and not because it is a duty, but for fun. Or you can simply recover here from the hustle and bustle in otherwise beautiful St. Petersburg.
Every now and then reading even transports you into the realm of dreams | © Andrej Dudyrev
For me, the Gogol Library is also a place for intellectual encounters. I listen to lectures there and attend film screenings and plays. Afterwards, I have conversations with people who have interests similar to mine. People who know the poems of Marina Tsvetaeva by heart and people who discuss the poetry of Daniil Charms. People who not only drink coffee in St. Petersburg but also like to read – real books, with covers and pages smelling of print.
The way to the library is for me a bit awkward. And unfortunately I always have something else to do – sometimes my studies call, sometimes work, sometimes other urgent things. But now and then I remember that I can’t do everything and read all the books I want to - but at least I can try to do the latter. Then I go to the Gogol Library to admire the beautiful interior, to talk to interesting people and to read something old or new. Since the library is quite far away from my university and home, I seldom borrow books and instead read them then and there.
Ekaterina delights in literary discoveries at the library | © Andrej Dudyrev
I’m glad my friends of the same age now also like reading books and going to libraries. At the Gogol Library you can see exactly what the visitors have in mind. For example, if a person is sitting at the computer, it means she wants to work in a concentrated manner. If she is sitting casually in a cosy round niche, she is more into a reading adventure. If you want to show everyone just how relaxed you are, you can lie outside on the green lawn. The Gogol Library has something for everyone – that’s why it's so popular.
The Gogol Library in St. Petersburg got its name in 1952, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the death of the writer Nikolai Gogol. It was reopened in November 2013 after major renovations. Founded in 1918, the library remains faithful to the St. Petersburg library tradition, combining it with modern elements. For example, the rooms are designed to be multifunctional and can be used as work, lecture or concert spaces thanks to mobile furniture. The Gogol Library sees itself as a “third space” in addition to home and work or school. Its declared goal is to increase the popularity of reading and book culture, to support local citizens’ initiatives and to offer a variety of cultural events.