The regional library in Žilina

Antona Bernoláka No. 47

The regional library in Žilina is one of the most important public libraries in Slovakia. It has a leading position in the public library system in the Žilina Self-Governing Region, overseeing the methodological procedures of libraries in the region. It is also the town library for Žilina and a community centre catering to the broadest possible cross-section of the population and their diverse interests.

Contacts: Ul. A. Bernoláka 47, 011 77 Žilina
Centre: +421 41 7233090
Vlčince: +421 41 5656450

Branches: Hájik (elementary school), Vlčince (Ul. Sv. Cyrila a Metoda 1), Trnové (cultural centre), Bytčica (cultural centre), Strážov (nursery school), Solinky (primary school on Gaštanová ulica)

The first duty of a library is to provide library and information services for the broadest cross-section of the population and their diverse study, leisure and professional interests. These include:
- the lending of fiction and non-fiction books for children and adults (novels, specialised monographs, textbooks, the collection of laws, standards), 
- the lending of the daily press,
- the lending of professional and social periodicals,
- the lending of e-books, 
- the lending of board games,
- inter-library loans from the collections of other libraries,
- the possibility to return borrowed books via Bibliobox,
- access to the internet, word processing, printing,
- bibliographical research and access to EBSCO databases,
- the services of the British Centre, which lends literature in English including up-to-date English language teaching and study materials,
- being a point of contact for the Industrial Property Office,
- the Polish Club Library, foreign language literature in Czech, German, French, Spanish and other languages,
- reprographic services – copying from documents in the library’s collection.

At present the library operates its central branch and 6 service points, the largest of which is a branch in the suburb of Vlčince. Three of the branches have electronic connections to the central branch and manage loans online using Clavius library-information software, which the library implemented in 2012. Fast and comfortable access to information and library resources changes the composition of visits to the library; the current ratio is 75% of visits in person and 25% virtual visits. Online visitors use the Carmen electronic catalogue to search for documents, reserve books and extend the loan period; they can send requests to purchase new books and so on. The library has become a modern information institution.

As a public library, the Regional Library provides internet access for its patrons at two locations – the central branch and the Vlčince branch. Although the number of visitors using internet services is decreasing as more people have internet access as home, the library still plays an important role for visitors to the town and tourists, socially vulnerable groups and older people, who can get help with their searches from library staff. The growth of internet access provides new communication opportunities for the library, which tries to keep in touch with the public through its website, social media channels and the Skype service. Modern electronic media are also influencing the library’s work with its collections and databases. Users with e-book readers have access to a range of e-books and can borrow e-books using the platform.

The library also promotes traditional forms of entertainment through the board games club, which lends games for library members to play on and off the premises, including regular meetings for games in the library.

The most recent of the library’s specialised departments is the British Centre, which opened in May 2007. It has a wide range of books and periodicals in English including special documents for teaching and studying the English language and contemporary British literature. It also provides a range of additional services for teachers, students and anybody interested in the English language, including reading clubs and workshops which are attended by many teachers.

In 2007 the library, in cooperation with the Polish Club in the Žilina region, opened the Polish Club Library to provide literature for people of all ages belonging to the Polish minority in the Žilina area.

The library provides a venue for many cultural and social events, exhibitions and meetings. It hosts seminars, meetings with writers and educational events and it organises traditional activities for motivating children and adolescent readers in cooperation with schools.
The library also organises educational events for senior citizens and disadvantaged groups; the first such projects were computer courses designed to teach the basics of using a PC but more advanced courses have now been added. In 2013 the library began implementing a new education programme:
Memory training for seniors designed to activate their memory skills. The library staff highly appreciate their cooperation with the University of the Third Age, whose students come to the library as lecturers and as organisers of creative workshops.
An interesting development in the vicinity of the library is the Literary Park, which was built on land under the library’s administration in 2005. The park is used as a summer reading room and renovation in 2014 has made it an attractive venue for literary seminars, creative workshops and other library events and leisure activities of the local population.

The Regional Library in Žilina aims to serve the broader community beyond its users by providing a providing a meeting place for everyone interested in civic affairs and culture; its goal is to be a community centre that attracts people with the most diverse interests and social and information needs. Under the concept People for People, the library creates a space for amateur artists to present their own work in the library and for specialists in various areas to share their knowledge with others. Exhibitions have included shows by photographers, painters, amateur craftspeople such as lace makers, wire workers, potters and woodcarvers and the clients of social service homes as well as presentations of the literary and visual works of children.

In its 90-year history, the library has welcomed many Slovak and foreign writers and others involved in the production of books, colleagues from other Slovak libraries, representatives of many foreign educational and cultural institutions from Czechia, Russia, Poland, Germany, France, Lithuania, Portugal, Italy and Spain, representatives of foreign non-governmental organisations, Slovak people living abroad, major figures in political, cultural and social life, and diplomats. In projects carried out under the GRUNDTVIG Learning Partnerships programme, the library has established valuable partnerships and friendships with libraries and librarians in the Czech Republic, Poland, Spain and Romania.

