Library as Castle of Light*

Posted by jlubans on July 23, 2013

Last week I got to tour the spectacular new National Library of Latvia building.
It glimmers in the summer light on the left bank of the Daugava River, across from the “Old Town” part of Riga. Twenty years in the making, the National Library will open to the public in September 2014, during Riga’s celebration of its designation as a “European Capital of Culture”.
Some of my photos are from the May 3, 2011 “topping” ceremony during my Fulbright teaching year at the University of Latvia. Most of the photos, but one, come from my July 18, 2013 tour that was most kindly organized by Ms. Viktorija Moskina, Assistant to the Director (Andris Vilks). She is also the Senior Specialist for International Cooperation. And, Ms. Moskina was one of my students in the 8-week seminar, “The Democratic Workplace”, which I presented earlier this year at the University.
While the public opening is a year or more away, the library will be the termination point of a “river of books” on January 18, 2014. From noon - 6.00PM “books will stream from the old library building to the new one by being handed from one person to the next” crossing the Daugava River. This “Friends of books” chain” (Grāmatu draugu ķēde) will stretch for approximately 2000 meters including the Stone Bridge. Sign up here. Wear warm clothes!

Caption 1. My 2011 introduction to the new National Library, taken along the Stone Bridge on way to the May “topping” ceremony.
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Caption 2. Now, the Castle of Light from the water, June 23.
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Caption 3. Heading into the construction site with Ms. Ineta Kivle, Director of the Department of Special Collections, Viktorija and Sheryl Anspaugh, all in green.
Caption 4. At the 2011 topping, on an unfinished floor, the celebratory choir about to break into song.
Caption 5. The same floor, almost finished, with a glimpse of vast spaces.
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Caption 6. Looking down from the fifth floor through the atrium.
Caption 7. Another 2011 topping picture; much to do.
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Caption 8. Two years later, the finished interior, looking up through the atrium.
Caption 9 Architectural flourish near the top of the building.
Caption 10. Solid wood stairs.
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Caption 11. A vista from an upper floor public space. Users will look across the Daugava to old town. The Stone Bridge in the center, will see a “river of books” flow across it on January 18th.
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Caption 12. New office space. Viktorija in the middle of her office in the administrative suite.
Caption 13. Outside work continues apace. Caulking glass plates.
Caption 14. Skylight at top of the Castle. The two glass enclosed levels beneath will be public and availabe for special occasions, say like my birthday in 2016!
Caption 15. The top level, all glass enclosed, will feature public seating (cushions and pillows) alongside a planter.
Caption 16. Ineta scans the view from the top.
Caption 17. Back outside, view of old town from the library grounds. Some say a footbridge from old town to the Castle is planned, arching over the Daugava, ending where I took this picture! (In the winter, pedestrians cross on the ice from the library side to the old town and city center. I've ventured a few yards out on the ice but chickened out.)

* From the song “Gaismas Pils” (“The Castle of Light”) written by Jāzeps Vītols in 1889 from Ausekļis’ 1873 poem. (A) “sunken castle of light symbolises the lost freedom and the spiritual heritage of olden times.” The National Library building is the now-risen castle!

Building facts: Height of building: 68m or 223 feet tall.
Overall size: 40 455 (square meters) or
435,454 square feet.
350,000 books (reference and widely used items) will be on open shelves. Much of the collection of over 4 million items will be in closed, compact shelving.

LINKED TO by American Libraries Direct, the e-newsletter of the American Library Association, June 24, 2013.
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