National Library of Latvia

Last updated

National Library of Latvia
Latvijas Nacionālā bibliotēka
National Library of Latvia.jpg
The main building of the National Library of Latvia in Riga
Country Latvia
Type National library
Established29 August 1919(100 years ago) (1919-08-29)
Location8 buildings in Riga, Latvia
Size4.1 million books and other publications
Other information
DirectorAndris Vilks

The National Library of Latvia (Latvian : Latvijas Nacionālā bibliotēka) also known as Castle of Light (Gaismas pils) is a national cultural institution under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture of Latvia. The National Library of Latvia was formed in 1919 after the independent Republic of Latvia was proclaimed in 1918. The first supervisor of the Library was Jānis Misiņš, a librarian and the founder of the Latvian scientific bibliography (1862–1945).

Latvian language Baltic language, official in Latvia and the European Union

Latvian or Lettish is an Eastern Baltic language spoken in the Baltic region. It is the language of Latvians and the official language of Latvia as well as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 1.3 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and 100,000 abroad. Altogether, 2 million, or 80% of the population of Latvia, speak Latvian. Of those, around 1.16 million or 62% used it as their primary language at home. The use of the Latvian language in various areas of social life in Latvia is increasing.


Today the Library plays an important role in the development of Latvia's information society, providing Internet access to residents and supporting research and lifelong education.

The historical main building, Krisjana Barona iela 14 National Library of Latvia01.JPG
The historical main building, Krišjāņa Barona iela 14


Interwar period

The National Library was founded on 29 August 1919, one year after independence, as the State Library (Valsts Bibliotēka). [1] Its first chief librarian and bibliographer was Jānis Misiņš (1862-1944) who made his immense private collection the basis of the new library. [2] Within a year, until 1920, the stocks had grown to 250,000 volumes. [3] Starting in the same year, all publishers were obliged to hand in a deposit copy of their works. Since 1927, the Library has published the National Bibliography of Latvia.

Dissolution of the Soviet Union Process leading to the late-1991 breakup of the USSR

The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the process of internal disintegration within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) which began in second half of the 1980s with growing unrest in the national republics and ended on 26 December 1991, when the USSR itself was voted out of existence by the Supreme Soviet, following the Belavezha Accords. Declaration number 142-Н by the Supreme Soviet resulted in self-governing independence to the Republics of the USSR, formally dissolving the USSR. The declaration acknowledged the independence of the former Soviet republics and created the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), although five of the signatories ratified it much later or did not do so at all. On the previous day, 25 December, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and final leader of the USSR, resigned, declared his office extinct and handed over its powers—including control of the Soviet nuclear missile launching codes—to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. That evening at 7:32 p.m., the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time and replaced with the pre-revolutionary Russian flag.

There were significant additions in 1939 and 1940, when the State Library took over many of the libraries and collections of the Baltic Germans, most of whom resettled to the Reich. Among these was a large part of the collection of the Society for History and Archaeology of Russia's Baltic Provinces, est. 1834, the primary historical society of the Baltic Germans. [1] In 1940, holdings encompassed 1.7 million volumes, [3] so that they had to be stored in two different locations in the Old Town (Jēkaba iela 6/8 and Anglikāņu iela 5).

Baltic Germans ethnic Germans inhabitants of the eastern Baltic Sea

The Baltic Germans are ethnic German inhabitants of the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, in what today are Estonia and Latvia. Since their resettlement in 1939, Baltic Germans have markedly declined as a geographically determined ethnic group. The largest groups of present-day descendants of the Baltic Germans live in Germany and Canada. It is estimated that several thousand still reside in Latvia and Estonia.

German and Soviet occupation

During the German occupation of Riga (1941-1944), the State Library was renamed Country Library (Zemes bibliotēka), eliminating reference to a sovereign Latvian state). Under Soviet rule, it was known as State Library of the Latvian SSR (Latvijas PSR Valsts bibliotēka). [1] According to Soviet customs, in 1966 it received an honorary name, commemorating Vilis Lācis, a writer and the late prime minister of Soviet Latvia. From 1946, literature deemed 'dangerous' from the Soviet perspective was withdrawn from the shelves and could be accessed only with a special permit until 1988. [4] In 1956, the State Library moved into its new building at Krišjāņa Barona iela.

