October 20, 2015
Two things stand out to me about our visit to the Belgrade City Library. The first is the idea of the closed stacks. Maybe it is just me, but I have had great experiences just wondering the open stacks of our American libraries. Sometime to add an idea or sometimes to find something interesting because I was bored and not sure what I wanted to read or research. I also felt a connection to their storage of the books by size in that is how we store our books at work. Although we have many more copies of each title the warehouse is set up to store the books by the size of the book. The second big thing about the Belgrade City Library was the Roman Room. That was lifetime experience for me to see and touch a piece of history. I think the library did a great service by deciding to preserve and share that piece of history and culture for the people of Belgrade and beyond.
The Belgrade City Library used to be a hotel and the library moved into building in 1986. I was so excited when we went into the room for programs and saw the Roman ruins. I had heard that there were Roman ruins in Serbia and I was hoping that I would be able to see some at some point; I did not expect to see them in the city library. Our host said that they did not know the ruins were there and were digging out the basement so that they would have some storage when they found the ruins. I loved that they decided to keep the ruins and do a room for presentations around them. I also thought it was interesting that she said they partner with the different embassies so that they can put on multicultural programs, bring in authors from other countries, and each country can represent themselves.
I did not completely understand the reading rooms when we were at the National Library, but our host explained it to us. Many students still live at home and do not have quiet spaces to study, the libraries provide the space, free Wi-Fi, access to the Internet and books, and the students are able to feel like students and be in the city. Suddenly, it all made sense to me.
There was another coatroom here, although we did not use it this time. Very interesting seeing coat rooms in libraries.
We were able to see the closed stacks and the book elevator that transfers the books from the stacks to the students. It felt like the storage went on forever, just shelves and shelves of books. I can see how all the books will not fit upstairs with the reading rooms, especially since the students like to study there so much.
The Belgrade City library is in a building that was originally a hotel built in the 1800s. During reconstruction in the 1980s, they discovered it had been built over a section of the wall around the city from the Roman period. So they have kept the excavated part visible, and built an auditorium around it, and now host all sorts of cultural events in there. Apparently with libraries being in historical buildings, many of the Serbian libraries have to be creative on space. Which means that most of the ones we visited had to close their stacks and put them underground. I hadn’t been to any library in the U.S. with complete closed stacks, so that was different. As someone who likes to browse the shelves, it does seem like patrons would miss out on some of that serendipitous way of finding new reading material, but I can see the necessity.