CHESTERTOWN A group of Russian librarians spent a week in the area,touring museums, getting to know the locals and of course, checking out our library system. Sponsored locally by the Friends of the Chester Library and the Johnsburg Library, the group arrived through the Open World Leadership Center. On Nov. 1, they spoke through a translater at the Chester Library. Tatyana Viktorovna Tikhonenkova was the only librarian who works in an urban area. Her library is in Tula, about 200 miles south of Moscow. We have a population of 600,000, she said. And we have 43,000 patrons at the library. She said that many people commute to Moscow for work, but Tula is an industrial and cultural city itself. Tikhonenkova works in the rare book section of her library, and said she sees books as old as 16th century. Our library is in a four-story building and we have a staff of 120, she said. Svetlana Anatolyevna Lyubchikova is not actually a librarian, but is an administrator at a library in a small town outside of Tula. She said that her little town has similar problems that American small towns face. Our young people are leaving for Moscow, leaving the older population behind, she said. She said her library faces tough financial decisions because of a lack of funding. I like this idea of friends of the library, Lyubchikova said. I will try it in Russia. She said the economic situation in Russia doesnt allow the library to have the level of support that American libraries do. Im sure we will find friends of the library, but not as much money as here, she said. Lyubchikova said she found our libraries mirror our society. I can see how highly developed your society is by your libraries, she said. State Sen. Betty Little and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward were both on hand, and Sayward asked Lyubchikova if she could lobby her government for funding. Ive only been working there for a year and a half, but I applied a petition for federal support, she said. T here is a program that supports rural institutions, and she did receive some support. When she was asked if librarians were held in esteem in Russia, Lyubchikova said yes. Historically, a librarian is a very prestigious position, she said. And it still is; unfortunately the salaries are not comparable with the prestige. The librarians all said they were very impressed by the nature and beauty of the Adirondacks. Linda Taverni was one of the local volunteers who drove the group around from event to event. They went to the Adirondack Museum, took a ride on the W.W. Durant on Raquette Lake and toured historic sites in Saratoga. One of their favorite stops was to the Iroquois Museum in Cobleskill. They were blown away by all of it, but at the Iroquois Museum, they were really impressed on how we are preserving our Native American culture, Taverni said. They heard about the spirituality and living with the earth, and they really liked that. They love to shop, she said. Svetlana wants a Barbie Doll and Legos for her children at home. The group visited Lake Placid over the weekend, which was particularly interesting for one of the librarians, Larisa Petrovna Chepeleva, is a hunter and has a daughter who is a triathlete back in Russia. Their translator, Inna Kogaeva, is from Russia, but has lived in this country for several years. She manages an Italian restaurant in Guilderland.