History of the Library

The Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences went through several periods of development, which were marked by distinctive events unique for each period. The Library was established over the period of 1912–1931; it was known as the Wroblewski State Library in 1931–1940, and as the Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, in 1941–2009.

On September 29, 2009, the former name of Wroblewski was returned to the Library by the Presidium of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, and following the confirmation its new regulations on November 24, 2009, the institution entered a new period, that of the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences.

The establishment of the Library, 1912–1931

The library was founded by the prominent lawyer, public figure and bibliophile Tadeusz Stanisław Wróblewski (Tadas Stanislovas Vrublevskis, *8 XI 1858–†3 VII 1925). His father was the physician-herbalist Eustachy Wróblewski (Eustachijus Vrublevskis, *1826–†1891 VI 9), and his mother was Emilia Beniowska-Wróblewska (Emilija Beniovskytė-Vrublevska, *1830–†23 XII 1886). In 1891, after his father’s death, Tadeusz Wróblewski returned to Vilnius, settled in the apartment of his parents at   Universiteto St. 9 and lived there for the greater part of his life. A lawyer by profession, Wróblewski spent almost all his income on books, manuscripts, works of art, medals, coins and other collectibles; he was determined, should opportunity arise, to establish a public library based on his personal collections. Tadeusz Wróblewski inherited from his parents a number of books and manuscripts, enough to fill two bookcases. As early as before the First World War, he significantly expanded this collection, having acquired the libraries of Count Józef Plater, Józef Cechanowicz, Józef and Jan Weyssenhoff, and of Józef Bieliński, as well as some other private libraries and important personal collections. In 1912, Tadeusz Wróblewski‘s personal library counted about 65 000 volumes of books, 1 000 maps, and about 5 000 manuscripts and autographs. Its valuable part consisted of documents on the history of Vilnius and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The library was kept in Wróblewski‘s apartment at Universiteto St. 9.

1912 marks an essential change in the Library‘s history – the private library becomes public. October 30 of the same year marks the registration of the Statute of the earlier-founded Society of the Eustachy and Emilia Wroblewski Library (Towarzystwo „Biblioteka imienia Eustachiego i Emilii Wróblewskich“). The Society had been set up specifically with a view to managing the Wróblewski family‘s collections. On February 13, 1913, Tadeusz Wróblewski donated his library to this Society.

In 1912, Wróblewski set aside 42 000 roubles for the purchase of a plot in Mindaugas St. with a view to building new premises for the Library. He once more allocated 40 000 roubles for the construction in 1914, but World War I interfered with the plans to move the Library to a new location. Fortunately, the Library’s collections came to no harm during the war. Conversely, they were growing in numbers and complexity, and were being systematically arranged, catalogued and inventoried.

After the war, Tadeusz Wróblewski revived the activities of the Society, which was then reorganized into the Society of Eustachy and Emilia Wróblewski for Science Support (Towarzystwo Pomocy Naukowej im. E. i E. Wróblewski).  The Statute of the Society was confirmed on August 15, 1922. One of its first clauses stipulated a necessary condition for the functioning of the Library: “The Society’s residence will be in Vilnius and the Society’s collections may not be removed from Vilnius”.

In 1925, the stock of the Library counted more than 80 000 volumes of books, 212 bookplates, 1 474 maps, 2 956 manuscripts, as well as 10 534 engravings, pictures, and other artworks.

Tadeusz Stanisław Wróblewski died on July 3, 1925. The Society continued to manage the affairs of the Library. On March 14, 1925, the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Education of Poland purchased the Tyszkiewicz Palace (Žygimantų St. 9) for the needs of Vilnius libraries. From 1926 to 1931, the Tyszkiewicz Palace was being renovated and adapted for housing the Library. At the same time (1928–1931), the Library’s staff, while few in number, were hard at work making the much-expanded, by then, collection ready for the relocation. On December 9, 1931, the construction work was finished, and the building was handed over to the Directorate of the Library.

The Wroblewski State Library, 1931–1940

When the Library settled in the Palace, its activities took on a form essentially unchanged to this day. The Library provided readers’ services; its collections of books, periodicals, manuscripts, works of art and other collectibles grew and were put in order. The library had two departments for the management of the Main Collection – the Book Department and the Periodicals Department – which shared a reading room and storage space. In addition, there was a number of special departments such as Cimelia, Manuscripts, Graphics, Cartography and Art, each of which had its own collections. The Library also housed a museum, which included Vilnius Iconography and Masonica sections, the Founder’s Memorial Room, and some other objects.

From January 1, 1932 onwards, the Library began receiving deposit copies of regional press from four provinces: Vilnius, Białystok, Polesia and Nowogródek. This enabled the Library both to strengthen its role as an institution of regional historical memory and to add contemporary publications to the collections of the written heritage of Lithuania acquired by Tadeusz Wróblewski.

On June 21, 1937, the Polish Ministry of Education confirmed the new Statute of the Wroblewski State Library.

