I had the opportunity last week to see around the newly built, though not yet opened, State Technical Library in Prague, thanks to the kindness of Martin Svoboda, its director. Very different from its predecessor in the mediaeval town centre, the new library sits in a campus suburb a few stops away on the metro.
Designed in an unapologetically modernist style, the glass and concrete structure is brightened by the coloured flooring, showing the distribution of load bearing of the structure, and by the graffiti art which pervades the central spaces. In the interests of economy and sustainability, the building has no air-conditioning, relying on a traditional environmental control by opening windows.
The move of 1.2 million books is now underway, governed by a novel approach to shelf-arrangement; Library of Congress classification is to be used, with an automatic assignment of classification for each book, based on the existing UDC number, subject headings, keywords, and some other MARC fields.
The opening of the new library is set for 09 09 on 09 09 09; nine minutes past nine, on the ninth of September.
At a time when there is a degree of pessimism about libraries and librarianship, not to mention an economic crisis, this is an inspiring venture; particularly in its provision of spaces for integrating a physical and a digital collection, and for supporting both social interaction and silent scholarship.