04.07.2014

Author: Stefan Plesoianu

The history of the public reading at the sea coast - Part 3: Constantza Municipal Library

The idea of setting up a municipal public library was in the air at that time. We find out from the newspaper “Dacia” (21.11.1930) that the association of the secondary teaching staff made a committee aiming to set up a municipal library; it would function in the municipal museum room, with full support from the major Gh. St. Popescu. The next year, at 16 February, the municipal council decides the creation of this institution; an address from the Ministry of Culture (nr. 27369/1931) demanded to the local municipality “the set up of a municipal library, with all kind of publications that will be useful for all people, from the humble student to the well known intellectual”. The mayor A. Vulpe will call for donating books at various institutions (The Romanian Academy, The Ministry of Schools, The House of the people’s culture and schools, Astra Sibiu, The Romanian Athenaeum, the consulates housed in Constantza) by an official address (18 August 1931). In the same year it was approved the demand of the teacher Carol Blum (PhD. in philosophy and law) for making the service of librarian for free. The mayor and the city council approved an amount of 100000 lei for the library. The press got very well the news of the new library setting up. “A municipal library is an institution of high cultural level, for those who already have an intellectual discipline” – wrote “Dacia” at 8 March 1931, suggesting the ideal of a study library instead of a popular one. After getting the offers from various editors, in 1932 the city council spent 70000 lei on buying books.
 
             Now a deputy mayor, still trusting his cultural belief, Aurel Vulpe arrange the library space in the left side of the major building, announcing the great inauguration for 1st of April 1933. The event never took place, so the press wrote that “The fairy tale does not end ever, as the municipal library is just in their speeches, but not realized for true.” (“Dacia”, 2 April 1933). The space was used instead as an art gallery for the local painters. A decision had to be made, so the mayor accepts the offer of the family Ioan N. Roman to rent the houses in 115 Carol Street, with the contract nr. 17323 from 13 November 1933; the building will pass to the city council from 25 November. Together with the houses it was taken also the exceptional law library of Ioan N. Roman, with his creations and another books about Dobrogea, all bounded in leather, like the collections of the magazines “The law” or “The justice of Dobrogea”.  
 
             In 1935, the library and the art gallery are finally open for the public; as a librarian it was hired Miss Viorica Ionescu, history teacher. At that time, the library didn’t look like a real collection, but more like a pile of books, either bought or donated. That fact is sadly noted by the intellectuals and the press of 1936 is full of opinions about how it should be the municipal library. Viorica Ionescu is forced to give an answer to that protests (18 July 1936, “The young Dobrogea”): “We don’t have many books, but, after the indifference that the public looks at the library here in Constantza, it’s not unusual to have that few.” And she gives examples of the great library collections from Galati or Bucharest; she stands for the founder’s idea that “this library should contain all things wrote about Dobrogea and all the documents mentioning of it, even from the time when it was a part of Scythia Minor…” and she thinks that the great donation of the colonel Ionescu – Dobrogeanu remains unused.
 
             After such agitation, the city administration begins to look closer to the needs of this institution, one that started so critically… At 9 January 1938, the new mayor, Horia Grigorescu, give to Nicolae Iorga the amount of 50700 lei for buying the creations of the great scientist; the deal take place and the library gets almost one hundred titles of his writings. But, always, the lack of space: the librarian note to the city managers that, from 7 rooms of the Roman’s house, just 3 are used effectively, the others being occupied by the burro of The Royal Cultural Foundation and by other branches of central associations.
 
             Anyway, before the start of the war, the library activity becomes animated, and the 16 places of the reading room are now insufficient (it registered, in 1939, 2229 users and 2233 volumes accessed). Since 1935, the library and the art gallery were visited by over 50000 citizens.
 
             But after less than a decade from its setting up, the library is tarred apart by a disaster: in July 1941 the house of I.N. Roman was ruined by a soviet bombing; what could be saved was stored in the building of the Boys’ Primary School, then at the Casino. The same destiny had the art gallery.
 
             The authorities decide the reorganization of the library on modern basis; it will be homed again in the Mayor’s Palace, the left side. It is taken as a model the regulations of organizing and functioning of the Municipal Library from Timisoara. They were set up two departments: the department of borrowing books (the popular library) and the main library (the reading room and the general deposit). The borrowing department had, mainly, literature and science popularization books “meant to fill the free time of the workers, of the commercial clerks and of the superior courses students”. The deposit contained Romanian and universal literature, reference books, science books, magazines collections, as well as the documentary fund regarding Dobrogea. The activity was managed by a chief librarian, having subordinates a help librarian (for the borrowing department), a bookbinder (compactor), a wardrobe man and a courier. The publications fund reached 20000 volumes. The organizing and dowering expenses were supported by the Ministry of the Interior and thank to a 200000 lei donation from the secretary of state P. Strihan. The art gallery was organized by the famous painter Lucian Grigorescu.
 
