Sofia is one of the oldest cities of Europe. In antiquity the city won recognition as an important Roman district center, and during the Middle Ages it was a stretegic Bulgarian and Byzantine fortress by the main road connecting Constantinople with Rome. The town preserved its significance of an administrative and spiritual center also during the Ottoman domination in the Balkans due to its medial geographic location with Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia then populated mostly by ethnic Bulgrians.
Sofia, the successor of antique Serdica, is situated at around 550 m above sea level, in close proximity to the northern slopes of Mount Vitosha, in the Sofia Plain enclosed with mountains on either sides. Due to its central location on the Balkan Peninsula, it connects Adriatic sea and Central Europe with the Black and Aegean Seas and with the Middle East.
Since antiquity it is famous fr its numerous hot and cold mineral springs. There are dozens of gardens and greeneries which give to Sofia a “grow up but not grow old” face.
Sofia hosts remarkable monuments of the civilizaitons of Thracian, Romans and Byzantines, of medieval Bulgarian culture, from the time of the Ottoman Empire, of Buşgarian Revival Period and of modern Bulgaria.
Sofia, meaning “Holy Wisdom”, since its declaration as a capital, 3 April 1879 , it turned into one among the modern, well–built and economically flourishing cities in Europe. It is a new metropolitan city of antique history with 1,397.000 people living in it.
Sofia City Library
Libraries are the living past; temples of intellectual entertainment ofr someones and gardens of childish happinnes for some others. As a chinese idiom says: “healthy mind in healthy body”, libraries are required and needed intitutions for our mind and body as well. İn total, they are– in a “must world” everyones’s second home.
To what extent does the main public library in Sofia meet this vital need? The questions like “What it is” and “what it isn’t” will be the main problem –questions directing this introducing part of Sofia City Library.
With the proclamation of Sofia as capital of the new independent Bulgaria in 1879 starts the collection of literature in city organization, economy, book keeping, dictionaries, reference books etc in support of the municipality’s activities.
The first catalogue of the municipality’s book collection was made in 1898. In 1908 for the first time in the municipality’s staff is mentioned the position of a librarian. In 1928 Bulgaria celebrates 50 years since its liberation from Turkish rule and 1000 years Golden Age of Bulgarian Literature. On this occasion Sofia Municipality decides to establish a Municipal Museum, Library and Archive.
In 1941 Sofia Municipality buys a new building for the Museum and Library.
Since 1968 Sofia City Library is in the former municipality building on Gurko str. In 1987 this building was closed for renovation and never opened again.
In 1990 during the Round Table Talks after the collapse of communism Mr Michail Nedelchev proposed the building of the former City Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party on 4 Slaveykov Sq to be given to the City Library. The new library building was inaugurated on 15.10.1990.
On 27.07.2000 Sofia Municipality transformed the City Library in Municipal Culture Institute Sofia City Library. The City Library is also Regional Library for Sofia Region by ministerial decree # 153 from 28.07.2000.
Since 1978 the Sofia City Library is legal deposit library which status was renewed in the new Legal Deposit Law.
The place in which the Sofia City Library is actually found is a meaningful combination of knowledge for free and that of paid.. In front of it a big “book bazaar” is found. There one can find books of different kinds. Eventhough not for free, they are cheaper than anywhere else (except library) No matter the historical and causal relationship between these two institutions, the existence beneath one another is very important in completing the circle of knowledge. The library is found near to the center of the city, and it is a quite good street frequented too much because of the shops, cafeterias and ofcourse the books bazaar.
Before getting in, one should better have a look at the outside. Influenced from the Viennese historicism and Secession architecture it offers a really fascinating outside view.
You don’t need to knock at the door… it is almost always opened to you from 9 am to 20 pm almost all week days and from 10 am to 14 pm on Saturdays. The workişng hours are written on the outside door (and on the website as well) so no excuses are exepted J
Though the inside part of the library is not that attractive as the outside of it, the hall, made all of marmoreal ,- a common hall of the library and the theatre, – leads you to many directions. Firstly at the right the ticket cabin and the entrance of the theatre are found. Next to the theatre, the newspaper room, with a librarian always there to serve dailiy and archival newspapers. A 3×3 m2 room with a big but old reading table in the middle of it and some 10 seats arounding it. It is not a modern room or place so that it can offer you a nice place to read you daily magazine or newspaper but nevertheless it meets the needs it aims to meet.
Still in the hall…a lift for the handicapped and a sign panel writing “библиотека” (in Cyrilic; the alphabet used in Bulgaria, means library) leads you to the library. Although the building, as a whole from inside, doesn’t boost one’s imagination, the hall is a combination of midieval frescos and modern architecture of marmorean. The hall at the same time it is used as an exhibition place.