German occupation of Latvia during World War II

The occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany was completed on July 10, 1941 by Germany's armed forces. Latvia became a part of Nazi Germany's Reichskommissariat Ostland—the Province General of Latvia. Anyone not racially acceptable or who opposed the German occupation, as well as those who had cooperated with the Soviet Union, were killed or sent to concentration camps in accordance with the Nazi Generalplan Ost.

Vilis Lācis Latvian writer, politician

Vilis Lācis was a Latvian writer and communist politician.

Renewed independence

Since the reestablishment of national independence 1991, the institution has been called National Library of Latvia. In 1995, it received as a permanent loan the Baltic Central Library of Otto Bong (1918-2006), a collection pertaining to the history, regional studies and languages of the Baltic countries. [5] In 2006, the National Library joined the European Library online service.


The Library's holdings today encompass more than 5 million titles, incl. about 18,000 manuscripts from the 14th century up to modern times. [6] One of the characteristic cornerstones of the NLL, which characterizes every national library, is the formation of the collection of national literature, its eternal storage and long-term access.

The NLL is a centre of theoretical research and practical analyses of the activities of Latvian libraries. The Library carries out the functions of the centre of Latvia Interlibrary Loan, ensures the library and information service to the Parliament of the Republic of Latvia – the Saeima, implements the standardisation of the branch. Since the very outset, its main concern has been the national bibliography  [ de ]. The massive union catalogue Seniespiedumi latviešu valodā (Ancient Prints in Latvian 1525-1855, published in Riga, 1999) [7] received the Spīdola Prize in 2000 and was awarded The Beautiful Book of the Year 99. [8] In 2005, the Letonikas grāmatu autoru rādītājs (1523-1919) (Index of the Authors of Lettonica Books (1523–1919)) was published, [9] providing information about versatile branches of science and representatives of various nations, Latvia being the main focus of their publications.

The NLL includes several collections of posters (artists Oskars Šteinbergs (1882–1937), Sigismunds Vidbergs (1890–1970), Raoul Dufy (1877–1953), Bernhard Borchert (1863–1945), Niklāvs Strunke (1894–1966) and others). [10]


Digitising collections at the NLL started in 1999. At present the Latvian National Digital Library Letonica, which was formed in 2006, holds digitized collections of newspapers, pictures, maps, books, sheet-music and audio recordings. In 2008 NLL launched two major digital projects. is the NLL's collection of digitized historical periodicals in Latvian with the possibility to read full texts and search page by page. [11] Latvia has a tradition of Song and Dance Festivals organized every four years. The historical materials from the first Song Festival in 1864 till the Latgale Song Festival in 1940 can be explored in another digital collection of the National Library of Latvia. [12]

New building

Interior of the library Letlands Nationalbibliotek niveau 1.JPG
Interior of the library
Conference hall Ziedonis Ziedonis koncertsal (Letlands Nationalbibliotek).JPG
Conference hall Ziedonis
From the tower of St. Peter's Church Riga Petrikirche Blick vom Turm zur Nationalbibliothek.JPG
From the tower of St. Peter's Church

The first discussions about the need for a new National Library had already started in 1928, and the significance of the project of this century was further confirmed by the high-level international recognition. In 1999 almost all 170 UNESCO member states during its General Conference adopted a resolution, [13] calling the member states and the international community to ensure all possible support for the implementation of the NLL project. The continuous growth of the Library had made it necessary to transfer parts of the stocks into other buildings. Thus, in 2013, NLL was distributed between five locations in Riga. [14] Furthermore, some stocks were being stored since 1998 in a depot in Silakrogs outside the capital. [4]

These inconveniences finally convinced the Parliament to approve a new building on the left bank of the Daugava. On 15 May 2008, after discussions lasting for many years, the state agency Three New Brothers and the Union of National Construction Companies signed the contract on the construction of the new National Library of Latvia. On 18 May 2014, the main facility of the Library at Krišjāņa Barona iela was closed for the move. [15] In 2008, construction started according to the design of the Latvian-American architect Gunnar Birkerts [16] who has been tasked with the project already in 1989. [17] The new building has 13 floors [18] and is 68 m high. [19] Construction costs were given as 193 million euros. [20] 480 people work there.

