Academic journal article Alexandria

The National Library of Albania: Tradition and Modern Vision

Academic journal article Alexandria

The National Library of Albania: Tradition and Modern Vision

Article excerpt

A Library implies an act of faith

Which generations still in darkness hid

Sign in their night in witness of the dawn.

Victor Hugo



The foundation of the National Library of Albania (NLA) is far from being coeval with the beginnings of libraries in Albania. The first libraries in the country started several centuries earlier, in the early Middle Ages. Their activity had been attested through many historical documents, which give evidence of the existence of libraries in the aristocratic families or religious institutions.

The National Library of Albania was founded on 10 July, 1920. However, its collection history goes back to the very beginning of the year 1917. Since 1916 the 'Literature Commission', a joint Albanian-Austrian institution had been created and functioned in Shkodër, a north Albanian city with cultural traditions. At its meeting on 16 April 1917, its members considered it necessary to establish a library. In these circumstances a small but precious library collection, mainly of Albanological character, had been created, which served as the nucleus for the future National Library.

Only a month after the proclamation of Tirana as capital, by order of the Minister of Culture of that time, in 1920, the library collections were transferred from Shkodër to the capital. The decision was made to attach the National Library to the Ministry of Education. On 10 December, 1922 the Official Newsletter announced its inauguration.

During the first years of its activity, the library moved several times from one building to another. At the end of the Second World War, the NLA was located within one of the best buildings of that time, which is still serving as its Annex'. In 1966 the NLA was moved to a new building, in which it still remains. Currently, it occupies two buildings: the main building and its 'Annex'. After some years of building restoration, its 'Annex' was reinaugurated in 2008.

From an institution under the dependency of the Institute of Sciences, in 1959 it passed under the dependency of the Ministry of Education and Culture; the Ministerial authority, under which the NLA is organized and acts, changed several times. Currently it is under the authority of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports.

Legal deposit law

The first appeals to enrich the collection of the National Library date from its foundation. From 1920 until 1922, many circular letters invited Albanians, home or abroad, to donate books, periodicals and so on, even in foreign languages, to the library. A key date in the history of the NLA is 19 November 1922, when the Albanian government in its Official Newspaper required the prefectures to urge the printers to deposit four copies of each publication at the National Library. This new requirement can be considered as the first steps towards what was later called the 'legal deposit law'.

In the following years, by the special decree of the Council of Ministers On the obligatory dispatch of all printed materials to the National Library' on 31 May 1948, the NLA was entitled to receive five deposit copies of all publications in Albania, which provided the National Library with the possibility to play the role of the archival centre for all the country's publications. The decree has been changed and amended several times; currently, the publishers are bound to send free of charge five copies of every title published in the country to the National Library.

Mission statement

The NLA, located in Tirana, occupies a prominent place in the intellectual and cultural wellbeing of the nation. It is the primary cultural institution and the oldest state institution in Albania. It is the largest among Albanian libraries and plays a unique role. It has a scientific and public character.

The keeper of the national heritage as the repository of legal deposit of Albanian publications, the NLA is charged to collect, process, restore, preserve and to make available to the public the written cultural heritage of the Albanian people. …

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