Liking Little Liechtenstein’s Library

With Austria to the east and Switzerland across the Rhine to the west, the mountainous terrain surrounding the Liechtensteinische Landesbibliothek (LL) or National Library of the Principality of Liechtenstein, for those of us who don’t speak German, is breathtaking.  LL is in Vaduz, the monarchy’s capital, where about 5200 of the 37,000 or so Liechtensteiners live.

IMG_6009Situated here since 1968, the library and the Office of the Environment share a large building.  The front has ample parking for cars and bikes, pretty landscaping, and benches, tables and chairs under shade trees on the lawn.

Entering on the second tier, I chatted to friendly Beat Vogt, Antiquarian, and Livia Amstutz, Fachfrau (Specialist) at the desk.

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Beat and Livia

To become a librarian here requires three years of training – two days per week at school and three days in a library and some people go to Chur for a Masters.

Residents pay 10 CHF once (about $10) and are then members for life.  The card is good for the other public libraries in Liechtenstein (adults can use them though most are in schools and one’s in a church) as well as for the hundreds of Swiss ones that recognize BibliOpass.  It’s free to borrow anything except via the interlibrary loan system they participate in with nearby countries like Germany.

LL has wifi and six or seven public internet stations and, not including periodicals, about 40,000 things users can take home.

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Self check

Books, audiobooks, video games, movies and CD-ROMs go out for a month and can be renewed, but you must watch and return feature films in a week.  The big media area is separated by categories – thrillers, sci-fi, sports, nature, biographies etc., and a spot for just released DVDs.

IMG_6052Children have a neat space with a playhouse and an array of kid’s prints.  A huge crocodile lurking on the stage makes a great cushion for readers.  Tall stacks on wheels carry plenty of choices and they have storytimes three to four times a year.  Short story competitions, a scavenger hunt for the Lost Manuscript and writing workshops are a few of the activities for tots.

IMG_6025Or they can play foosball in the cloakroom conveniently located next to the vending machine lounge where tables sporting petite flower filled vases impart a café mood and newspapers on spindles keep diners engaged.

IMG_6065Back in the lobby, pegboards have staff picks or bestseller covers so you know what to put on hold or hot titles brought back that day.  I admired the glowing floors and a plush azure chrome and velour couch in Magazines.  A bin labeled “Book Bazaar” sits next to a PAC and a carved tower of tomes.

IMG_6055Walking up the wood slatted staircase, I passed mounted pamphlet holders, tempting travel titles and dangling green fronds from plants on the landing to reach Sachliterature.  Literally “proper literature” (love the inference), it’s nonfiction.  At the perimeter lie management offices and a computer room for classes and meetings…

IMG_6081…and the center is filled by a soaring atrium.  Futuristic brushed metal lamps and radiators add to the modern air.  A sturdy table and colorful stools on an auto racing rug by a basket of toys and stuffed animals keep little ones busy so adults can browse in peace.

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The windows have wonderful views of the Prince’s hillside castle

Connected to 180 libraries in eastern Switzerland plus ten in Liechtenstein, the Landesbibliothek has ebooks, eaudiobooks, emovies, emagazines and databases.  More than 600,000 digitized pages of documents searchable in full text are available for historians on eLiechtensteinensia.  Online there’s an RSS feed, promotional banners, tidbits about personnel passing final exams and links to reviews, purchase suggestions and the newsletter.  Lists of new acquisitions can be sorted by subject, audience, language, purchase date, format etc.

Occasional tables have cheery literary themed centerpieces made from cut out pages,

IMG_6088and beneath slanted panes, a sunny nook must be so cozy in winter when the landscape is blanketed in snow.  In summer it almost feels like you’re outside.

IMG_6097LL has ebook seminars, book afternoons for seniors, author appearances, exhibitions, literary salons and right before Christmas, on the last open Saturday of the year, they throw an annual thank you tea for customers.  The spring Buchtage festival has a book exchange and poetry readings.  On Facebook, images of teens in virtual reality glasses and chatting over board games mix with snaps of stages of the recently finished construction project, job postings and announcements about the new website.

Back downstairs to Belletristik (fiction) and the areas for younger patrons, I was pleased to run into Dr. Wilfried Oehry, the Landesbibliothekar (translates to Country Librarian, like the US Librarian of Congress!).

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Dr. Oehry by some of the DVDs

When he graciously emailed giving permission for me to take photos, I was flattered he’d taken the time to peruse my blog.

LL has a budget of 1,800,000 CHF and 16 employees, most full time.  As the national library, they collect patents and everything written by citizens, published in Liechtenstein or about it.  Affiliated with the national archive, it also serves as the largest public facility in the region, recording 50,000 visitors and 180,000 loans a year (using ProLitteris to pay authors for checkouts).

Of the 285,000+ items, 88,000 are deemed cultural assets and an essential part of the country’s heritage.  The accumulation of “national memory” started privately after the Second World War, but in 1961, a law decreed the Landesbibliothek as a central gathering point for these materials.  It became a physical entity in 1962 at the Vaduz School of Education and moved here in 1968, with at least one expansion after that.  The library belongs to various international bodies like the Conference of European National Libraries and serves researchers, students and scholars too, so has academic volumes and provides infrastructure for their work.

img_6067.jpgWilfried told me I had timed my tour perfectly.   Two days prior they celebrated the completion of the renovation splitting Jugend (Youth) and Kinder.  The whole populace was invited for “culinary delights”, clowns, games and a story-teller and a sign up charge amnesty for those who registered that day.

img_6129.jpgA display shows off the submissions in the wettbewerb (competition) held for teens to create a logo for their new quarters.  The winning entry above shows Ko-Libri, listening to an audio encircled by books and media.  As kolibri means hummingbird in German and incorporates “libri” the Latin term for book, it’s very appropriate.

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YA section

White DVD racks on wheels complement the royal blue walls and wire legged loungers clustered around a black steel table.  A cabinet offers graphic novels while a magnetic words panel encourages your inner poet.  Popular titles occupy the tilted middle and lowest shelves near a big screen Nintendo console sandwiched between young adult classics.  And through the glass, vistas of peaks dappled with dark forests and green meadows abound.

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This valuable Vaduz library is quite a boon for a small alpine enclave!
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2 Responses to Liking Little Liechtenstein’s Library

  1. Patricia Hassan says:

    The facility is perfectly charming! Well-planned, functional – and airy and beautiful to boot! I love that the library is the repository for the national memory, including patents and everything published by Lichtensteiners. Quite multi-faceted for its size. Impressive.

  2. jshaffner says:

    I agree with you completely. Coincidentally, the country is about the same population as my hometown yet has retained a distinct identity for centuries. The beautiful library is one of its glories and the people I met there couldn’t have been nicer.

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