The city library of Subotica as one of the oldest institutions in Subotica and its organizational structure
The city library of Subotica is one of the oldest cultural institutions in the city. It is a public library and is the parent institution for the area of Subotica, Bačka Topola and Mali Iđoš. The library provides services to its users in the Lending, Children’s, Scientific and Home Departments, i.e. in the American Corner, which operates with the support of the American Embassy in Serbia. In addition, there are seven active branches in Subotica and its surroundings: in the suburb of Aleksandrovo, in Bajmok, in Čantavir, in Novi Žednik, in Palić, in Stari Žednik and in Tavankut.
History – painful path through moving to consolidation
The City Library of Subotica was founded in 1892 on the initiative of István Ivanji (Iványi István, 1845 – 1917), who was the founder and first librarian of the City Library as well as the author of the large monograph “History of the Free Royal City of Subotica”. From a small collection of a few hundred books, the library has grown in 133 years into a library that owns about 400,000 monographs, ie 6,000 years of periodical publications and other library material. During the 133 years of its existence, the Library was moved to several destinations, from the courthouse, through the Gymnasium, the Music School, then the former Faculty of Law (today the School of Chemistry and Technology), to Sokolski dom (today “Jadran”), and was relocated again. to the Music School, from which it was moved in 1953 to the current building, the corner building with the Atlases, in the very heart of the city.
Special collections – guardians of heritage
It should be especially noted that the City Library of Subotica has an extremely rich collection of old and rare books, among which it keeps 6 incunabula – books from the 15th century – and most of them are from the personal libraries of the bibliophile Vince Dr. Zomborčević (Dr. Vincze Zomborcsevics, 1810 – 1900) and Isidor Milk (Milkó Izidor, 1862 – 1907), that is, Ištvan Ivanji and other distinguished fellow citizens. 166 books from the 16th century and 222 books from the 17th century are kept here.
The most used and most important collection of the library is the native collection, which is kept partly in the native department, and partly in the Scientific Department. In the study of native history and all spheres of the city’s life – an unavoidable destination is – precisely – the Native Collection.
Digitization – steps for the future
In recent years, the library has started to digitize the materials of the native collection, starting with periodicals. Part of the digitized materials are available on the website: https://digitalna.subiblioteka.rs
The library has expanded in recent years and thanks to the “Bethlen Gábor Alap” Fund from Hungary, on the order of the Secretariat for National Policy of the Government of Hungary, it got a new reading room, a two-story courtyard building, intended for searching digitized materials and for research work, as well as for educational programs and cultural events, i.e. for the improvement of the digitization process.
70 years in the building of the former National Casino
In 2023, the Library celebrates its 70th anniversary since moving into this building in the building of the former National Casino, which was built in 1896 and has the status of a cultural monument of great importance. By moving into this building, the conditions for organizing and cataloging funds, for adequate accommodation of library material, and for the formation of departments designed to serve users of various needs and ages were obtained. In the 70s, the building was adapted for new needs, and in 1973-74. In 2008, the adaptation was carried out, gallery spaces were built, thereby providing space for an increasing number of books and periodicals.
The building was built according to the project of Ferenc J. (Rajhla Raichle J. Ferenc, 1869 – 1960). It represents a corner building designed in the spirit of eclecticism. At the entrance from Slobode Square, there are figures of two Atlases, the work of sculptor Eda Telča, who carry the balcony of the first floor. In 2022, the front facade was restored. The reading room and the staircase leading to it are extremely luxurious. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, it was originally intended for the social life of Subotica intellectuals who gathered in the National Casino under the auspices of the Free Lyceum. Deže Kostolanyi (Kosztolányi Dezső, 1885 – 1936), a great Hungarian writer born in Subotica, describes the social circumstances and the ambience of this room in his novel “Seva” (Pacsirta).