October 22nd, 2015
The University of Belgrade Library is the oldest and biggest library building in Serbia. The building was built with donations from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace after Belgrade had been seriously damaged in Wold War I. Although the library’s purpose is to serve the university, it is also open to the public.
While there are many things to write about this visit the two most interesting things to me was the history of the building and the rare book room. I am not really sure why I never thought about the Carnegie program providing funds for libraries outside of the United States. Also the struggle to build a library for so many years and the dedication to see it through. I enjoyed looking at the rare books and was very impressed listening to the librarian talk about the books. I saw a joy that he had because of his job and a willingness to share that pride and joy with others. I think it is something that most of us can improve upon at our work.
This is my first visit to a Carnegie Library, technically my home library is one, but they moved out many years ago, so this is my first visit to an original Carnegie Library. The furniture in the reading room is original to the library and has the classic feel of a library, so many movies and TV shows are filmed here, and I can see why. The building is now protected and they are not able to change anything about it, so they make due with what they have. This is another closed stack location so that they have the space for the students to study. When the library first opened it was on the edge of town, now it is in the middle of town and the university has campuses all around town, but the library is still fairly central to all of them.
This is another library with a coatroom, and I still love it. My enthusiasm for coatrooms is tiny compared to our host’s however. She was so excited to talk to us and show us around, she wanted to know about us and what we thought about Serbia. Everyone we have met on the trip has been so kind and enthusiastic about what they do that it is infectious.
The University of Belgrade Library is notable in that it is a Carnegie library and they have declared it a historic building, so everything is original from 1926 when it opened. They also have a rare book collection, and have a copy of the first book ever published in Belgrade (sometime in the 1580s I think it was), and then their oldest book is an Arabic travelogue from the 1300s; and we got to see both of those, which I really loved seeing.