translated by Joanna M. Lewicka
Historical legacy and the current state of the Library
The Raczynski Library was founded by Edward Raczynski, Polish nobleman, a patron of art and science, writer, columnist, publisher and protector of the national cause. It is the oldest among currently existing public libraries in Poland. The opening of the Library took place on May 5th, 1829, and the official handover to the authorities of the city of Poznan – on February 8th, 1832. The founder did not burden the city with the costs of maintaining the institution but provided for the Library with his private funds.
The idea to establish a library in Poznan was born out of E. Raczynski’s conviction that the preservation of Polish language and historical mementoes is crucial to keeping national identity under Prussian rule. As Marceli Motty, Raczynski’s contemporary, wrote: “There was no public book collection in this part of the country which would preserve the treasures of historiography and national literature for us and our successors, and which at the same time would propagate love for these treasures and stimulate research in this field. Raczynski founded such a unit, and it cost a fortune.”
The Library was made available to everyone, regardless of nationality, religion, social background and education. However, its users were mainly Polish scientists, writers, columnists and national activists, as well as high school and university students. The Raczynski Library became for them a place of concentration, an important educational and research space, as well as a symbol of national culture.
Throughout the time of the Partitions of Poland and later in the mid-war period of the 1920s and 1930s, the original Library’s collection donated by E. Raczynski was consistently enriched both with real treasures of Polish and European writing and with popular publications useful to regular readers.
The book collection was largely protected from the ravages of World War II, and thanks to its high historical, scientific and educational value the Raczynski Library was placed among the most important Polish libraries. Today, it is visited not only by the inhabitants of Poznan but also by readers from the whole country and foreigners.
Nowadays, the Raczynski Library systematically enriches its collection and intensifies its activities responding to the demands of the times and expectations of the readers. It serves both these who consider themselves members of the global information society, and these who for various reasons are excluded from it and will never become its part, but nevertheless would like to enjoy the fundamental cultural achievements.
Thanks to its rich collection of antique books, manuscripts, examples of cartography and 19th- and 20th-century publications, the Library is an important center of scientific information on the national scene. It also stands out among other Polish libraries thanks to its original forms of promoting modern literature and popular science books. Numerous activities organized by the Raczynski Library are well-known in the cultural and scientific circles of Poland. Among them it is worth to mention the Poznan Reviews of New Publications “The Book of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter,” the Arkady Fiedler Competition for the best travel and tourist book rewarded with “The Amber Butterfly Award,” and a competition for a bookplate held every three years.
The Raczynski Library is a place visited by many librarians and students from all over the country wishing to familiarize themselves with the unique book collection, functioning and the historical building of the oldest public library in Poland. As an interesting element of the Royal-Imperial Route in Poznan, the Library is also visited by many tourists.
Cultural legacy, historical tradition and contemporary cultural and educational activity won the Raczynski Library a great reputation and a solid transregional character.
The necessity for development is a result of a current accommodation conditions of the Raczynski Library. Scarce floor surface of the two separate and distant buildings (Wolnosci Square 19, Sw. Marcin Street 65), tantamount to 2500 m2, significantly limits an efficient reader and user service.
Due to space shortage, over forty thousand books have been stored off-site, in rented spaces, and their number is constantly growing. At the same time, the accessibility of the collection has diminished. Apart from that, the readers have no opportunity to enjoy an easy access to a modern computer system because there is no possibility to install a sufficient number of computers in the Library.
The storerooms in both 19th-century buildings in which the treasures of national culture are kept, are not sufficiently equipped to ensure the safety of the objects, both in terms of air-conditioning and physical security.
All in all, due to present accommodation conditions, the Raczynski Library, one of the most important cultural institutions in Poland, has no possibility of development and full modernization.
The project provides for building on a new extension to the existing building of the Raczynski Library at Wolnosci Square 19 (along Marcinkowskiego Avenue). The functions and communicating channels of the new extension are to be integrated with the old historical building. The project provides for the new library spaces to be fit with the equipment indispensable in conducting up-to-date and efficient library, informational, educational and cultural activities as demanded by the public.
In total, the future building will have the capacity of 44 731 m3 and will cover 11 738 m2, 9 565.5 m2 of which is counted as usable floor area. The new extension will follow the latest trends in library construction and specialist equipment, which will make the whole investment very appealing to the users. In terms of urban development, the new library will become a valuable element of Poznan city center. A complex of both buildings, the new and the old one, will fulfill a public function, therefore its structure will be designed in such a way to clearly stand out from the surrounding urban network.
Among the benefactors of the whole project will be, first of all, the inhabitants of the city of Poznan and Wielkopolska region, as well as readers from the whole country and from abroad wishing to make use of the unique special collections, or to participate in cultural events organized by the Library.
The stage of investment preparations
The architectural project of the new building, authored by JEMS Architekci Sp. z o.o. company from Warsaw, was selected by the Raczynski Library by an open competition and constituted a basis for a creative development project. At present moment, a complete investment documentation is ready and waiting: feasibility study, cost estimate, construction project, executive project, equipment and interior design project. Technical conditions concerning connection of all necessary public utilities as well as handling communication issues have been set for the investment. A planning permission, as well as all other required permissions and positive opinions of the Municipal Conservator and the Department of Environmental Protection of Poznan City Council have been obtained. A preliminary agreement concerning the connection of the new building to the city heat distribution network has been concluded.
The project will be carried out on six plots located at Wolnosci Square 19 and Marcinkowskiego Avenue 22/23 covering the total area of 0.4902 ha. The legal state of the plots is clear as the Raczynski Library has a right of perpetual usufruct of the plots.
The total cost of the investment amounts to 106 732 781.00 zl. In its Long-term Investment Project, the city of Poznan guaranteed to contribute 64 039 669.51 zl. The remaining sum of 42 693 112.49 zl comes from the European Regional Development Fund. The Raczynski Library gained it by a successful project competition which was a part of the 11th priority axis “Culture and cultural heritage” of the Operational Program “Infrastructure and Environment”.
The Raczynski Library will get accommodation space and modern infrastructure suiting its demands. In practice, the book collections will be stored properly, user service will be more efficient, and the cultural offer will be richer and more varied, which will doubtlessly positively influence public interest in the Library.
The city of Poznan will certainly pride itself on a cultural institution fulfilling the standards of the 21st-century, both architecturally and functionally, which is a valuable asset in city’s efforts to achieve the title of the European Capital of Culture. The city center will be enriched in terms of urban planning.
The new extension of the Raczynski Library connected to its historical building will increase the touristic attractiveness of the Royal-Imperial Route and will be a vivid example of a harmonious combination of our city’s historical tradition and modernity.
The Raczynski Library will become an equal partner to similar foreign institutions in Poznan’s partner cities.