Belgrade City Library (BCL) is the largest lending library in Serbia. It was founded in 1931. It is a parent library for a network of 13 municipal libraries and their branches. Its holdings consist of almost 1.700.000 items, kept in about 70 facilities (1 central building with 4 dislocated facilities, 13 municipal libraries with 50 branch libraries, and 2 separate children's departments) with a total area of 13.000 square meters. BCL has more than 150,000 users. The Library has about 230 employees. As a public institution it is financed by City budget.
BCL is a patron library to more than 450 libraries (school, public and special) in Belgrade territory.
The Central library is placed in one of the finest buildings in Belgrade, at the beginning of the pedestrian zone of Knez Mihailova street. It was built in 1867, at the very entry to Kalemegdan park, as “Serbian Crown” hotel. Since October 1986, the Belgrade City Library has been located at this place.
The two main mottos of the BCL are "The Library – Cultural Heart of Belgrade" and "The Library – A Place for All". This shows us that BLC’s desire is to lively participate in cultural and social life of the city, as well as that it is open to all types of services and activities, to every need of its citizens.
BCL is one of the main cultural and educational center of the city. Each year BCL organizes over 3000 cultural events and various educational and entertaining programs, workshops, seminars, conferences, trainings, exhibitions; Also, BCL provides an open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, and to its services; offers new concepts like "Technoteka", a collaborative work space inside the Library for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech (3D printers, Lego Education robots...).
In our two departments – Department for Old and Rare Books and Books on Belgrade and Periodical Department – we have a great collection of rare books, magazines, photos and other material. Presently, the Department for Old and Rare Books and Books on Belgrade holds more than 20,000 titles.
- BCL and adult education
Modern concept of a library that has been created at the beginning of this millennium in developed countries of the world and Europe, defines a library as one of the main organizations of informal education, as cultural and educational center of a local community. Exceptional importance of libraries in development of local communities goes far beyond traditional understanding of this institution as a place for book preservation and lending.
Modern library - library of the 21st century - is a place for community gathering, informing, education and meets its cultural and other needs.Education of the adult and development of information literacy and digital competences of citizens are one of the main roles of a modern public library. These roles have been defined within international library manifestos, like IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto, Alexandria Manifesto on Libraries: the Information Society in Action, IFLA Internet Manifesto, IFLA Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development, Manifesto on Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning.
The role of libraries in informal education of citizens have also been recognized in our national Law on the Library and Information Service.
World and European Library Association (IFLA and EBLIDA), and the European Parliament itself, have noted the important role of libraries in achieving different objectives within UN Agenda 2030 (more on this in Access and Opportunity for All: How Libraries contribute to the United Nations 2030 Agenda). The role of public libraries in realizing objective no. 4 - Quality education, is specially emphasized.
Mission and vision of BCL is fully in line with above mentioned modern library trends. In professional and wider community, BCL is being recognized as a library which brings changes and innovations in the Serbian librarianship. Our motto "Library - place for all" speaks much about openness and desire for providing various services to all citizens, paying special attention to the vulnerable and marginalized social groups.
Belgrade City Library is the largest lending library in Serbia with a network of 70 branches covering all parts of the city. This institution has over 230 employees and approximately 150,000 members. The Library organizes more than 3,000 cultural and educational programs annually, free of charge for all citizens, both for BCL members and non-BGB members.
The biggest potential of BCL are its facilities, its infrastructure and the employees. Its facilities are located all over the city and thus BCL provides the same services in the very center and in suburbs. All facilities have good internet connections and computers in free access for users. Some libraries have special e-classrooms, two are located in the city center. In at least 20 objects of the whole network, there is a room where various educational programs can be organized for 10 and more participants. A large number of employees in BCL are persons with higher education skills, willing to improve themselves professionally and to teach others. Many of them have significant experience in working with people and in conducting different cultural and educational programs. A significant number of employees hold various trainings for adults.
BCL offers a wide range of services and realizes many programs of all kind, projects and trainings for adults. Among the most popular is "Information literacy 65+" - courses in computer skills for persons older than 65 years. These courses have been held for almost 10 years. Computer courses are also being realized for many other target groups. For example, within the project "Information literacy - family package"developed in partnership with National Employment Service, we organized courses for the unemployed and members of their families.
We also educate adults in the field of digital literacy through projects implemented with the support of Wikimedia Serbia. The Wiki senior project - education of seniors for writing articles on Wikipedia is already underway.
BGB made a big step forward in adult education through libraries with the project "Strengthening Citizens’ Financial Literacy", which was implemented with the support of USAID. Within the project, more than 50 financial literacy workshops were held for citizens of Belgrade and an educational website was designed. For this project, BCL won the EIFL Innovation Award - one of the most significant worldwide library awards.
Digital and online educational services are also something that BCL is developing intensively. Through the project "Technoteka" BCL has created a space where citizens are being educated using digital tools - Lego robots, 3D printers, 3D scanners, virtual reality glasses and more. We also provide a series of online services, such as portal What shall I read (the first national library portal with recommendations of books to read), the AVA.Doc platform (On Demand films; the development of online platform of the best documentaries) and application Ask a Librarian.
The most important European projects (BCL as a partner):
- Re-designing and co-creating innovative cultural heritage services through libraries (2019-2020). The aim (goal) of the project is: to encourage society to become more involved in identification, preservation, and consumption of cultural heritage by developing training programs and educational materials for libraries (but which can be used by other cultural heritage institutions) during the project life time and making them available via Massive Open On-line Course (MOOC) thus promoting or contributing in re-designing existing and co-creating new innovative services in cultural heritage institutions. Project is supported by the European Union through the E+ Programme - Strategic partnership in the field of adult education. Total budget: 232,000.00 EUR.
- AVA Doc project (2017-2019). Objective: to make European movies available to the library users across the Europe. European festivals of short and documentary movies are making their programs available to the users of 15 libraries all over Europe. In Serbia, users of Serbian National Library and Belgrade City Library have the access to a VOD platform and opportunity to watch the most attractive documentaries of a worldwide production in the past years. 27 partners from 9 European countries. Project is supported by the European Union through the Creative Europe program, subprogram Media. Total budget 0,33M EUR. www.ava-library.com
- LoCloud project (2013-2016). Objectives: use of cloud technologies for creating digital libraries. European project funded within CIP ICT-PSP framework. 33 partners, 25 countries. Total budget 4,25M EUR. www.locloud.eu
- Europeana Awareness project (2012-2014). Objectives: raising awarenes of Europeana among end users, use and reuse of content. European project funded within CIP ICT-PSP framework. 48 partners, 28 countries. Total budget 5M EUR. http://pro.europeana.eu/project/europeana- awareness
- Di-XL project (2012-2014). Objectives: creation of sustainable model of cooperation between LLP organisations and libraries. European project funded within LLP KA4 framework. 7 partners, 5 countries. Total budget 0,4M EUR.
- AccessITPLUS project (2011-2013). Objectives: introducing the e-learning model for education of professionals in small memory institutions in the field of digitization. 8 partners, 7 countries. Total budget 0,4M EUR.
- AccessIT project (2009-2011). Objectives: creation of e-learning model for education of professionals in small memory institutions in the field of digitization and cooperation with Europeana. 5 partners, 5 countries. Total budget 0,4M EUR.