The story of the Bratislava City Library is an exceptional history. It was established as the first public library in the capital, at a time when neither Vienna nor Budapest had such an institution. During its existence, it changed its name eight times, and fourteen people took turns in its leadership. It went through four major relocations (from today’s location of the University Library to the Primate’s Palace, then to Suché Mýto, and then it spent 45 years on Obchodná Street). It established the first public city reading room, a separate department focused on children and teens, or a department of music literature in Slovakia. The specialized department for the blind and visually impaired is also unique. Since its founding in 1900, the library has served as a public library for all people who live in or visit the capital.
History of the City Library in Bratislava
Although the ongoing pandemic continued to affect the operation of the library, it also brought about the development of new services. Users of the library throughout Bratislava can use, for example, free bicycle delivery of books.
The library prepared a public competition for a new visual identity, the winner of which was Martin Kahan. In addition to a new logo and overall identity, the library was also working on a new website during the year.
After a forced break, the Bratislava Book Market continued its 14-year tradition from July 6 to 17. For the first time, from September 20 to 24, the library also organized the Vinyl Records Market.
After 15 years as a director, Mgr. Juraj Šebesta, PhD, ended his work in the library and since August 1, the library has been managed by Mgr. Tomáš Štefek.
The library commemorated 120 years since its founding with the Okremknih.sk campaign and the professional seminar Functional Design and Modern Architecture of Libraries.
Due to the emergency situation caused by the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the library was forced to close temporarily on March 11. Despite the pandemic, however, it provided its services in a more or less limited way during the year. It expanded its offer of e-sources available also remotely through the PressReader and EBSCO databases; enabled those interested to register online and order books remotely; and it also waived fees for late book returns. It also prepared several educational videos and broadcasts of events.
A new responsive online catalog has been available since April 27, in which the library fund is also accessible to the blind and visually impaired.
After a one-year break, the Summer Reading Room U Červeného Raka was open to the public again.
The city showed increased interest in the modernization of the library. A working group led by Michal Hvorecký was formed, which began to deal with the direction of the library, the possible interconnection of public library services in Bratislava and the relocation of part of the library to the Grössling building.
The library implemented a project for the restoration and replacement of windows, as well as a new facade for the building on Klariská 16. It also dealt with the reconstruction and prevention of the commercialization of the Summer Reading Room U Červeného Raka by Tera Trade, Ltd.
On June 18, the library’s offer was expanded with electronic books from the Palmknihy-eReading publishing house. By the end of the year, the library had registered 667 e-book loans.
The music studio at the Department of Music and Art Literature expanded its activities – several events and exhibitions took place here, and a new digital piano and guitar enabled the public to practice playing the instruments.
The library commemorated the 100th anniversary of the death of its patron, city archivist Ján Nepomuk Batka. It participated in an extensive memorial prepared by the Bratislava City Museum, including an exhibition and a scientific conference dedicated to this important personality from Bratislava.
A new library website from Freetech company was launched in January.
The necessary directions in the development of the library’s activities were indicated by a service satisfaction survey, which the library carried out from March to September.
After five years, the reconstruction of the basement on Klariská 16, which was named Under the Library, was officially completed.
At the beginning of December, the library launched a survey called A book I am missing, which identified the needs and various ideas of the library’s users.
The organizational structure of the library was changed; the library now consists of three sections: Section of Fiction and Foreign Language Literature, Section of Children’s and Youth Literature and Section of Nonfiction Literature divided into Department of Professional Literature, Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Department of Music and Art Literature.
The library has extended the services of the Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired to people with other disabilities. After providing a medical certificate, they can also be used by children with speech disorders, dyslexics, or holders of disability cards for the severely disabled.
During April, the library introduced a new-generation OPAC 2.0 online catalog from SVOP company.
With the launch of the Dawinci system in the Section of Fiction and Foreign Language Literature, on May 4, the library completed the overall automation of the library’s information system.
This year, the library commemorated the 110th anniversary of its founding. On this occasion, the founder, the capital of the Slovak Republic – Bratislava, awarded commemorative certificates for many years of work in the library to PhDr. Elena Veľasová, Mgr. Emília Moncoľová, PhDr. Eva Kořínková and PhDr. Ľudmila Bokníková.
