Library history

The SVK of the Pilsen Region was founded by government decree on 28 February 1950, back to the date of 1 January 1950, as the State Education Library. The impulse to establish such a universal scientific library arose from the founding of Pilsen universities, the Charles University Faculty of Medicine, the Engineering and Electrotechnical universities and the Pedagogical Faculty. The library obtained for use the Dominican Monastery complex of buildings, one of the dominant and historically significant city structures. The foundation of the SVK PK collection became the library of the City of Pilsen Historical Museum together with the Historical Museum of the City of Pilsen in 1878. Jaroslav Kuba became the head of the library. He surrounded himself with a team of workers who, in a short time, achieved excellent results. Being equipped with a cableway transporter, tube post and telex, lifts and other technical tools meant fast delivery of literature to the reader. The library became one of the most modern libraries of its time.

In the early 1950s it became the manager, and later beneficiary, of confiscated library collections from church libraries; these collections were sorted and placed among general literature. In this way, the library obtained important historical collections from which the most valuable books were later separated, placed into their original batches and given special attention. The Franciscan monastery library’s collec­tion, containing 187 first copy books and 3500 old and rare publications, is preserved in its entirety within SVK PK. The right to legal deposit upon request, which the City of Pilsen Historical Museum Library had since 1949 and which was passed onto SVK PK, changed to the right of full legal deposit, so from 1963 the library began collecting all Czech and Slovak printed publications. Its right to full legal deposit was lost in 1996 with a new law on non-periodical publications, and only the right to regional legal deposits and the right to the legal deposit of periodicals remained.

Educational and training activities of the library were shown to be important. From 1964 to 1997, the consulting centre of the Prague High School for Vocational Studies in Library Science worked alongside SVK PK library, preparing 263 school leavers for work in libraries. In 2001, the library opened a regional educational centre which was to educate, in particular, librarians in the use of new information and communication technologies. The library gradually introduced special services. 1978 saw the opening of a music department (closed from 1. 1. 2023) which specialized in audio recordings; the same year saw the opening of the Library for the visually impaired. A special study room was formed a year later, providing bibliographic, research and special technical information. The Austrian Library was opened in 1995 and the German Goethe Institute Library in 1998. In the beginning of 2002, SVK PK gained management of the English Library which was supported by the British Council.

It was also necessary to increase library storage facilities. In the early 70s, storage facilities in the central library were full and the library had to store its collections in unsuitable environments; first in Chotěšov Monastery, then in Křimice Manor, Chotíkov Vicarage etc. Eventually, the library stored its collections at 7 locations in Pilsen and surrounding areas. The adaptation of two storage facilities in former barracks in Bory in 2001 provided the library with depository space for approximately 500,000 volumes of books. Books, until then dispersed among various storage facilities, were moved into these two new depositories. The library retained only the historically significant building of Auguston’s Castle in Bušovice, adapting it according to monument preservation requirements.

The early 90s saw the gradual automation of library processes via a computerized library system called KIMS. A local catalogue was established to which additions were made. The library was connected to the internet in 1996 and the local electronic catalogue was made accessible to readers at 17 workstations in 1997. Work in computerized mode and the availability of global bibliographic and fulltext databases demanded the establishment of a special internet study room which opened on the ground floor of the library in October 1998. In early 1999, a link to the catalogue was placed on the library’s homepage. At this time, the library had state-funded access to dozens of foreign databases, which contained bibliographic information about tens of millions of library items from world funds, and access to thousands of fulltext versions of foreign scientific and professional magazines.

The name of the library, its size and number of employees also changed during its more than fifty-year operation. It was founded as the State Education Library in Pilsen with nine employees. It was established by the Ministry of Education, Science and Art. It received a reserve fund for 134 000 books. In 1954, its name was changed to the State Research Library in Pilsen. At that time, it employed an average of 18 workers and the library collection contained 205 000 items. On 1 January 1961, the library was delimited under the newly formed Regional People’s Committee in Pilsen with an average of 47 employees and a collection of approx. 350 000 library items. With the abolishment of regions in 1991, the library was brought under the Czech Ministry of Culture. The number of employees reached 82. The library collection contained approx. 2 170 000 library items. 676 000 patents from the former socialistic state were written off from the library holdings in 1994. Altogether, these were partial collections. With the formation of new regions in 2001, the library was delimited back under the Pilsener Region with 84 employees and 1,650,000 library items. Its name was changed to the Education and Research Library of the Pilsener Region.