             The regulations were approved in 14 October 1943 by the mayor, Colonel N. Oprescu. The readers’ registration, who got a registration card, took place Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 to 12; the books could be borrowed Tuesdays and Fridays 15 – 19, 30 hours; the reading room program was 16 – 20; the hours for the technical operations were 9 – 12. You could get a book borrowed for 7 days. The access to the reading room was: at the entrance you show the registration card, you leave the coat and luggage at the wardrobe and you write your name in the presence register; then you get two demanding bulletins that, after reading, you would give to the wardrobe man, signed by the librarian.
 
             The opening of the new organized library in the Mayor’s Palace took place at 7 November 1943. The mayor, Colonel N. Oprescu, declared, optimistic: “We do have now a library and an art gallery worth of the intellectuality from Constantza and Dobrogea”. The press saluted the event: “This institution – wrote Constantin Sarry in the newspaper “The young Dobrogea” at 11 November 1943 - , though rapidly established and despite the hard times, looks to be in wonderful conditions according to its goal; it comes to be – as mister mayor very well said – a single refuge for the citizens’ souls and to answer to some old needs and wishes of them”.
 
             But the events rush: the act of 23 August 1944 facilitates the change of the central administration and the communists took the power: at 1 November 1944 Al. Steflea is named mayor, and two days later the prefect is named a communist leader, the lawyer Victor Dusa. In the great changes from the mayor’s office, nobody has time for the library; in its spaces administration offices installed.
 
             At 30 June 1945, the librarian Viorica Petru, in charge also of the Cultural Service, gives a very pathetic memoir to the mayor in which she demands the entrance in normality of the library. From an older act of the librarian (16 Feb. 1945)  we find out that in the custody of the municipal library entered the furniture and the collections of the Intimate Club from Balcic and a part of the municipal library collections from Bazargic. The same year, at 19 September, we find as librarian Ion Tulbure. He proceeds to inventory the patrimony and note the disappearance of some furniture pieces (because of the soviet army, of course). At December 29 the inventory was over, the librarian noting to the mayor’s office that the public access should be daily from 9 to 12 and from 15 to 18 hours, the books to be borrowed being from the category “literature – Romanian and foreign authors”; registration tax 500 lei per month, plus a warranty of 6000 lei. The mayor approves these demands on January 10, 1946, deciding that the library will be reopened at January 8. At March 15 they buy 51 volumes from the “Ovidiu” bookseller in Constantza, valuing 317000 lei.
 
             Ion Tulbure took seriously his librarian attributions and considers that the time is come for the old preoccupation of developing a Dobrogean documentary patrimony to be revived and he proposes and the mayor’s office decides the changing of the regulations of organizing and functioning of the library (May 2, 1946). The new name was: The Regional Library of Dobrogea (instead of The Municipal Library of Constantza), according to the Constantza County Prefect office agreement and to the mayor’s office of Tulcea consulting. After that it began the “purification” of the publications collection, in that matter being asked the police Head Office of Constantza, for giving the library “one list of the authors and books on which the state administration gave their agreement to be purified”.
 
             Though 1947 was a year of great privations because of the great drought from the past year, the city administrators continue to be visionary, willing of cultural emancipation; the city mayor’s office decides (Dec. 1947): “to build an edifice of musical and dramatic arts for the people of Constantza; a library and a regional exhibition center…” Without a doubt, at the time when all the important public institutions had been occupied by the soviet army and when the propagandistic need demanded manifestation spaces, the built of a cultural institution was necessary, but it was never realized…
 
             In 1948, following the instructions of the Ministry of the Arts and Information, was set up in Constantza the Municipal Cultural House “Filimon Sarbu”, in Banescu house from 110 “23 August” street (today, Tomis street). In this place it was functioned also a public library. At the beginning of 1949 the library had in possession 487 volumes and had 785 users. In all the districts were set up popular cultural houses by 1950.

Bibliography:

  • “The book and the reading at the Pontus Euxinus” – Constantza, Ex Ponto, 2006
  • “The Romanian sea coast at 1900” (C. Cioroiu, M. Moise) – Constantza, Europolis, 1997
  • “Communications and essays of bibliology” – Constantza, 1999

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