"In My Crosshair"
Four years after its closing for reconstruction it seems that the National Library of Serbia could open its doors to users soon
On May 24th, the day when the Orthodox Church celebrates SS Cyril and Methodus - the apostles of Slavic literacy, a small group of officials surrounded by journalists entered the premises of the National Library of Serbia. The group, led by the Minister of Culture Predrag Marković and sided by the orthodox metropolitan Atanasije, was hosted by Sreten Ugričić, the Library director. The three strolled through the newly refurbished reading hall, a new multimedia hall, one for special collections, the department for the conservation and protection, all of them fit with new ventilation, lightning, heating, plumbing and – not least – wireless internet and computers for searching the library databases.
The news has been met with relief, both by general public tired of waiting and the officials involved in the project. The “pre-opening” day brought back to lights the almost forgotten works on the library. When it was closed down for users in the autumn of 2007 the estimate was that the works, the first after the opening of its new building in 1973, will last for a year. Calculation might have been right but the main provider of funds – the Republic of Serbia - was not the most trusted one when it comes to sticking to terms. Three and a half years later and innumerable delays caused by the stoppage of financing, the National Library is now only a few months away from being reopened. Or so they say.
If you think this was outrageously long, you’re right. If you think that it could not have been longer, think again. With the election year coming and the budget for the culture non-existent, the new Minister hurried the works to be brought to an end without necessarily reaching the goal set in 2007. The most urgent works were completed and the part used by the public has been revamped and significantly modernized but, on the whole, the library remains patched up. Its thorough reconstruction will have to wait until we see better times. Much like the whole of the Serbian culture.
Having in mind the reconstruction works in the institutions of culture that have been just planned but never executed – of which the one of the unfortunate National Museum first comes to mind – we can conclude that with “only” four years and a good deal of the envisioned done, the National Library settled quite well. At least it will be reopened and the users who will now feel more comfortable in the new environment and will be able to use the benefits of new technologies. Let us hope that those for whom the library was intended to serve will regain their habits and use all of its possibilities.
Vladimir Dulovic was born and raised in Belgrade, where he studied history and kafanas extensively. Today he still studies kafanas but worldwide and in his spare time writes and edits travel guides for Komshe publishing house. He enjoys sharing his controversial views on his livinginbelgrade.com blog.
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