As part of Riga's programme for its title as European Capital of Culture, selected holdings were symbolically carried from the old to the new building by a human chain on 18 January 2014. The new building was finally opened on 29 August that year, the Library's 95th anniversary. [21]

Today the NLL building is a dominant landmark on the Riga cityscape. It is used for a variety of purposes, regularly used for conferences and conventions. Among others, it hosted the 4th summit of the EU's Eastern Partnership programme in May 2015, [22] and a debate chaired by the BBC's Jonathan Dimbleby on 14 March 2016. [23]

Current projects

See also

Related Research Articles

Ventspils City in Latvia

Ventspils is a city in northwestern Latvia in the historical Courland region of Latvia, and is the sixth largest city in the country. At the beginning of 2017, Ventspils had a population of 39,286. It is situated on the Venta River and the Baltic Sea, and has an ice-free port. The city's name literally means "castle on the Venta", referring to the Livonian Order's castle built alongside the Venta River. Ventspils holds the national record for the highest temperature ever recorded in Latvia with 37.8 °C (100.0 °F) on 4 August 2014.

Gustavs Celmiņš, was a Latvian politician, who was the founder of the Pērkonkrusts.

Pērkonkrusts political party

Pērkonkrusts, was a Latvian ultra-nationalist, anti-German and antisemitic political party founded in 1933 by Gustavs Celmiņš, borrowing elements of German nationalism—but being unsympathetic to German National Socialism at the time—and Italian fascism. It was outlawed in 1934, its leadership arrested, and Celmiņš eventually exiled in 1937. Still-imprisoned members were persecuted under the first Soviet occupation; some collaborated with subsequently invading Nazi Germany forces in perpetrating the Holocaust. Pērkonkrusts continued to exist in some form until 1944, when Celmiņš, who had initially returned to work in the occupying German administration, was imprisoned.

Latvijas Skautu un Gaidu Centrālā Organizācija

Latvijas Skautu un Gaidu Centrālā Organizācija is the primary national Scouting and Guiding organization of Latvia and a member of both the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and the World Organization of the Scout Movement. The coeducational Latvijas Skautu un Gaidu Centrālā Organizācija serves 759 members as of 2011.

New Latvians is the term most often applied to the intellectuals of the First Latvian National Awakening, active from the 1850s to the 1880s. The movement was modeled on the Young Germany movement led by Heinrich Heine. Originally a derogatory epithet applied to these nationalist intellectuals by their mostly Baltic German opponents, the term "Young Latvia" was first used by Gustav Wilhelm Sigmund Brasche, the pastor of Nīca, in a review of Juris Alunāns' Dziesmiņas latviešu valodai pārtulkotas in the newspaper Das Inland in 1856. Asking who could appreciate such literature in Latvian, Brasche warned that those daring to dream of "a Young Latvia" would meet the tragic fate of the boatman in Heine's poem "Die Lorelei," a translation of which appeared in Alunāns' anthology. The New Latvians were also sometimes known as "Lettophiles" or "tautībnieki" ("ethnicists").

German National Library central archival library and national bibliographic centre for the Federal Republic of Germany

The German National Library is the central archival library and national bibliographic centre for the Federal Republic of Germany. Its task is to collect, permanently archive, comprehensively document and record bibliographically all German and German-language publications since 1913, foreign publications about Germany, translations of German works, and the works of German-speaking emigrants published abroad between 1933 and 1945, and to make them available to the public. The German National Library maintains co-operative external relations on a national and international level. For example, it is the leading partner in developing and maintaining bibliographic rules and standards in Germany and plays a significant role in the development of international library standards. The cooperation with publishers has been regulated by law since 1935 for the Deutsche Bücherei Leipzig and since 1969 for the Deutsche Bibliothek Frankfurt.

