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IU sponsors leading library science scholar displaced by Ukraine war

May 4, 2023

Tetiana Hranchak, a leading researcher in the field of library and information science, and her husband, Yurii Gryga, left Ukraine days after Russian forces invaded. Leaving their vehicle at the Hungarian border and boarding a train, they said goodbye to the country where they had lived, worked and raised their children.

Tetiana Hranchak, a scholar in the IU-Ukraine Nonresidential Scholars Program, speaks to students in the SLAV-U 223 Introduction to Ukrai... Tetiana Hranchak, a scholar in the IU-Ukraine Nonresidential Scholars Program, speaks to students in the SLAV-U 223 Introduction to Ukrainian Culture class in the Global and International Studies Building at IU Bloomington. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

After an arduous journey from Hungary to Iceland and Iceland to Chicago, the pair eventually found refuge in Toledo, Ohio, more than two weeks after setting out. According to Hranchak and Gryga, fleeing Ukraine was a difficult but necessary decision, given the risks associated with Hranchak’s activism and research into the politics of memory.

Hranchak continues her work from the United States thanks to the Indiana University-Ukraine nonresidential scholar program, which supports 33 Ukrainian scholars as they continue their research, writing and teaching. The author of more than 90 scholarly publications, Hranchak offers expertise in libraries’ role in the politics of memory, including preserving and transmitting historical memory, establishing critical media literacy and countering misinformation and propaganda.

The “politics of memory” refers to political influence over the organization, preservation and transformation of collective social memory. According to Hranchak and other scholars, the lens through which historical events are framed influences the public’s perception of history and politics from generation to generation, and the dissemination of historical information is often manipulated by totalitarian states as a method of control.

Hranchak conducts her research during a crucial moment in library science, shining a light on the Russian military’s targeting of Ukrainian libraries — the institutions that circulate information freely. Since the war began, Hranchak said many Ukrainian libraries have lost funding, more than 350 public and university libraries were destroyed or damaged by bombings, and more than 4,000 are under Russian occupation. The libraries that remain were forced to undergo a metamorphosis to survive.

“The war changed the contours of our libraries,” Hranchak said. “Our spaces were transformed into virtual worlds, bomb shelters, volunteer centers and support circles.”

A two-story brick building. The Central City Public Library named after V.G. Korolenko in Mariupol, Ukraine, shown before Russian troops shelled the building. Photo courtesy of Central City Public Library, Mariupol

During a recent visit to the Bloomington campus, where Hranchak presented her research, she referenced the Luhansk Regional Universal Scientific Library to illustrate the mission Ukrainian librarians undertook to preserve their nation’s identity. The library was under Russian occupation twice and eventually lost its building and funding. The librarians refused to give up, becoming a “wandering library” and providing resources to Ukrainians on a nomadic basis.

“Our goal is to develop a model of library service that will be flexibly implemented by migrant librarians in different parts of Ukraine,” the library wrote on its website. “We are without books, unless we look into bookstores, e-books and other libraries. We work briskly, we invent new things, we read a lot, and we know that we will win.”

Formerly a leading research fellow in the Department of Theory and History of Librarianship at the V.I. Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine, Hranchak said her sponsorship by IU Libraries has allowed her to expand her research and make an impact back home while in the United States.

“It is a privilege to work with and support Dr. Hranchak,” said Diane Dallis-Comentale, Ruth Lilly Dean of University Libraries. “She has shared invaluable experience and perspective with IU, and it changes the way scholars and librarians understand the value of information and scholarly communication.

A present-day view of Central City Public Library, after it was destroyed by artillery in 2022. Photo courtesy of Central City ... A present-day view of Central City Public Library, after it was destroyed by artillery in 2022. Photo courtesy of Central City Public Library, Mariupol

“Critical thinking, transparent practices in publishing and peer review are essential to the dissemination of scholarly output. In the absence of these essentials, research and knowledge are indeterminable from opinions and propaganda created with the intent to harm.”

Thanks to her sponsorship, Hranchak was able to develop a full course that will be made available virtually to librarians in Ukraine, and she will teach the course at the University of Illinois.

The course was inspired by a collaboration between the Ukrainian Library Association, of which Hranchak is a board member, and the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory. Earlier in the framework of the collaboration, Hranchak wrote a unifying guide for Ukrainian libraries titled “Implementation of the Politics of National Memory: Scientific and Methodological Guide” (2021). The guide outlines both scientific and methodical approaches and provides recommendations for libraries to implement the politics of memory.

“The guide is aimed at preserving the historical memory and national identity of the people of Ukraine,” Hranchak said. “Thanks to this help from Indiana University, I have developed a full program. All the materials, once they are finalized, will be accessible to download on the platform from our educational center connected with the Ukrainian Library Association. Every person will be able to use it for free. I want this course to be implemented in our educational process for anyone who needs it.”

The course will help students and librarians:

  • Become acquainted with the basic theories of memory studies.
  • Understand the role of libraries in implementing the politics of memory and social consolidation.
  • Form ideas around activities and approaches by libraries that implement the politics of memory.
  • Improve skills in developing library resources, products and services.
  • Improve critical media literacy skills.
  • Improve project implementation skills.

“I am proud to say that among all the changes, what remains unchangeable is the dedication of librarians to their readers and library work, the belief in victory, and the capacity of the library community,” Hranchak said.

The American Library Association, in cooperation with the Ukrainian Library Association, launched the Ukraine Library Relief Fund in 2022 and is taking tax-refundable donations.

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Julia Hodson

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