Andris Vilks: We want a place to return to

Andris Vilks: We want a place to return to
Kaspars Garda, Riga 2014 . director of National Library of Latvia Andris Vilks
28-05-2013 A+ A-
‘The Book Chain’ on January 18th next year, in which books will be moved in a live chain from the old building of the National Library of Latvia on Krišjāņa Barona street 14 to the new one on Mūkusalas street 3, will be also the big opening event of 'Riga 2014.' Therefore, receiving the journalists last week in the nearly finished new edifice of Library, director of NLL Andris Vilks expressed his visions of the momentous up-coming event – inauguration of new National Library in 2014.

Time of metaphors and strategies

‘I am finding quite an expansive range of literary metaphors to relate to construction materials and construction. They are glass mountain, golden horse, ‘boarding house in the castle,’ ‘up the downward staircase,’ stony road, ‘hazel foot-bridge,’ draught, Fahrenheit 451, City of the Sun, flying carpets…,’ director of NLL Andris Vilks lists his associations, adding, on a more serious note, that today, the main ideas in the Library revolve around how the staff of the Castle of Light will work in the new building and what will its functions, content, services and clients be.

Therefore, rising from our old and decrepit premises to a different aggregate state, we undergo a complete make-over, and our lives change in totality.

Vilks indicates that the library staff strategy is philosophically conceptualized to drive entire vision of its mission. Its first thesis is:  To ensure a positive experience of library visit or, to put it more simply, the staff of the library is ready to create conditions, in this building – combining action with environment already created – for people to want to return to the Castle of Light again and again. ‘We are aware that everyone in Latvia is likely to wish to explore the building at least once. But it is very important for us to ensure that they would be interested to return over and over again.’



The second strategic direction – adaptation of the digital environment – is very significant for the 21st century: ‘We have to reach people wherever they are – at work or in study establishments. Therefore, library will be more than just physical space; it will be accessible on the outside as well as interactive, while offering digital processes available only in these premises.’ The third aim is to encourage collaboration and development of all libraries in Latvia. The formula is clear at the moment: we have to create an excellent product combined by fine strategic marketing and enthusiasm of all the participants.

To collaborate and interact

Andris Vilks also underlines importance of new synergies and ideas emerging in processes, in which NLL could participate and collaborate. ‘Different ideas about cultural canon are in circulation – ones about National Encyclopedia, the research in the area of national identity, and participation in the program of life-long education. And development of the territory of Pārdaugava is equally important; we perceive it as a very serious perspective.’


Preservation of content and its further development in analogous and digital format will also increase in significance. ‘To avoid sounding abstract, I would like to remind that full preservation of national documental heritage and resources vitally needed by Latvia, is very important for us. It is globally ranging information, which can be employed in education by the society. I underline that we intend not only to preserve it all or acquire resources to be shelved; these premises give us fantastic chance to combine library content with a great variety of events, processes and activities aimed at emphasizing knowledge, values, culture and our accumulated heritage.’

Therefore, these spaces, including our new conference hall, which will hold Imants Ziedonis’ name from now on, will host large spectrum of events – discussions, theater, concerts, exhibitions, seminars, training courses.

Telling of these plans related to the new library premises, Andris Vilks offers example of the musical part of the annual Museum Night held in its old building: ‘We used our not too spacious Music department to present 1970s rock-music highlight – magazine ‘Melody Maker’ to the audience, feeling a bit wooden, of course. In spite of the cramped conditions, it proved to be a fantastic experience where old records were spinning live. It was a very well attended event, many young people had come. These opportunities will be significantly wider in the new building. And there is another advantage: all the resources, services and specialists will be concentrated in one space, which will be more convenient for regular readers as well as for those who will become ones,’ Andris Vilks adds, emphasizing that library staff expects to see up to three thousand visits of NLL per day.

The Castle of Light will offer new services in the new building – a multi-media center, Fairy-tale room for children, facilities for training and events, spaces for  individual and group work, silent reading rooms and zones of repose opening the view on Daugava and Vecrīga, while the free-access zone of the library will offer 350 000 books available to be picked from the shelf.

An event every day!

Director of NLL reminds that the slogan of the library is ‘Not a day without an event!’ ‘I think that 2014 will be at once very challenging and very interesting; and we already have many of the spaces booked for events of European Capital of Culture – art, cultural and music activities and other elements of cultural process, which we gladly support and participate in: they are ‘The Book Chain,’ exhibition ‘Book 1514-2014,’ academic readings ‘The XXI Century Content,’ exhibition of kinetic art ‘From Johanson to Johanson,’ created by curator Solvita Krese, and children’s carnival pageant ‘I Want to Go to Library’  on International Day of Literacy.’ This itinerary will include ‘Amber Road’ – a concert featured in the program of Poetry Days, for which prominent European poets and composers from Latvia will join forces in Riga to create world level vocal compositions and ‘Picture Book World’ – international conference and exhibition presenting the work of the 1st Baltic States Quadrennial of Picture Books, illustrations and concept for content of new books.


Speaking of the technical side of transportation of the library, director of NLL says: ‘We have planned the moving as a gradual process – floor by floor and room by room. With parts of our resource moved, we will close the old facility only to open it here in order for the content to be available to the user.

Closing entire library, moving it to new building and then allowing access to it will not be this case, as we cannot break the functioning of NLL for nine months. Therefore, we have a detailed plan produced. Our logistics is well thought through; let us hope the plan will proceed as envisaged.

Describing the symbolic ‘Book Chain’ and the opening event of European Capital of Culture, director of national library underlines: ‘It is not a trivial trick! First of all, we have carried our resources from one library building to another by hand two or three times in these fifty to sixty years. Therefore, it will not be new for us!’ Previewing this event, Andris Vilks reminds us about the incident a few years ago when the library floor in the main building caved in and the books had to be recovered from the flooded basement.

It was an SOS signal to society, and we had lots of people offer their help as volunteers and form a live chain to rescue books, and – be glad to do it! They said at that time: Call us again when the library will have to be moved!

I think this illustrates how we want to be seen by the society; therefore, this book chain is not an empty product of fantasy, but is born from our experience and practice.’


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