Juris Laizāns Latvian footballer

Juris Laizāns is a Latvian former football midfielder, currently working as a scout for FC Krasnodar in the Russian Premier League.

Ernests Blanks Latvian writer

Ernests Blanks, publicist, the first to publicly advocate for Latvia's independence in 1917.

Māra Zālīte Latvian writer

Māra Zālīte is a well-known Latvian writer and cultural worker.

Salaspils concentration camp

Salaspils camp was established at the end of 1941 at a point 18 km (11 mi) southeast of Riga (Latvia), in Salaspils. The Nazi bureaucracy drew distinctions between different types of camps. Officially, it was the Salaspils Police Prison and Re-Education Through Labor Camp. It was also known as camp Kurtenhof after the German name for the city of Salaspils. Planning for the development of the camp and its prisoner structure changed several times. In 1943, Heinrich Himmler briefly considered converting the camp into an official concentration camp (Konzentrationslager), which would have formally subordinated the camp to the National Security Main Office, but nothing came of this. The camp has had a lasting legacy in Latvian and Russian culture due to the severity of the treatment at the camp, especially with regards to children.

Skanste Neighborhood of Riga in Latvia

Skanste is a neighbourhood located in the center of Riga, the capital of Latvia, and is currently becoming its most modern part. Geographically, the neighborhood is situated in the northern part of the railway ring on the right bank of the Daugava, bordering with the Sarkandaugava, Brasa, Centrs, and Pētersala-Andrejsala neighborhoods.

Latvian National Opera opera house

The Latvian National Opera, Riga, is the national opera of Latvia. The opera company includes the Latvian National Ballet (LNB), LNO Chorus, and LNO Orchestra.

Bernhard Wachstein Austrian historian

Bernhard Wachstein was a Jewish community historian and bibliographer who rebuilt, expanded, and modernized the library of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien. He also performed important bibliographic work, particularly relating to the history of Austrian Jews.

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Riga, Latvia.

Egils Levits Latvian judge, jurist and politician

Egils Levits is a Latvian lawyer, political scientist and judge who is the President of Latvia since July 8, 2019. He was a Member of the European Court of Justice from 2004 to 2019.

<i>Madonna with Machine Gun</i> painting by Kārlis Padegs

Madonna with Machine Gun is an oil painting by the Latvian artist Kārlis Padegs from 1932. The painting belongs to the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga.

Berta Pīpiņa Latvian politician, writer and journalist

Berta Pīpiņa was a Latvian teacher, journalist, politician and women's rights activist. She was the first woman elected to serve in the Latvian parliament. Active in women's rights, during her time in the Riga City Council and the Saeima, she strove to enact laws and policies to promote women's equality and protect families. When Soviet troops occupied Latvia, she was deported to Siberia, her life was removed from encyclopedias, and she died in a gulag.

Matti Pohto, born 7 March 1817 in Isokyrö, in Finland, died 30 July 1857 in Vyborg, formerly part of Finland, was a Finnish bookbinder and book collector. Pohto was an uneducated man of peasant stock who is known for his collection that saved a significantly large number of pre-19th century Finnish literature.


