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1915-1999 Print

University of Warsaw Library

1915 – August, after the Russians left Warsaw, the Tsar's University was evacuated to Rostov-on-the-Don. With it went our most valuable library collections: incunabula, manuscripts, part of the inventories, and library archives. The library was reopened in autumn 1915, along with the re-establishment of the Polish University in Warsaw.

In the Interwar Years the library collections quickly developed. Aside from deposit copies of imprints published in the Warsaw, Łódź and Lublin Voivods, the library received valuable donations from Poland and from foreign universities and academic societies. Very important was the return (under the terms of the Riga Convention) of both manuscripts and the Print Room, which had been taken after the November Uprising. Early imprints which had been evacuated in 1915 were also returned. Serious lack of space was created because of three factors: increased holdings; catalogues; and a larger number of readers. Initial requests for library expansion were made in 1920.

At the beginning of World War II the library housed about 1,000,000 items.

1940 -  the National Library, as well as the Libraries of the University and the Krasiński Library, were joined to create the Staatsbibliothek Warchau. This was divided into three parts: the University of Warsaw Library with foreign books; the National Library with Polonica; and the Krasiński Library with special collections. The University Library was forced to transfer to the Krasiński Library its manuscripts, incunabula, and graphics collection; simultaneously it had to give its Polish periodicals to the National Library. At the same time our library received foreign publications from their collections. During the entire period of occupation the library illegally circulated holdings to the underground universities of Warsaw and Poznań. The losses caused by the War were very serious, due not to quantity but to quality. The special collections held at the Okólnik were burned along with the rest of the Krasiński Library. A part of the collection was walled in and hidden in the library building.

1945 - January, just after the liberation of Warsaw, a restoration and preservation began, while at the beginning of the academic year 1945-1946 the main reading room was opened. In the first post-War years the library focused on the return of its holdings, as well as the acquisition of the collections, mainly abandoned by Germans and the Polish nobility.

1947-1950 -  the library recovered Polish periodicals from the National Library. At same time, the library received numerous gifts, especially academic journals, from foreign libraries and international institutions (200,000 volumes in the years 1945-1950 alone). Also worth mentioning are the holdings of the Scientific Society of Warsaw, Mianowski Foundation, and the Evangelical-Reformed (Lutheran) Church. In the first five years after the War the library increased its holdings by 350,000 volumes and became the largest academic library in the country. Unfortunately, this rapid increase was curtailed in the following years. A conscious decision of the government forced the limitation of funding for Warsaw University. Consequently, by the end of 1970's the library lost its status as the leading academic library of Poland to both the Jagiellonian (Kraków) and Poznań Universities.

Limitations in collection development, as well as significant difficulties with storage and circulation, were dramatically affected by lack of space. Attempts to increase library space were begun in the period between the World Wars and continued after WW II. Over the years the Library acquired new space on the main University campus (Krakowskie Przedmieście) as well as other locations. These included rooms in the Palace of Culture, the former St. Roch Chapel, and rooms designed especially for preservation and conservation. However, because of the collection's rapid growth, the space still appeared insufficient. Up until the end of the 1990's most of the holdings were stored under very bad conditions: on the floor of the storage room; on the staircases; and in cellars and attics in buildings other than the library. Not one of the promises made by authorities either of the Ministry or the city was kept.

1990 - the memorable decision of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki resulted in the construction of a new building.

1993 – tenders for the design for a new library building were invited. The project of Marek Budzyński and Zbigniew Badowski was awarded.

1999 – December, 15 – after a five-month removal new seat of the Library was open for users. This event marked a new stage in a history of the University of Warsaw Library.

© 2018 University of Warsaw Library
Financial support from the European Commision within the Socrates/Erasmus Programme.