Groups that meet in the library include the Czech Club in Žilina, the Žilina branch of the Slovak Tourist Club and the Slovak Union for Disabled People. The library works closely with regional branch of the Association of Slovak Writers and “Zbor Žilincov” (the Union of native citizens of Zilina) in organising literary events. Since 2003 the library has been a contact and information point for the Industrial Property Office of the Slovak Republic and at the end of 2004 it became a partner library of the Slovak Parliamentary Library.

The library was one of the first cultural institutions in the town to provide barrier-free access for people with disabilities who use wheelchairs and for parents pushing prams.

For people who are blind or visually impaired and people with other physical disabilities, the library provides a range of audio books including world and Slovak novels as well as a selection of non-fiction. 

The library runs a delivery service to bring documents from its collection to people who are immobile at their place of residence.

The library has significantly increased its publication activities in recent years; in 2013 it published Myšlienky Jána Pavla II. (The Thinking of John Paul II) and a Duchaplný cestopis po stopách Jána Pavla II. v našich regiónoch (Spiritual Travelogue in the Footsteps of John Paul II in our Regions); in 2014 it published an anthology of Slovak and Czech poetry and prose Spoluhlasom/Spoluhlasem.  The library’s publication activity was strongly supported by the implementation of projects under a programme for cross-border cooperation with Czechia and Poland that enabled the library to build up or strengthen ties with four partner libraries: Ksiaznica Beskidzka in Bielsko-Biala, Knihovna Města Ostrava in Ostrava, Městska knihovna in Frydek-Mistek and Knihovna Kroměřížska in Kromeriz.
Additionally, the library publishes guides for the participants in its training courses, bibliographies, leaflets and educational materials (maps, Pelmanism sets and bookmarks).

In 2006 the library won an award from the Slovak Library Association for its activities, in 2007 and 2014 it received a certificate of gratitude for its contribution to the innovative development of the Žilina Region from the President of the Žilina Self-Governing Region, Juraj Blanár for the projects Cultural and Information Services for Disadvantaged Citizens of the Region and The Spectrum of Innovative Services of the Regional Library in Žilina for the Benefit of Users.

The history of public libraries in Žilina begins with the foundation of the town library in 1924. Privately owned libraries and organisational libraries had of course existed much earlier. Primary and secondary sources indicate that the Žilina lower grammar school, known as the Academy, had an extensive library in the mid-16th century. The Dadan printshop, which operated from 1665 to 1717 played an important role in cultivating book culture by printing books in the town, mainly on religious topics, in multiple languages. The Jesuit and, especially, the Franciscan orders had large libraries. The Franciscans had 1,500 volumes in 1716. There was another well-stocked library at the Catholic Grammar School, which had 3,312 volumes in 1912. The Roman Catholic orphanage had 490 volumes. There were books in various institutions and schools. The public grammar school had 2,418 volumes. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, there were several printing shops, book shops and bookbinding shops in the town but there was no publishing house.  This gap was filled in 1920 with the establishment of the Trávniček publishing house, which published many books in several genres in Žilina until 1938.
In 1919 the National Assembly of Czechoslovakia passed the Libraries Act, which provided for the establishment of public libraries as an element of public education and stipulated that towns and villages should provide funding for their establishment and operation. Despite initial problems with space and funding, the town managed to establish a municipal public library in the Old Town Hall at what is now Mariánske námestie 1 in 1919. It began providing library services on 15 October 1924 with 202 books provided by the Ministry of Education through the Matica slovenská organisation. The library had a budget of 18,000 crowns. In its first year it had 730 books, 250 readers and 5,040 loans. It was open every day from 18:00 to 19:00. The first volunteer librarian was Raymund Žiška, a teacher in the public grammar school. The library expanded its activity with the opening of a public reading room on 13 March 1927. It was open from 18:00 to 21:00 and had on average 70 readers per day. From 1931 the library was managed by a professional librarian, the first of whom was Andrej Hvizdák (1883 - 1948). He published poems, articles and other texts in Robotnícke noviny (Workers’ Newspaper) under the pseudonym Podlučinský. He was a popular person in the town who served as mayor in 1923 and 1931–1938. He continued to work in the library while he was the mayor. He remained the librarian until 1947, when he retired. The library gradually acquired more volumes and by 1939 it had 5,474 books. It was open on Tuesday and Wednesday for young people and on Thursday and Saturday for adults, from 15:00 to 19:00. It had a total of 621 readers. In 1941 the library had 6,390 books and 800 readers. After 1931, the library moved to a new location in the municipal offices in the Financial Palace. During the Slovak Republic, Czech books were excluded from the library. The war caused a gradual reduction in library services. The reading room was closed, and the library was later moved to an unsuitable location on Pivovarská ulica. After Hvízdak retired, the library was closed for several months but its activities were gradually renewed between 1948 and 1951. When the country was reorganised into regions in 1949, Žilina became the capital of a region (kraj) but a regional library was only established in 1952. At first it had no reading room, nor did it lend books, which had to be stored on the ground. It took until 1954 to obtain suitable premises in the Slovan Hotel, which was then only a hostel. After the conversion of five rooms and the relocation of the books, the library began operation on 07 January 1955. The first director was Jozef Páv, a teacher. The library had a reading room for young people and adults, which was open from 10:00 to 20:00. Books could be borrowed from 14:00 to 19:00 and in 1955 it had 3,393 readers and 47,337 loans. In addition to its cultural and public education functions, it had an extensive collection of gramophone records and regularly played them to reader on request through a broadcast system which it used to inform visitors about new books. The library opened a branch in Budatín in 1957 and in 1959 it moved to a new building by the Studničky Park in specially designed rooms. At first there was a mixed lending collection for children and adults but later only for youth. There was also a reading room with a sound archive and a television, which had many viewers until 22:00. The library organised meetings of young authors and a poetry theatre. The library’s management, accounts department and methodology department were also based here with occasional interruptions until 1995.