As you start your maraton to knowledge by climbing the stairs, which viewed from upstairs looks like a real labirint; dizzying, but it is one of the most interesting views from the inside of library, you can easily notice that in every floor there are many many shelves full of books waiting to be read.
Beside the adminstrative and management departments, the Sofia City library possesses the departments of Library Collections, Services for Patrons, Children and Adoloschents, Local Documents of Sofia, Reference and the Art room
In the reference room dictionaries, enciclopaedias and governmental newspapers are found. Reference books can be ussed only inside the library whereas the governmenatal newspaper is already accessed online. these governmental articles are documents regarding only Sofia.
In order to loan a book from the library first you have to register. There is a room only for new registrations and gives you a “library card” depending on the time you plan to use the library.For example, daily users take a differnt color library card than those who use it for a year. Different colors for different status. After you register you can loan a book for 30 days. In case you want to renew the loan period, you can do it directily form the internet by sending an email to the library telling you want to renew you time. The online renewal is a new service Sofia City Library has started to use recently. For a second renewal of the book you need to come to the library. You can have a total time of 90 days for a book loan. But what happens if you don not bring the book in time?! You pay 1 Leva (= 0,5 €) for 1 month you delay.
In the refenrece room there are 4 computers where you can navigate the internet and use the library’s online catalog as well. The online catalog comprises only books dating from 1994 to today. Librarians are working on retrospective, in order t oto put the older books in this catalog. Books vefore 1994 are bibliographicallly accessed from card cataloges.
From the same server the catalog of periodicals can be accessed, but only inside the library. With a joint Project to construct a joint catalog of periodicals which are not found easily, Sofia City library, Plovdiv (the second biggest city of Bulgaria) library and 3 more libraries have established an important bridge between public libraries in the country.
In the reference department students and tecahers also can reserve books in distance as well as they can use ILL service which mainly provides materials from National Library and The Bulgarian American University library. For ILL from Bulgarian libraries the service is for free, only the post expensives are paid.
According to statistic of 2007 there were at that time 932 428 library units for 9 121 users, mainly proffesionals and university students, thus giving to the library a “scientific property”.
Coexistence between library and theatre
Allthough the library is a 5 floor building, not all of ti belongs to the library. Almost the half of the structure belongs to a city theatre. Some library stuff like pictures and paintings, some theatre stuff “like anything needed for any play” are placed randomly forming a real mess, a place “not comfortable and not easy on the eye”. İt is a common corridor between the library and the theatre which could quite well serve as gallery/exhibiton hall if well decorated and devided into two parts, one as gallery and the other one as a room for the actresses to dress in and to have all their stuff there.
At this floor (5th) there is a a more than 50 persons conference room and the storage part of the library. A floor down (4th) there is a section of Rare Books and valuable editions. We don’t know if it is accessable for everyone, or what are the conditions of use of it, but one thing is sure that it contains priceless books like incunabluas, fascimiles, books with autographs, first printings (fiction and scientific) whiche have contributed fort he Bulgarian spiritual culture , books forbidden in the past (it is a very somon action for many Balkan countries) …
The collection of the library is placed among all floors of the building. In the 1st floor, as we have said earlier, daily newspapers and periodicals are found. In the 2nd floor Philology and Fiction, ın the 3rd floor Social, natural and Exact Sciences are found. Books are placed according to Dewey Decimal Classification system.
A special and valuable property of Sofia City Library is the Art Room. Established in 1962 as as a specialized section of the Sofia City Library where collections of books and other information materials in the field of Arts were created.Materials found here are albums with reproductions, vocal and instrumental music scores such as pieces, full scores, scenic music, song collectaneas, folklor collections, and methodological literatüre, gramophone records, audiotapes, CDs, DVDs, and sound recordings, prose and poetry performed by famous actors, audio records of drama, speeches of politicians and intellectuals… comprising a total of more than 45.000 items of different media related to literature on Fine Arts, Architecture, Music, Choreography, Ballet, Drama and Theater Studies, Cinema, Art Photography, Industrial Design, and Numismatics.
Users can lend books, albums, and music scores at home, use the art perodicals and also listen and watch (CD and DVD players, gramophones and tape recorders) there. The room is well decorated with paint,ing and pictures and 100 year old piano is always there.
We have to say that this is one of the best parts of Sofia City Library.
Minorities “feeling at home”
Over the centuries, dating back to 3000 BC, the bullgarian race developed from three main ethnic origins; the Thracian, Proto Bulgarian and Slavic. Some muslim, many originating from Turkey, armenian and jewish communities are also significant.
Another best part of the library is that it has The Spanish, German, American, Portuguese and Turkish rooms with over than 200000 books in these languages offer opportunity for “international pleasure” and helps to minorites to feel home as well.
Written by Elsa Bitri