National Library of Serbia


The National Library of Serbia was founded in 1832, and it is the oldest cultural institution in Serbia. It was created as a special depository of books, then as a library within the Ministry of Education, and since then the library gathered many libraries, public and state authorities and bought out several private libraries ( Lukijan Mušicki, Josip Schlesinger), which have grown over time into the National Library.

In 1845, the library had 1421 titles in 2283 volumes and an authors` catalogue, developed by Milovan Spasić, Ph.D. By the order of the Prince in 1853, the profession of State Librarian was introduced, in the rank of a high school professor. The name of the “National Library” was established by Djura Daničić, who defined the national conception of the purchasing policy and began compiling the current national bibliography. Stojan Novaković was the first legislator of the Library. By his merit, and through the Press Law of 1870, the privilege of legal deposit was established, and the Library was separated from the Ministry of Education and Church Business at which time the publishing activity started. More laws regarding the National Library were promulgated during that period, up to 1901. These are the Serbian Royal Academy of Sciences Act, which gave the right to the Academy to supervise the work of the Library, hence the National Library Act, which defined the main tasks of the Library as: a) to aid the development of science in Serbia, b) to facilitate the spread of mass education and c) to handle the Serbian bibliography. At that time, the Library received the first regulation of its internal organization and work.
The First World War brought a lot of misfortune to the Library. The bombing destroyed a part of its holdings, and the remaining collections were moved for safety to several different places in Belgrade, Niš and Kosovska Mitrovica. A part of the collections ended up in Sofia, but was returned after the war. A lot of the library materials, manuscripts, books and newspapers disappeared.

The Press Law and the new National Library Act from 1919 provided the Library with the status of the central state library and the right to acquire an obligatory copy from the entire territory of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The compilation of the current bibliography of Yugoslavia began in 1928. The international format of the catalogue card was adopted in the Library in 1938. The journal of the National Library, “The Herald”, began with issue in 1940.

During the Second World War, on April 6th 1941, during the bombing of Belgrade, the complete library was burnt to the ground. A great part of the holdings, catalogues and inventory, were destroyed at that time. The reconstruction of the library holdings began during the war, and was intensified after the war.

The Library acquired new, arranged catalogues, so that in 1947 the Author Catalogue and in 1948 the Subject Catalogue were developed. In 1953, the Library Center was founded, which grew into the Department of Development and Research of the Library and Information Science. The Bibliographical Department was founded in 1960, with the aim of compiling the Serbian retrospective bibliography, and in the same year the Archeographical Department was founded with the purpose of describing and registering the South Slavic Cyrillic manuscripts, and reconstructing the manuscript collection. At that time, the Conservation laboratory was created for the protection of the library’s material as well as for scientific and experimental research on books and papers.

By the Serbian Libraries Act from 1965, the National Library, as the central parent library in Serbia, was given a special position and many important functions.

On the anniversary of the bombing destruction, April 6th 1973, the Library solemnly opened the doors of its new building, where it is still situated today. Following year, in 1974, the Specialized Catalogue was formed, according to the UDC, then the Central Catalogue of Serbia and the Center for Scientific Information were established too. In 1976, the Library adopted the new regulations of cataloguing and switched to a new, international standard of bibliographic description - the ISBD. Preparations were made for switching to automatic data processing.

The Library had started with the cataloguing of publications before printing in 1987, making the cataloguing records for the monographs in publication, the CIP – Cataloguing in Publication, including a majority of editions in the country. The computerized catalogue of the National Library of Serbia was established in 1989. Since the catalogue included the entire newly acquired material, in 1991, it suspended the making of the card catalogues.
In 1996, the Library obtained its local computer library network, when the access to Internet was facilitated and the first web site presentation of the National Library of Serbia was made.
Since 2000, the Library has made important steps, in the first place regarding its opening towards the world, whereby the Center for International Cooperation received a more intensive and important role. The Center for Scientific Information initiated the foundation of the Consortium of Libraries in Serbia for common acquisition (KoBSON), which facilitated access to the huge foreign electronic databases and journals, with over 13.000 online titles. A great number of projects have been launched. One of them is the foundation of the Center of the Virtual Library of Serbia (VLS), which connects the electronic catalogues of all libraries in Serbia in an unique shared electronic catalogue.

Source and further information: National Library of Serbia

  • Government/Ministry
Geographical focus
  • Serbia
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • Cross-thematic/Interdisciplinary

Entry created by Giorgio Piccirillo on April 13, 2017
Modified on April 18, 2017