National Library of Latvia

Last updated

National Library of Latvia
Latvijas Nacionālā bibliotēka
Country Latvia
Type National library
Established29 August 1919(101 years ago) (1919-08-29)
Location2 buildings in Riga and in Ropaži Municipality
Size4.2 million books and other publications
Other information
DirectorAndris Vilks
National Library of Latvia

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). The current building was designed in 1989 by noted Latvian-American architect Gunnar Birkerts (1925-2017), who emigrated to the United States and made his career there. It was constructed in the early 21st century and opened in 2014. 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.

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 resettled to the Nazi German Reich. Among these collections 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).

German and Soviet rule

During World War II, Germany invaded Latvia and occupied Riga (1941-1944). At that time, German authorities renamed the State Library as Country Library (Zemes bibliotēka), eliminating reference to a sovereign Latvian state).

Following the war, Latvia was under Soviet rule, and the institution was known as State Library of the Latvian SSR (Latvijas PSR Valsts bibliotēka). [1] According to Soviet customs, in 1966 the library 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 until 1988, when the Soviet Union gave up control, could be accessed only with a special permit. [4] In 1956, the State Library moved into a new building at Krišjāņa Barona iela.

Renewed independence

Since the reestablishment of Lativan national independence in 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. 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
An amphora-shaped sculpture in front of the library. The surface of the sculpture is covered in letters. Sculpture in front of Latvian National Library.jpg
An amphora-shaped sculpture in front of the library. The surface of the sculpture is covered in letters.

The first discussions about the need for a new National Library began as early as 1928, and the significance of the project of this century was confirmed by high-level international recognition of the value of its collections. In 1999 almost all 170 UNESCO member states adopted a resolution during its General Conference, [13] calling on 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. By NLL had its holdings distributed among five locations in Riga. [14] Furthermore, since 1998, some stocks had to be stored in a depot in Silakrogs outside the capital. [4]

The Parliament finally authorized a new building to be constructed on the left bank of the Daugava River. 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 noted Latvian-American architect Gunnar Birkerts, who had been based in the Detroit, Michigan area since the early 1950s. [16] He had been commissioned to design the building in 1989. [17] He was inspired by the Glass Mountain of Latvian mythology.

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 has space for conferences and conventions, and other community events. 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

Riga Capital of Latvia

Riga is the capital of Latvia and is home to 627,487 inhabitants (2020), which is a third of Latvia's population. Being significantly larger than other cities of Latvia, Riga is the country's primate city. It is also the largest city in the three Baltic states and is home to one tenth of the three Baltic states' combined population. The city lies on the Gulf of Riga at the mouth of the Daugava river where it meets the Baltic Sea. Riga's territory covers 307.17 km2 (118.60 sq mi) and lies 1–10 m above sea level, on a flat and sandy plain.

Ventspils Republican city of 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 2020, Ventspils had a population of 33,906. 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.

Latvijas Skautu un Gaidu Centrālā Organizācija

Latvijas Skautu un Gaidu Centrālā Organizācija is the primary national Scouting and Guiding organisation 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 organization had 759 members as of 2011. Scouting activities began in Latvia in 1917 when the area was still part of the Russian Empire. After independence in 1918, the national organization was established and Scouting thrived in Latvia in the 1920s-1930s. Upon the Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940, Scouting was suppressed and not re-established until 1990, when Latvia regained its independence.

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.

Latvian National Museum of Art

The Latvian National Museum of Art is the richest collection of national art in Latvia. It houses more than 52,000 works of art reflecting the development of professional art in the Baltic area and in Latvia from the middle of the 18th century until the present time.

Riga Graduate School of Law

The Riga Graduate School of Law (RGSL) in Riga, Latvia is an autonomous law school in Baltic region offering Bachelor, Masters and Doctoral studies. It was established in 1998 through an international agreement between the Governments of Sweden and Latvia and the Soros Foundation.

The Jelgava massacres were the killing of the Jewish population of the city of Jelgava, Latvia that occurred in the second half of July or in early August 1941. The murders were carried out by German police units under the command of Alfred Becu, with a significant contribution by Latvian auxiliary police organized by Mārtiņš Vagulāns.

Salaspils 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 regard to children.

Šķēde Manor Manor house in Latvia

Šķēde Manor is a manor house in Šķēde Parish, Saldus Municipality in the historical region of Kurzeme, in Latvia.

Palsmane Manor Manor house in Latvia

Palsmane Manor is a manor house built in Eclectic style in the historical region of Vidzeme, northern Latvia.

Bellaccord Electro

Bellaccord Electro, generally known as Bellaccord, was the largest record label in Latvia existing in 1931–1950, then renamed.

Bernhard Wachstein

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.

Egils Levits Latvian judge, lawyer and politician; President of Latvia (2019–present)

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

Art Nouveau architecture in Riga Architectural style in Riga

The Art Nouveau architecture in Riga makes up roughly one third of all the buildings in the centre of Riga, making Latvia's capital the city with the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture anywhere in the world. Built during a period of rapid economic growth, most of Riga's Art Nouveau buildings date from between 1904 and 1914. The style is most commonly represented in multi-storey apartment buildings. Stylistic influences derived not least from present-day Austria, Finland and Germany, while the establishment of a faculty of architecture in Riga in 1869 was instrumental in providing a local cadre of architects. This included, but was not limited to, some of the first formally trained ethnic Latvian architects. As elsewhere, the Art Nouveau movement in Riga was driven by a desire to express greater individuality, local attachment and a more rational kind of architecture than that which had dominated during the 19th century. Stylistically, the Art Nouveau architecture of Riga can be further divided into four different stages: Eclectic, Perpendicular, National Romantic; and Neo-Classical.

Bernhard Bielenstein Baltic German architect

Bernhard Max August Bielenstein was a Baltic German architect.

<i>Madonna with Machine Gun</i>

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.

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.

Heinrich Andreas Contius, also Cuntius is considered the most important organ builder in the Baltic States in the 18th century.


  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. "[Addresses 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