In middle of 1960, Žilina ceased to be a regional capital therefore the regional library was shut down and a district popular library was established with responsibility for the formerly independent districts of Bytča and Rajec. From 1964 the library performed methodological and management functions for district libraries in the former Žilina Region. From 01 September 1964, the library was managed by the schools and culture department of the District National Committee in Žilina. From 1960 the library acquired new premises in the old Astória Hotel on what is now Národna ulica. It moved out of its premises in the Slovan Hotel, which reopened its restaurant. The library opened branches in the suburbs of Hliny and Závodie at this time. The library remained in the Astória Hotel building until 1986, when it moved into the Považie Art Gallery’s premises on what is now Hlinka Square to allow reconstruction of its former premises. From 1963 it undertook several important professional projects to improve the quality of its activities. The first review of the library’s collection was carried out; a revised and systematic catalogue was prepared; and the universal decimal classification system was implemented for the organisation of books. The library opened a branch in the Hliny VII suburb in 1969 and in the Vlčince I suburb in 1975. After 1981 the library had 24 branches, including municipalities that had been incorporated into Žilina. Unfortunately, the library still did not have a suitable central branch. There were plans to start building one at Mariánske námestie 18 after the reconstruction of this house, but they were never implemented because of the changes in society. The social changes brought other problems in 1990 and 1991 including the loss of the libraries in villages that decided to become independent of Žilina and problems in Žilina, where the library had to move out of the Považie Art Gallery. From 01 January, the library had a new founding authority, the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic. In October 1992 the library moved into new premises in the Makovický House on Bottová ulica, where it remained until 1998. There was an increase in the numbers of readers and books.
In 1994 the library received free of charge the three-storey building on Bernolaková ulica that is now its central branch. In 1995, after completing repairs, it moved into its own building for the first time in its history. A barrier-free entrance was built and new furniture was purchased while the library was in full operation. On the first floor, there was the central circulation desk, the fiction section, the children’s section and a reading room. On the first floor there was the non-fiction section and a study room, the music section and the management and administration departments. On the opening day, 10/02/1995, 1,300 readers visited the library. In 1996 the library was placed under the management of the North Považie Cultural Centre in Žilina. By the foundation deed issued by the new Regional Office (krajský úrad) in Žilina on 10 January 1997, the library became an independent entity, the Regional State Library in Žilina for the Žilina Region, which would also act as the district library for the districts of Žilina and Bytča and the town library in Žilina. It also provided coordination, methodology and statistical support for 4 libraries covering sub-regions within the administrative region (kraj) From 1998 to 2001 the library underwent a major refurbishment including the addition of another storey. This provided the library with greater flexibility of space for cultural and social events, reading and study rooms, offices and sanitary facilities.

Since 01 April 2002, the library has been under the founding authority of the Žilina Self-Governing Region and was initially renamed Žilina Library. In 2008, at the request of the self-governing region, it changed its name to the Regional Library in Žilina (Krajská knižnica v Žiline). It is now known by this name to many people. Its current services and activities have been described in an earlier section.

Source: Mgr. Katarína Šušoliaková, Mgr. Zuzana Mjartanová, Mgr. Peter Štanský

The regional library in Žilina can be visited
interior during the opening hours: MON - TUE from 7 a.m. - 6 p.m., WED from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., THU - FRI from 7 a.m. - 6 p.m., SAT from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
exterior during a guided tour of TIO Žilina.

Position of the monument on the map: B6

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