American methods for Russian libraries

PLUMMER, Mary Wright and Sergei I. POVARNIN (translator)

Rukovodstvo dlia nebol'shikh bibliotek. Perevod s 3 izdania, s ob"iasneniiami i dopolneniiami

[Hints to Small Libraries. Translated from the third edition, with explanations and additions by the translator]

Publication: Skt. Peterburg, I. Kh. Usmanov, 1905.

PLUMMER, Mary Wright and Sergei I. POVARNIN (translator), Rukovodstvo dlia nebol’shikh bibliotek. Perevod s 3 izdania, s ob”iasneniiami i dopolneniiami

Unusual Russian guidebooks for libraries, translated from the American work of a prominent female librarian. Fine example of the first edition, very rare: no copy traced outside Russia.

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Our Notes & References

First and only Russian edition of this guidebook for small libraries, authored by the prominent American librarian and second female president of the American Library Association (1915-1916).

Very rare: WorldCat doesn’t show any copy.

Plummer (1856-1916) studied at Wellesley College, as well as under Melvil Dewey at Columbia, later serving at the Pratt Institute Free Library, where she developed a library studies course and ultimately became head of the library. She also authored ‘Training for Librarianship’, another guide for future librarians and held a range of leadership positions in her field.

This Russian translation is based on the third edition of her work (Brooklyn, NY, self-published, 1902), but has been liberally altered by the author, both stylistically, and to account for the differences between Russia and America. For instance, while Plummer simply recommends the Dewey Decimal System, Povarnin begins by mentioning that a simple alphabetical categorization is more widely used in Russia’s often very small lending libraries. In order to encourage Russian librarians to adopt the Dewey system, however, Povarnin includes what he refers to as the first attempt to modify the Dewey categories for Russian use.

From its first discussion in Russia around 1895, the Dewey system remained controversial and it was not until the early 1910s, and especially after October Revolution, that the decimal system was widely applied.

A second supplement also details the Cutter Expansive Classification system. Other chapters address matters such as cataloguing books, structuring and furnishing a library, reader registration and lending practices.

The preface situates Plummer’s guide in the existing literature in Russia, and refers to its great merits. Interestingly, the translator, writing in the revolutionary year of 1905, suggests a “new life” may soon begin for libraries.

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Physical Description

Octavo (19.5 × 13.3 cm). [4], 84, [1] pp.


Contemporary green cloth, title in red to spine and front board.


About very good; boards lightly soiled; pencil signature to title.

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