The heart of the university. 100 years of the AGH UST Main Library

photo by KSAF AGH

100 years of the AGH UST Main Library (1922–2022) – this is a jubilee you cannot miss! We are celebrating the exceptional anniversary of a place without which the university organism could not function.

The AGH UST Main Library (BG AGH) – the largest technical library in Krakow – constitutes an integral element of a modern university, contributing significantly to the development of the university of the future.

Below you will find the path we had been on until today, as well as new directions of development for BG AGH, because a centennial anniversary is the right time to look not only behind, but also ahead.

The history of the AGH UST Main Library is indissolubly intertwined with the history of the university. The library was established by the Senate Library Committee in the academic year 1921/1922, that is, shortly after the ceremonial inauguration of the Mining Academy, which took place in October 1919. The duties of the library head were assigned to the chairperson of the aforementioned committee, and the first contracted librarian was Maria Kuszowa. The first priority of the nascent institution was to accumulate collections of books; initially, the library consisted of materials sourced from private donations. Even today, donations – in addition to purchasing and exchanging – constitute one of the three fundamental ways of acquiring book collections in libraries. What is worth mentioning here is the fact that the help in buying French journals was offered by none other than Maria Skłodkowska-Curie herself; she went to great lengths to organise an interchange, and thus in exchange for scientific publications of the AGH employees, the library’s collection was expanded to include the Revue de Métallurgie periodical magazine, which remains in subscription to this day. The pre-war collection of the Library counted 17,000 volumes, including about 5,000 journals.


Journal Reading Room in the A-0 building (1950s)

At first, the AGH UST Main Library was located at 18 Loretańska Street and then at 7 Smoleńsk Street. In 1929, it was transferred to a room within the newly-built main building at 30 Mickiewiczka Avenue. At the time, the library’s head was Professor Oskar Nowotny – of Austrian descent – who during the occupation of the city of Krakow persuaded the German authorities to deposit the collection in the Jagiellonian Library. Even though Professor Nowotny no longer held the position of the library’s head, he was taking care of the collection throughout the entire war period; a collection that lost almost 25% in volume due to the transfer and war turmoil. In 1945, Professor Walery Goetel, Rector of the university, was determined to restore the collection and refill the deficits therein, which also stemmed from the fact that the library was cut off from foreign literature. The library thrived again very quickly – soon after Władysław Piasecki took the position of its head; he reorganised the institution and became the first director of the AGH UST Main Library. He was the one who charted out the new direction of growth for the library to pursue.

Current location

The ceremony of laying the foundation act for the construction of a new building housing BG AGH, September 21, 1963.

Director Piasecki not only sought to create opportunities for staff to develop, but he also took care of securing the Library an individual, adequate location suiting its needs. These endeavours resulted in the decision of the university authorities to erect a building whose construction ended in 1966. The U-1 building to this day constitutes one of the most modern libraries in Poland, which can be credited to the so-called modular structure founded on load-bearing pillars, which makes it possible to move the inside walls freely and adjust the interior of the library to the dynamically changing needs of the readers. This solution was used in the 1990s, during an extensive remodelling of the building, when the layout of particular library units was changed. In 2010, the modernisation of the Main Library’s façade began. Additionally, a new segment was added, resulting in a significant increase in storage capacity. During the reconstruction, the Open Stacks Zone was created, which allowed the readers to borrow books on their own; two reading rooms were merged into a two-storey Main Reading Room that astonishes the visitors with its modern, 21st-century equipment.

The Library of the Future

Simultaneously to the adaptation of the location of the library to changing times, the systems were automated and the contents were digitised. Due to that, the Library is now an inherent part of the modern technical university and provides top-notch services to its employees and students. The AGH UST Main Library supports the scientific activity of the university, making sure to provide access to the most up-to-date databases and journals, as well as its educational activities. The library team, for example, teach classes dedicated to scientific information and bibliographic research methodology, helping young scholars to improve their methodological skills. One of the chief tasks of the Library is to register the academic achievement of the researchers. Definitely worth mentioning is the project titled AGH UST Repository – this initiative revolves around collecting digital versions of theses and dissertations from particular faculties.

Main Reading Room, photo by KSAF AGH

The idea of the third place

In addition to its educational function, the Main Library also plays a vital social role, being not only a place to study, but also a space for meetings and integration of students and scholars. In this way, the library constitutes one of the central points of academic life in Krakow, where the scientific world intertwines with the social one. Currently, the idea of a library as the third place has been gaining popularity, which is also actively implemented by our librarians. In a nutshell, the idea relies on the premise that the library becomes – after home and work – the next place on which human activity focuses. As opposed to the former two, this is supposed to be an open space, conducive to building and strengthening bonds with the local community, in this case, above all else, with the academic community. We might say it with undisguised pride that such a model has already been implemented in the AGH UST Main Library as it does constitute a place where various popular readings, training courses, meetings, or student photography exhibition take place. Another priority is to maintain vivid and multichannel contact with readers through new social media platforms. The Library has already marked its presence on Facebook and Instagram and recently joined LinkedIn. This, in short, is how we try to live by the motto of Władysław Piasecki: The Library is the heart of the university, its integral part!

The 100th anniversary celebrations of the AGH UST Main Library will last throughout the year. Among the numerous events planned, we have prepared, for example: exhibitions, Open Days (a tour of the library, presentations, workshops, concerts), science conferences, a chess tournament, and a charity bazaar. Detailed information in Polish available at 100lat.bg.agh.edu.pl.