In 1939, numerous culture institutions suffered heavy damage after Vilnius had been occupied by the Soviet Union – many valuable artworks and cultural objects were taken out to Russia. The Wroblewski State Library was one of those which sustained severe losses. In October 1939, the Masonica and Albaruthenica collections, part of the 16th–18th–century Lituanica collection and the reference library for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were removed from the Library to Russia. When the Soviet Union ceded Vilnius to Lithuania, the institutions of the Polish Ministry of Education were transferred to the Lithuanian Ministry of Education. On September 1, 1940, the Wroblewski State Library was moved under the aegis of the Institute of Lithuanian Studies (Lituanistikos institutas, established on September 1, 1938), which after a few days took over its collections and other property. This resulted in the change of both the Library’s status and name: it became the Central Library of the Institute of Lithuanian Studies.

Even though stripped of its name for decades, the Library has never left its premises: the collections are housed in the former Tyszkiewicz Palace to this day.

The Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, 1941–2009

On January 16, 1941, the Institute of Lithuanian Studies was reorganized into the Academy of Sciences of the Lithuanian SSR. The Library was accordingly renamed to the Central Library of the Academy of Sciences of the Lithuanian SSR.

The storms of World War II interrupted the Library’s activities – on March 27, 1943, it was shut down by the German occupation authorities. After the liberation of Vilnius by the Soviet Army, the Library’s work was resumed: the reading room was reopened in the autumn of 1944, and the catalogues and inventories were updated in 1945. The Library started receiving a mandatory deposit copy of Lithuanian publications in 1946; and starting from May of the same year, it would also get a paid deposit copy of publications in a number of subjects published in the Soviet Union in Russian.

The Central Library was obliged to provide every possible assistance to the institutions of the Academy of Sciences of the Lithuanian SSR in their scientific research, supply them with scientific literature and bibliographic publications, propagate scientific literature of the Soviet Union and foreign countries, and carry out scientific research and methodological studies in such fields as book studies, bibliography, library science, etc. Later, on September 21, 1960, these responsibilities were set forth in new regulations of the Library, confirmed by the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of the Lithuanian SSR. The regulations also determined the structure of the Library. At the time it consisted of the Acquisitions and Exchange Department; the Book Processing and Cataloguing Department; the Circulation Department; the Reference Department; the Manuscripts Department; the Department of Old, Rare and Cartographic Publications; the Restricted Collection Department and the Maintenance Department. Several of them had been established before 1960. After 1965, a number of libraries in research institutes became branches of the Central Library. This structure remained almost unchanged until 2009, the last year of this period.

At this time, the Library rapidly grew. This is shown by all key indicators used to assess the performance of a scientific information institution. In 1941, the Library’s stock totaled 380 000 documents; in 1945, it ran into 500 000 documents; in 1960, it already was 1 508 000 documents; and in 2009, 3 784 000 documents. In 1945, the Library provided service to 67 readers; in 1960, their number grew to 2 300; and in 2009, to 9 595. The Library had several reading rooms such as the General Reading Room, the Periodicals Reading Room, and the Manuscripts, Rare Books and Cartographic Publications Reading Room.

During this period, the most valuable part of the Library’s collections, which since Tadeusz Wróblewski‘s times had consisted by objects of the written heritage of Lithuania, also experienced some changes. It grew in size and scope, and expanded its thematic range. Even back before the German-Soviet War, some collections of inter-war institutions of Lithuania (the 29th Territorial Riflemen Corps) and the Vilnius county (the Evangelical Reformers Synod, the Belarusian Scientific Society, the Society of the Friends of Science, etc.) had been given over to the Central Library of the Academy of Sciences of the Lithuanian SSR. As the library did not have time to take over the most valuable and abundant collections, large part of them was destroyed during the war.

The libraries of the Evangelical Reformers Synod and of the Vilnius Society of the Friends of Science suffered the most damage – after the war, only scanty remnants of their former stock found their way to the Central Library of the Academy of Sciences of the Lithuanian SSR.

The war losses were in part compensated by documents received afterwards. In 1946, the Lenin State Library returned part of the manuscripts, which had been removed from the Vilnius Public Library by the Tsarist government in 1915. At the same time, the Library took over many archival manuscripts, documents, and books collected during expeditions to the Königsberg region, which, in 1945–1946, were organized by Prof. Povilas Pakarklis (*23 XI 1902–†28 VII 1955). In 1946, the Library acquired the manuscript collection of Lucjan Uziębło (*11 II 1864–†12 XII 1942); in 1951, the manuscript collection from the Šiauliai Aušra Museum. The Vilnius Cathedral Chapter Archive, found in the Vilnius Cathedral Basilica during repair works, was handed over to the Library in 1956. Further on, the Library kept obtaining numerous valuable documents.

After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence on March 11, 1990, significant changes began to take place in the state and society. They affected both the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences and its Library. The changing nature of library work, new policies, goals and objectives were addressed in the new regulations of the Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, confirmed by the Presidium of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences on February 15, 1994. Perhaps the most apparent sign of change became the dissolution of the Restricted Collection and the ensuing rearrangement of the Library’s collections, which took several years. These developments were accompanied by the establishment of several new departments. The Old Periodicals Department and the Library Automation Department were founded in 1991 and existed until 2010.

The final stage of this period is marked by important events that laid the groundwork for major transformations in the Library. On September 29, 2009, owing to the efforts of Director Dr. Juozas Marcinkevičius, the Presidium of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences gave the Library back its original name of Wróblewski. The updated regulations of the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences were confirmed on November 24 of the same year. Subsequently, structural, economic and other changes were initiated with a view that the Library would begin the second century of its existence as one of the most advanced, convenient and important cultural memory institutions in Lithuania.