The building in which the library is found carries a commemorative plaque from the year 1805: “Philosophiae et humanitatis studio nec non posteritati suae erexit senatus populusque Pilsnensis” (Erected by the Senate of Pilsen for the philosophical and humanitarian studies of all posterity). It is a dedication to which the Education and Research Library of the Pilsener Region adheres and through which it aims to inspire all studies, not only philosophical or humanitarian.

Building history

In the vicinity of present-day historical buildings in Pilsen’s pedestrian zone there are the grounds of a former Dominican convent, one of the dominant and historically significant buildings of the city. The grounds of the convent, which at the time of its founding lay against the city walls, were finished by the Baroque builder Jakub Auguston Jnr. in 1714. In 1782, the city bought the convent, which had been abolished by Josef II, and established within its grounds a main school with a six-year secondary school, both of which were entrusted to Tepla Premonstratensians.

Here in 1804, the two-year-old Department of Philosophy began its education program aimed at university undergraduates. Only after Šimon Michael Schell completed the southern Classical wing in 1805 was further development of the department possible. The grounds were thus dedicated to education and science.

Of all the professors, two became renowned. Josef Vojtěch Sedláček, mathematician and classical philosopher, and Josef František Smetana, physicist, biologist and historian; both were well-known revivalists. They wrote here their first scientific works and Czech textbooks. It was from these grounds that school principal Josef Stanislav Zauper wrote letters to Johann Wolfgang Goethe, and Goethe’s replies were sent here. And it was here that the next generation of national revivalists were educated, whose repute went on to extend beyond regional borders.

John ‘from the Star’ (Jan Jindřich Marek), Josef Linda, Jan Pravoslav Koubek, Jaroslav Kalina and many others all graduated from the secondary school. 16-year-old Bedřich Smetana, on his cousin J. F. Smetana’s recom­mendation, came to the school in 1843 to complete his secondary school studies. A museum was situated in the building in 1878, apartments were established here in 1919, and the city library and reading room were located here in 1931. The secondary school was located here until its closure in 1924.

The breaking of six large window displays saw the ground floor of the southern wing adjusted to become sales outlets; it was, however, architectonically destroyed. The building became the quarters of various firms and tenants; it fell into disrepair and after WWII it was in desolate condition. During the years 1953 – 1959, the grounds were adapted to become a library. The adaptive building work was managed by Oto Gschwind according to his project. It was during this time that the viridarium was somewhat inappropriately built up with a bulky study room. The educational library in the newly adapted location was festively inaugurated on 27 February 1959. Further reconstruction was begun after almost 30 years in 1987 by SVK PK according to a project by Jiří Fleisner, and ended in 1994 with the renewal of facades, the replacement of windows and the completion of a new copper roof. At this time, the south face of the building was brought almost to the condition in which it was found in the early 19th century by Š. M. Schell, who later completed it.

The History of Europa House

The Department of Foreign Libraries is located in the centre of Pilsen, Náměstí republiky 12. From a historical point of view, this building is one of the oldest buildings on the east side of the Town Square. This Renaissance building, so-called Scriboni´s House, was built in the 16th Century. The facade is Baroque and was modified by Jakub Auguston in 1730. Albrecht of Waldstein resided here in 1634. Another interesting fact from more recent times is that the music composer, Vojtěch Hřimalý (1842–1908), was born and lived in this building.

This building is now known as Europa House, the location of the Foreign Libraries Department of the SVK PK. The English Library is on the first floor, the courtyard tract is the seat of the Austrian Library, the German Goethe Institute Library, the Romanic Library and the Europa House Gallery.