The library, in cooperation with Ateliér 3, implemented a new designation of its premises, which facilitated the orientation of visitors.
The Library Rules and Regulations expanded the library’s services not only for the citizens of Bratislava, but also for all citizens of the Slovak Republic.
The library launched a trial service of automated loans through the library’s information system Dawinci, in the Section of Children’s and Youth Literature and in the Section of Music and Art Literature.
As part of improving internet services, the library made public Wi-Fi zones available in the study rooms in each library section.
After a six-year reconstruction, the city of Bratislava handed over the Summer Reading Room U Červeného Raka to the City Library for use on November 14. It resumed its activities as a place for relaxation, reading, and cultural experiences in the new season from May 23, 2007.
From January 1, Mgr. Emília Moncoľová was entrusted with the management of the library. On July 1, Mgr. Juraj Šebesta, PhD., was appointed as the library’s director.
From August 1, the library introduced free registration for children under the age of 15 and readers of the Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
During the weekend of June 18 and 19, the storage room of the Section of Fiction and Foreign Language Literature was flooded. Nearly 25 000 books ended up under water and were completely destroyed. The liquidation work was a major disruption to the library’s activities and required extraordinary labor. Many residents of Bratislava, institutions and libraries supported the library with book donations and various other forms of assistance. Thank you.
The library started working on the automation of the library’s information processes as well as making internet services available to the public. In addition to new books, the library fund began to be gradually reprocessed in the library’s information system DAWINCI. In total, more than 300 000 library units had to be reprocessed.
The City Library in Bratislava completed 100 years of its continuous operation. On this occasion, it prepared an international library conference, Public Libraries in New Europe. It paid tribute to its city by publishing a selected regional bibliography History of Bratislava. It was created in professional cooperation with the University Library and the Director of the Regional Library of the Archive of the Capital City of the Slovak Republic – Bratislava, PhDr. Juraj Koday, already in 1996, and when published, it contained 484 bibliographic records.
Since November 13, the Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired has also been barrier-free thanks to the new elevator. At the same time, a section for reading professional literature was set up in the department following the requirements of visually impaired readers, which functioned until 2010.
On March 13, the Mayor of the Capital City of the Slovak Republic – Bratislava, inaugurated the Section of Fiction and Foreign Language Literature in a renovated building on Laurinská Street no. 5. Despite the accidents that the library suffered during the year – in the spring and summer, the basement on Laurinská was flooded, and in August, the roof of the building on Kapucínska 3 was damaged and leaked all the way to the basement – more than 500 000 loans were made that year.
The Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired launched an automated system enabling the library to provide information on the composition and content of audio books, library registration, loans and book reservations.
After six years of operation on Biela Street, the Reading Room Čierny Havran was closed on January 20.
At the end of May, preparatory work began for the move of the Section of Literature for Adults from Obchodná Street no. 2 to the renovated building on Laurinská Street no. 5. The library fund of more than 105 000 documents was moved in 5 000 packages.
The Section of Funds moved from Obchodná Street no. 2 to Kapucínska Street no. 3.
A great rationalization of library work started in the Section of Funds by extending automation to acquisition and statistics. The form of the incremental list thus changed significantly after 93 years of being in written form.
PhDr. Elena Veľasová was appointed as the library’s director.
On May 8, the Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired became available. The specialized department on Klariská Street no. 16 was established in cooperation with the Slovak Blind and Partially Sighted Union and with the support of the British Embassy Bratislava. The department was inaugurated by Her Royal Highness, Diana, Princess of Wales.
On September 4, the Section of Music and Art Literature began its activities in the newly acquired and restored building on Kapucínska 1. It was created by merging the Section of Music Literature and Art Study Room, and together with the newly opened Artotéka Gallery, it formed the library’s art center.
The Section of Foreign Language Literature moved from Štúrova Street no. 9/a to the vacated premises after the Section of Music Literature on Obchodná Street no. 2.
The preparation for the cataloging of book additions on a computer begins.
After the Velvet Revolution, the Section of Political Literature was renamed to the Section of Professional Literature, and gradually, over several years, its content structure was completely transformed.
