Reading as a leisure activity became widespread at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The interest in reading increased during the First World War, which is considered by the author as an important modernization factor. During the war, the contribution to the expansion of the reading audience was caused by several factors: the growth of literacy of the population, the interest in the course of military operations, the “dry” law of 1914, the opening of libraries in the counties, etc. The studied documents include statistical information of the zemstvos on the distribution of the read books on subject, sex and age, and on the social composition of library users; the diaries of library attendance; the lists of books handed out more than 10 times; reader’s forms; the reports of the county zemstvos, etc. The diversity and fragmentation of information of documents should be noted. Therefore, the author's attention is concentrated on six counties of Perm province, reflecting the complexity and specificity of the socio-economic structure of the region. Comparability of statistical data on library work in the districts in 1913–1915 made it possible to study the dynamics of the number of readers and the change of the subjects of literature, the specificity and the dependence of these processes on employment and residence of library visitors. Wartime situation did not significantly affect the topics of the most read literature. The population of the province was of little interest in geographical, historical, religious, moral, social and political literature. The periodicals, on the contrary, were in great demand among the readers. This is explained by the need of people to navigate in the course of combat. The analysis of topics of the read fiction literature made it possible to ascertain differences in cognitive and socio-cultural requests of urban and rural population. The villagers, mostly farmers, read books of adventures and historical and ethnographic subjects. Urban intellectuals read books by contemporary authors on topical social issues. The conclusion is made about the influence of the wartime situation on the process of forming a general culture of reading in the province.
Key words: reading, leisure, informative needs, library, urban intellectuals, villagers, the First World War, Perm province.