  1. 1 2 3 Klöker, Martin (2004). "Bibliotheksgeschichtliche Einleitung". In Garber, Klaus (ed.). Handbuch des personalen Gelegenheitsschrifttums in europäischen Bibliotheken und Archiven. Vol. 7: Riga - Tallinn. Part 3: Riga (in German). Hildesheim: Olms. p. 41. ISBN   3-487-11405-4.
  2. Zanders, Viesturs (1997). "Bibliotheken in Lettland". In Fabian, Bernhard (ed.). Handbuch deutscher historischer Buchbestände in Europa. Eine Übersicht über Sammlungen in ausgewählten Bibliotheken. Bd. 7, Teil 2: Finnland, Estland, Lettland, Litauen (in German). Hildesheim: Olms. p. 145. ISBN   3-487-10361-3.
  3. 1 2 Zanders, Viesturs (1997). "Latvijas Nacionālā bibliotēka – Lettische Nationalbibliothek". In Fabian, Bernhard (ed.). Handbuch deutscher historischer Buchbestände in Europa. Eine Übersicht über Sammlungen in ausgewählten Bibliotheken. Bd. 7, Teil 2: Finnland, Estland, Lettland, Litauen. Hildesheim: Olms. p. 151.
  4. 1 2 "LNB vēstures fakti" (in Latvian). Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  5. Zanders, Viesturs (1997). "Latvijas Nacionālā bibliotēka – Lettische Nationalbibliothek". In Fabian, Bernhard (ed.). Handbuch deutscher historischer Buchbestände in Europa. Eine Übersicht über Sammlungen in ausgewählten Bibliotheken. Bd. 7, Teil 2: Finnland, Estland, Lettland, Litauen. Hildesheim: Olms. p. 152.
  6. Klöker, Martin (2004). "Bibliotheksgeschichtliche Einleitung". In Garber, Klaus (ed.). Handbuch des personalen Gelegenheitsschrifttums in europäischen Bibliotheken und Archiven. Vol. 7: Riga - Tallinn. Part 3: Riga (in German). Hildesheim: Olms. p. 42. ISBN   3-487-11405-4.
  7. Šiško, Silvija, ed. (1999). Seniespiedumi latviešu valodā 1525–1855. Kopkatalogs / Die älteren Drucke in lettischer Sprache 1525–1855 (in Latvian and German). Riga: Latvijas Nacionālā Bibliotēka. ISBN   9984-607-19-4.
  8. "About collection of NLL". Retrieved 31 August 2008.
  9. Bočarova, Rita, ed. (2005). Letonikas grāmatu autoru rādītājs (1523–1919) / Autoren-Verzeichnis der Lettonika-Bücher (in Latvian and German). Riga: Latvijas Nacionālā Bibliotēka. ISBN   9984-607-68-2.
  10. "Treasures of the National Library of Latvia". Retrieved 31 August 2008.
  11. "Latvijas Nacionālā digitālā bibliotēka" (in Latvian). Retrieved 2 September 2008.
  12. "Latviešu Dziesmu svētki (1864–1940)" (in Latvian). Retrieved 2 September 2008.
  13. "Resolution 38 adopted at the 30th session of the UNESCO General Conference" (PDF).
  14. "[Adresses of NLL's branches]" (in Latvian). Archived from the original on 19 May 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  15. "[Press release]" (in Latvian). 15 May 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  16. Berndsen, Silke (2010). "'Gut zehn Jahre haben wir über unsere Bibliothek diskutiert, aber gebaut haben wir sie nicht.' Die lettische Nationalbibliothek und ihr Neubau". Bibliotheksdienst (in German). 44: 930–940.
  17. "Architekt: Nationalbibliothek ist Symbol für freies Lettland" (in German). 14 January 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  18. Brill, Klaus (2 January 2014). "Die singende Schöne. Riga putzt sich für seine Rolle als Kulturhauptstadt Europas 2014 heraus". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German).
  19. "National Library of Latvia" . Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  20. "Jaunumi". Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  21. "Jaunā LNB ēka" (in Latvian). Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  22. Brössler, Daniel (21 May 2015). "Geschichte schrreiben. Beim Gipfel in Riga wollen die Staats- und Regierungschefs der EU unter Beweis stellen, dass ihre Ostpolitik nicht gescheitert ist". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). p. 7.
  23. BBC World Service report, 14 March 2016

Coordinates: 56°57′03″N24°07′15″E / 56.950882°N 24.120897°E / 56.950882; 24.120897