The reading room of newspapers and magazines and the study room of regional literature Libresso Čierny Havran on Wolkrova Street (now Biela) no. 6 became available.
In the Department of Music Literature, the services were improved by installing audio equipment for individual and group study of musical works.
According to the new organizational structure, the library was divided into the Unit of Services and the Unit of Economics and Administration. The Unit of Services had 3 sections: the Section of Literature for Adults, the Section of Youth Literature and the Section of Marxism-Leninism Literature (later the Section of Political Literature).
In the reconstructed historical building on Klariská Street no. 16, on February 9, the Section of Marxism-Leninism Literature was inaugurated. The library directorate, the department of methodology and the department of economics and administration from Obchodná Street no. 2 also moved into the building. A bookbinding workshop and a copy room were also set up here. On Obchodná Street no. 2, an art study room was opened as another workplace of the Section of Literature for Adults.
After the reconstruction that started in 1974, the Summer Reading Room U Červeného Raka was reopened to the public.
The Section of Youth Literature moved to the restored building on Kapucínska Street no. 3. The Department of Music Literature expanded and moved to the now vacant space on Obchodná Street no. 2.
Following the new organizational rules, the City Library was divided into the Department of Marxism-Leninism, the Department of Literature for Adults, the Department of Youth Literature, and the Department of Methodology. The library was assigned the building on Kapucínska Street no. 3, where reconstruction began.
After 8 years, the Regional Library was separated from the library and subsequently joined the Bratislava City Archives.
The City Library was expanded by another independent workplace – the Center of Political Literature, which was established on Lenigradská (now Laurinská) Street no. 1.
The study room and reading room of the library on Obchodná Street no. 2 was closed down and the Library for Youth from the Old Town Hall moved into the vacated premises. The library was renamed the City Library in Bratislava.
The Department of Music Literature was the first in the network of public libraries in Slovakia to be established in the library.
The Regional Library became an independent department within the City Public Library. Since this year, the library has also managed the Summer Reading Room U Červeného Raka on Michalská Street no. 26.
Following Act no. 53/1959 Coll. on a unified system of libraries from 1959, the library was renamed the City Public Library and entrusted with regional methodological activities for the region of West Slovakia. In terms of economic, financial and personnel matters, it was part of the Institute of National History of the City of Bratislava in 1959–1960.
The library’s branches, which were located in community centers, became the libraries of these facilities on January 1. Of the 17 branches in the region, 13 became community center libraries and 4 branches remained in the possession of the City Library. The library came under the administration of the city again and changed its name to the Central Public Library of the City of Bratislava.
The city library became the Regional Public Library for the Bratislava Region and its 15 districts. It came under the management and administration of the Regional Committee. This period was also the beginning of the library’s methodological activities and the publication of a statistical yearbook on the activities of Bratislava libraries.
The development of activities was unexpectedly slowed down by an order that the library building be used for other purposes. Instead, it was allocated the space after the former Moravian Bank on Obchodná Street no. 2, to which it moved and resumed activity on April 22. For the reading room, it acquired the rooms of the former Korvín café at the same address.
On October 3, the Hungarian library was opened here as a separate department of the city library, which, however, moved on September 18, 1952 to premises outside the city library on Štúrova Street no. 9/a.
The library moved by its own means to the building on Suché Mýto no. 17, where it was ceremoniously handed over to the public by the Chairman of the Library Board, František Komzala, on September 1, under the new official name of the Public Library of the City of Bratislava. In the basement, there was a storage space, and on the ground floor a book rental with an entrance from Konventná Street and a large reading room for newspapers and magazines with access from Suché Mýto.
On April 1, the so-called Greater Bratislava was created and the libraries of the connected towns became branches of the city library, of which there were 11.
Both the German and Hungarian libraries were shut down after the end of World War II. The revision of the library fund began; Kumlik’s systematic classification used until then was abandoned, and a mechanical system of organizing books according to format and in an ascending order according to signatures was introduced.
The priority was to find suitable premises for the reopened library. The city’s national committee first allocated to it the premises after the closed-down German library on the ground floor of the Old Town Hall, and a few months later a separate building after the closed-down Astória café on Suché Mýto no. 17.
