15 November 2019

Welcoming speech at the centenary conference “21st Century Libraries: Traditions and Innovations“

Prof. Dr. Andrius Vaišnys, Chair of the National Library’s Scientific Council

Dear collegues, Your excelencies ambassadors and guests, gerbiamasai rūmų šeimininke profesoriau Renaldai Gudauskai, mieli lankytojai,

At the First my warmest greetings go out to Mažvydas Library’s partners,Rõõm on tervitada Eesti Rahvusraamatukogu peadirektor proua Janne Andresoo and Niezmiernie miło powitać dr. Tomasza Makowskiego, dyrektora Biblioteki Narodowej w Warszawie.

At the second About people, memory and information provision.

To start, I would like to present an excerpt from a document that was drawn up 100 years ago – a letter from the Council of Lithuania to congratulate the volunteer army on its one-year anniversary.

‘While you were spilling blood on the Daugava, another hawk – the West Russian Volunteer Army – was weaving a nest for itself behind your back and began tearing away at the body of our dear Motherland. Holding off the Bolsheviks on the River Daugava with one hand, you, the honourable Lithuanian Army, grabbed the ferocious Bermontians by the collar with the other. At Radviliškis, their “Iron Division” crumbled from your sword, and they – protected from your sword by the states of the Entente – had to leave Lithuanian land in shame.

Honourable regiments of our army!

For the anniversary of your founding, the Council, on behalf of our dear nation, salutes you – may your sword continue to be firm if need be.’

At the same time, a government decision was taken to establish a central state library. Back then it was called KNYGYNAS today means a bookstore.

The main task of the library was not only to collect books, but also to ‘BUILD A GENERAL CATALOGUE’. I am fascinated by this kind of courage and intellect – being concerned about books, and not just weapons. Just look at the prime minister’s resolute expression – we have to thank him for that decision. Being insightful, i.e., creating an information system, is the great merit of politicians. Over the past century, there have been few figures with such insight. Only these politicians can take Klaipėda instead of giving it away, or found a university instead of closing it.

Incidentally, the Lithuanian library had a special place at first – in 1920, it was housed in the building of the Constituent Assembly of Lithuania. So next year, when the Seimas of Lithuania celebrates its 100th anniversary, it should remember that the first thing in its history was the library, followed by elections, and only then – the parliament.

The central theme of today’s conference is LIFE library‘or a people’s library’.

However, the members of parliament are people too. Thus, the term that is first and foremost related to their activities is ‘information provision’.

It was legitimised in 1991 when the Presidium of the Supreme Council adopted a resolution ‘to entrust the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania to carry out, in addition to the functions of the national library, the functions of the parliamentary library.’[1] This principle was only added to the Lithuanian Law on Libraries in 2004.

However, the law also declares the Mažvydas Library to be a research library. After all, without this principle, i.e. without analytical work, the library could not provide for anyone, including parliamentarians, the President and the ministries.

If we interpret information provision more broadly, it means:

  • Document storage and the continuous creation of an information catalogue;
  • Answers to queries about current affairs reflected in the media;
  • Development of competencies, where knowledge is shared by qualified specialists, be it on information literacy or cultural management;
  • Digitisation and dissemination of heritage;
  • Publishing; among other work, the library has carried a valuable activity helping to mobilise researchers in the history of parliamentarism since the Board of the Seimas entrusted it with the publication of the scholarly journal Parlamento studijos in 2004;
  • A meeting place where the latest visual and written works are presented;
  • Direct reading of the latest sources.

All seven of these points testify to the functionality of the modern library.

Every one of us here understands how short a 100-year journey is. It is about how society learns to gather information, read and communicate. It is wise to believe that not only the physical defence of independence is significant; in the state, it is especially important for society to have a place of wisdom where people need to be given time, because the time given to each of us is effectively less than 100 years.

And it is important to be in the global information network using examples of the best information work, and to be an example.

Then we all feel like people in the library.

[1] Resolution of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania On Extension of the Functions of the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania. 20 November 1991. No I-2008.