By Norbert Donhofer
Shortly after the Olympia Book Fair in early June of 2009, the then President of ILAB, Adrian Harrington from London, Eric Waschke from Vancouver, and I found us in Moscow. The reason for travelling to the capital of Russia was partly an invitation of the Association of Antiquarian Booksellers of Russia, it was also an opportunity to meet some of them and build up relations between this newly founded Association, and, maybe the most important point, to meet with Professor Olga Tarakanova of the Moscow State University of the Printing Arts. This University, based on a huge campus in the inner suburbs of the City of Moscow, is home to thousands of students who want to study all kind of professions in the fields of publishing, electronic publishing, public relations, advertising, printing, costing, distributing, and, in a smaller section, antiquarian book selling and trading. The head of this department is Professor Dr Olga Tarakanova.
Adrian, Eric and myself had the chance to meet Olga together with some 15 to 20 of her students in the morning of a sunny Saturday in the lecture hall of the institute. We were welcomed by the Rector of the University, and, after a short introduction, we had to give a lecture about ILAB. Although this was rather surprising to us we came through that, and I should say that the most challenging part we had to fulfil was answering a lot of questions that came from the students! However, it appeared to be clear from this moment onwards that Olga sets a lot of power and energy into her ambitious program and there is definitely no question about the fact that she was an excellent and most experienced antiquarian bookseller if she would not have decided to follow a career at the University. She wrote several books dealing with different fields of bibliography, Russian authors, Russian imprints, and related subjects. Nevertheless she moaned about the lack of opportunity that her students could work with foreign booksellers (i.e. booksellers in Western Europe, U.S. etc.) to receive more experience. Well, this could be changed!
Eric and I had a lot of emails exchanged after our visit to Moscow, and there were also frequent telephone calls between Canada and Austria during summer 2009. Within a relatively short time we had set up an internship program for students of the department of Olga, being always in contact with both Olga Tarakanova, and the Committee of ILAB. Without the help of both it would not have worked out. The Committee of ILAB allowed me to proceed with developing this program, and, in the meantime, Olga organized something like a hearing amongst the students. A questionnaire had been set up to get some basis information about experience, language skills etc. of the interested students, and at the end there were some two or three who were chosen for a first round of internships.
I was, together with Eric, one of the masterminds in setting up this program, and I wanted to be the first to welcome students from Moscow for their internships. Sure, I was a bit unsure when I was told that, in a first term, two students would come to Austria. Those two were Alena LAVRENOVA, having already finished her studies at the Moscow State University of the Printing Arts, being head of the book department at “Gelos”, the most important Auction House in nowadays Russia, with some five or six years of experience in the antiquarian book trade, fluent in English, and, Anastasya ZHIKHAREVA, at the end of her studies at the University, also with some three or four years of experience in the antiquarian book trade, with language skills in both English and German (this would become very good at the end of her stay).
Now, my shop is not that big that I can employ another two persons, not to talk about that I am travelling a lot, and, that the idea of the internships was, of course, to show the students as much as possible. That also is meaning to show them every stage of our profession from purchasing a book, checking a book, collating a book, pricing a book, and offering or selling a book. Being absent would not have been helpful. I had received some feedback of other antiquarian booksellers and friends after the announcement of the internship during the Congress of ILAB in Italy (2010), and this was the moment to fall back on that. When the two young ladies arrived on Easter Monday, April 25, at 6.15 a.m. (!) at Vienna’s airport, the program that I had set up for them looked as follows:
stayed a week with me in Vienna, travelled afterwards to Amsterdam to meet the President of ILAB, Arnoud Gerits, Past President of ILAB, Anton Gerits, and a couple of booksellers. The reason for sending Alena to Amsterdam was simply that she is finishing her dissertation on ILAB, and who could tell more about ILAB as Anton and Arnoud? When returning to Vienna I brought Alena by car to Budapest, where my dear friend Adam Bösze, the President of the Hungarian Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association, employed her for nearly two weeks. At the end, Alena spent another week in Vienna, seeing some other booksellers, but mainly asking me questions that arose during her internship.
Anastasya Zhikhareva (“Nastya”)
travelled on April 26 to Munich to attend and work in the well-known German auction house of Zisska, Schauer & Co. where she was welcomed as I knew before: not as an employee but as a friend! After coming back to Vienna she “served” as a sort of secretary to my wife Inge – she is the CEO of the General Association of the Austrian Book Trade – in preparing and joining the annual Congress of the Austrian Book Trade. This was followed by a week in my premises, and, after this really hard week, a joyful week in Budapest with Adam ended this internship.
No, this and no further internships have ended or will end! It is the beginning of a hopefully fruitful and sophisticating cooperation! And, no, this is not being mentioned because on our last evening when not only Alena, Nastya, myself and several others whom they had met during the internship were desperate and had tears in their eyes! It is because we (Arnoud Gerits, Adam Bösze, Herbert Schauer, Michael Steinbach, myself and so many others) had met two enormously responsible young students (ladies) who were keen to enlarge their knowledge and experience, who were keen to enlarge their knowledge about antiquarian book trading outside of Russia, who were keen to improve their language skills, and who, after an eight hours day in the office, were keen to explore the museums of Amsterdam, Budapest, Munich and Vienna.
Pavel Chepyzhov, Valentina Rudnitskaya, Julia Kulyamzina
A comrade of Alena and Nastya, Pavel, travelled to Sidney, Australia, while Julia and Valentina spent several weeks in the United States and in the United Kingdom.
I am very grateful to everybody who has helped during this first and the following internships – to Anton and Arnoud Gerits, Adam Bösze, Zoltan Földvari, Herbert Schauer, Michael Steinbach and Ton Kok on behalf of all other booksellers, Gabriele Kohlbauer, who is a more than close friend of us and has studied in Russia for many years, and was kind enough to meet us and talk to Alena and Nastya in their mothers tongue (after weeks!), and to Inge, my wife, who has taken every opportunity to host one or both of them – thank you so much everybody! Special thanks have to be announced to Professor Dr Olga Tarakanova! Olga, at the end it was you who encouraged Eric and myself to load that and we have been thanked graciously!
And the second thing is: this should encourage everybody out there to inscribe for another internship! It does not cost too much, but it will bring you great experience and relations!