Bucharest Centennial: The Central University Library, a cultural and educational landmark of the last century

Romania-Insider.com has started a series of articles about Bucharest landmarks of architecture or history, which have witnessed the last century of what is now the Romanian capital, and noteworthy people who have helped build the Romanian capital as it is today. This project is supported by the Bucharest City Hall through the Public Monuments and Touristic Heritage Administration (AMPT), within the cultural program Bucharest-Centennial.

Check the full series of articles dedicated to the Centennial on Romania-Insider.com here. 

The “Carol I” Central University Library (B.C.U.) is the oldest university library in Bucharest. For more than 100 years, the institution has provided continuity to the Romanian cultural and educational traditions. A project of King Carol I, the Library has known both times of glory, when it was a landmark for the Romanian culture, and difficult times, such as the days of the 1989 Revolution.

The history of the “Carol I” Central University Library began in 1891 when, in a letter addressed to the President of the Council of Ministers, King Carol I declared “the desire to establish a settlement for the benefit of young university students from all faculties in the country, endowed with a library always open.” It was built on the site bought by King Carol I, based on a design by French architect Paul Gottereau, author of the Palace of the House of Deposits, Consignations and Savings and the old Royal Palace in Bucharest.

Work began in 1891 and lasted two years. The following two years were dedicated to the endowment and arrangement of the new edifice called the Carol I University Foundation. The inauguration took place in March 1895, in the presence of King Carol I.

For half a century, the Foundation contributed to the formation of Romania’s intellectual elite of the time, particularly by providing grants, incentive awards, scholarships to meritorious scholars, and by printing valuable works.

Starting in 1911, the building went through a process of expansion that lasted three years. Paul Gottereau was in charge of this project as well. The library was organized and endowed at European levels following the expansion, making it suitable for study and research.

Over the past 100 years, the University Foundation went through many changes to become what it is today – the “Carol I” Central University Library.

After the expansion and until 1945, the Foundation hosted several cultural events, including the first conference of librarians. Among the librarians of the Foundation (and of the future Central University Library) were writers, university professors and cultural entertainers such as G. Dem Teodorescu, Şt. O. Iosif, Al. Tzigara Samurcaş and Mircea Florian.

In the summer of 1948, the University Foundation Library was given the status of Central Library of the „C.I. Parhon” University in Bucharest. Thus, B.C.U. became the coordinating center of the University of Bucharest’s network of university libraries.

From 1963, B.C.U. also became a National Center charged with endowing the language, literature and Romanian civilization libraries abroad with Romanian publications. Gradually, the institution became the most complex academic library in the country.

During the Revolution of December 1989, however, the building was burned. The flames destroyed over 500,000 volumes, old and rare maps, and nearly 3,700 manuscripts belonging to great personalities of Romanian culture such as Mihai Eminescu, Titu Maiorescu and I.L. Caragiale.

The reconstruction and modernization of the library began in the spring of 1990, under the aegis of UNESCO. The library managed to rebuild most of its publications fund in just a few years, through exchanges and donations. People and institutions in the country donated more than 100,000 volumes while over 800,000 others were sent from abroad.

The Central Unit of the Central University Library reopened in November 2001. It was followed a month later by the inauguration of a new section of B.C.U – the Political Science Library, while the Chemistry Library reopened a year later. Then, the reopening and inauguration of other sections followed over several years.

Its name changed to the current one in early April 2006. Two years later, the library completely regained its original design.

The B.C.U. architectural complex consists of three buildings, integrating alongside the Foundation’s palace the building of the former Dacia-Romania Bank  (destroyed in the December 1989 fire) and the Boema building.

Today, the Central University Library includes the Central Unit, the „I.C. Petrescu” Pedagogical Section, and 16 branch libraries.

The Central Unit’s collections include over 400,000 titles in approximately 750,000 volumes. The documents are found in both the reading rooms, organized on the shelves for free access, and in the warehouses. The Central Unit has 12 reading rooms split into categories.

An imposing equestrian statue of King Carol I is placed in front of the Library building, since late-2010. It was installed and inaugurated in the same place where another sculpture of King Carol I, made by sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, was located, a sculpture that was destroyed in 1948 during the communist regime.

How to get there:  

The Library is easily accessible from Calea Victoriei, where the equestrian statue of the former Romanian king can be seen. The building is across the street from the Museum of National Art of Romania: 49-53 Calea Victoriei. The Library’s official address is 1 Boteanu St. Its main entry is however on the CA Rosetti St., which also allows easy access from the Magheru Blvd. The nearest metro station: Universitate Square/ Piața Universității.

Sources: Website Biblioteca Centrală Universitară “Carol I” – Bcub.ro, Wikipedia

Photo source: Shutterstock

Romania Insider
Free Newsletters

Be up to speed with what’s happening in Romania! Choose from our 7 newsletters, covering the entire array of business, social, politics, and entertainment news

Subscribe now