The National Library of the Czech Republic
The National Library of the Czech Republic is the focal point of a library system within which it co-ordinates specialized, information, educational, analytical, research, standardization, methodological, and consultation activities. It operates large nation-wide systems and databases such as the Union Catalogue and the Czech National Bibliography, and fulfills other central functions. It is responsible for the permanent preservation of documents published in the Czech Republic and for making them accessible.
The National Library plays an important part in shaping the national library system and in increasing its efficiency. It supports the development of libraries through analytical, methodological and consultancy activities, and processes performance and quality parameters of library activity. It takes part in the co-ordination of development programmes of libraries. The National Library is run under the authority of the Ministry of Culture.
The founding of the library was linked to the establishment of Charles University in Prague in 1348 by the Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who in 1370 donated books to it. This donation became the basis of college libraries which grew mainly thanks to the bequests and donations of Czech rulers, nobles, university masters and wealthy Prague burghers. When in 1556 Jesuits came to the Czech Lands, they built on the site of the former Dominican monastery of Saint Clement in Prague their Collegium Clementinum, establishing the Order's library there. After the Jesuit rder was dissolved in 1773, the Clementinum Library and other Jesuit libraries in Bohemia devolved to the state. In 1777, Empress Maria Theresa (1740-1780) amalgamated the Jesuit and the university libraries founding the Public Royal and Imperial University Library.
The beginnings of the new library are linked with its first director, Karel Rafael Ungar (1744-1807), who began forming the National Library (Bibliotheca nationalis) of Czech and Slovak literature, including Czech studies in foreign languages. In 1781, Ungar succeeded in obtaining the first statute on legal deposit, valid throughout the Czech lands from 1807 onward. In 1935 the library was renamed National and University Library. In 1958 its name was changed toState Library of the Czechoslovak Republic, and it became the centre of the national library system.
Since 1989, a transformation process has been taking place. In 1990 the library's name was changed to The National Library of the Czech Republic. The position of the National Library as the centre of the public library system was defined in the new Libraries Act of 2001. With support from the Mellon Foundation, library automation using the ALEPH system was begun. Retrospective catalogue conversion is under way; a nationwide electronic union catalogue has been set up, and the Uniform Information Gateway portal has been made accessible. Since 2000, the Czech National Bibliography has been published in electronic format only. Digitization of rare collections is under way and a digital library and archive of Internet resources is being set up.
The National Library of the Czech Republic is involved in international activities, and is a member of IFLA, CENL, LIBER, CERL and other organizations. It is also part of many international development and research projects such as:
UNESCO Memory of the World
The National Library administers a collection of six million items. Its rarest part is a collection of just under 15,000 manuscripts and almost 200,000 early books. The core of these collections dates back to the 1370s, linked with the gradual growth of the colleges of Charles University in Prague. A part of the manuscript section of the National Library is a collection of oriental manuscripts comprising 1,200 volumes containing Turkish, Arabic, and Persian manuscripts. The oldest of these dates back to 792. Another interesting part of the National Library collection are the Indian manuscripts written on palm leaves threaded with string.
A component of the National Library is the Slavonic Library housing a valuable collection of literature of the Slav nations and of specialized Slavonic studies literature. Among its 700,000 volumes is a rare collection of old Russian early books, a unique and extensive collection of literature on Russian Revolutionary movements from the beginning of the 20 th century, and on the activities of interwar political exiles from the Soviet Union.