On October 28, a separate department for work with children from preschool age to the age of 14 was created in the library as the first such department in Slovakia.
The public reading room was closed and it re-opened only after the war in 1946.
A separate German library – Deutsche Bücherrei der Stadt Pressburg was opened in the Old Town Hall on August 17, which received full support directly from Germany. 25 000 German books were removed from the city library and donated to the newly created library.
Records of the independence of the Hungarian library Városi magyar könyvtár have not been preserved. It was led by Margita Diossy, who had no librarian experience and took over the entire library system from the Slovak Public Library.
From October 1, Dr. Ján Lehký was appointed as the city librarian. He, together with the new library council, expressed dissatisfaction with its current material and personnel equipment. However, the city council did not deal with the state of the library.
Due to political situation, in the autumn of 1938, the city library was divided into three separate libraries. The Slovak library remained in its original place, the German library received new premises in the Old Town Hall, and the Hungarian library moved to Vajanské nábrežie. The City Library was renamed the Slovak Public Library of the City of Bratislava.
A section for the unemployed was established in the library’s reading room. It had about 2 000 volumes donated by local booksellers and private individuals. The books were loaned free of charge without a deposit and no penalties were applied in the event of a loss. Its activity lasted until 1938.
The library established its first branch in Tehelné pole, which was the first indication of the creation of a network of public libraries. In the following years, its funds grew to 25 000 volumes. In 1933–1937, other branches were established in Koliba, Unitas, and Trnávka.
Three departments of the library (Slovak, German and Hungarian) were moved from the mezzanine of the Primate's Palace to the ground floor. They formed one organizational unit, which as of March 1926, represented 24 244 volumes of books.
The library began to build a so-called Czecho-Slovak department and a smaller Jewish department. The first city public reading room was opened in the back wing of the Primate's Palace. It had a capacity of 100 seats and offered almost all domestic newspapers and magazines, a large number of foreign newspapers, and a rich reference library with lexical works.
The first library law no. 430 on public town libraries was created, which made the establishment of public libraries compulsory in every town and village. Recovering from the aftermath of World War I, the city library resumed its activities with the rest of the books and a collection that was returned to the city by the library of the former Elizabethan University. Until 1923, there was only a Hungarian and a German department.
Many of the city library’s books were lost or destroyed during the war, and the rest of the collection was placed in makeshift premises at City Hall. From a linguistic point of view, until 1918, the library offered mainly books in Hungarian and German. There were only 5 books in the Slovak language and a few editions of older magazines, especially Slovenské pohľady.
After the founding of the Royal Elizabethan University, preparations were made to establish a university library. Together with director Emil Kumlik, a large part of the book collection was to be transferred from the city library to the newly established library. City archivist Ján Nepomuk Batka, together with other members of the city council, had complaints about such a decision. He did not want the collections he had donated to the city library to be moved. Batka’s gift with some other volumes was eventually left to the city, and the city library was preserved, though in a much-impoverished form.
The library moved to the Primate's Palace. The offices were located in the back wing on the first floor, a book storage in three rooms on the mezzanine.
On October 1, A Pozsony szabad királyi Városi Közkönyvtár i.e., the City Library of the Free Royal City of Bratislava was established. It was opened in the building of the former Estates General (today’s University Library) with a collection of 4 345 volumes. The library grew thanks to the generosity of its supporters – in just three months, 1 143 donated books and magazines were added to the library. Its first director was Dr. Emil Kumlik, who drafted the library rules with 18 key binding points for the administration and visit of the library.
Ján Nepomuk Batka, a city archivist, an avid worker and organizer in the field of the capital’s culture, also played an important role in the beginnings of the institution. In the first years of its existence, he helped to solve spatial problems and subsequently donated his own private collections.
The material is processed from the annual reports on the activities of the City Library in Bratislava, while the older history up to 1970 is based on the publication: Mestská knižnica v Bratislave (1900–1970) / Processed by Z. Medzihradská - Netíková; Editor-in-chief, Vít Rak. Bratislava: Slovtour, ateliér cestovného ruchu, 1970. 54 p. Image attachment.