The libraries in Kupiškis area: fragments of history. The first libraries in the Kupiškis land

Lina Matiukaitė

The first libraries in the area of Kupiškis had been established in the estates and monasteries. The valuable collections of books of the 17th-19th centuries had been stored in the estates of Antašava, Adomynė, Palėvenė, Noriūnai etc., as well as in the Dominican monasteries in Palėvenė and Skapiškis. During the Lithuanian press ban times, book smugglers not only distributed Lithuanian books, but also had secret small libraries. After the ban was lifted, at the start of the 20th century, numerous and various societies and public organisations (Pavasarininkai, Šauliai, Young Farmers, Jaunalietuviai etc.) and parish libraries had been established; at that time schools also had their libraries. All these libraries were public and were based on enthusiasts only. Their activity was fragmental or often short-lived. In 1940, under the Soviet regime, the majority of such libraries had been closed and books taken out.

In 1937, Juozas Tonkūnas, the education minister of the Republic of Lithuania, in accordance with the law on state-owned public libraries, on February 1, established the Kupiškis state public library of the 2nd order with a reading-room; and Česlovas Skaraitis became its first director. The library was placed in the Jonas Apšega hall (Vilniaus St. 11), later it had been moved several times to other premises, and from 1951 it was in the Jewish Synagogue. Due to administrative reforms, the name of this library was changing, with 18 directors heading it n sequence.

The development of the network of public libraries, in Kupiškis District is reviewed in the paper, i.e., their establishment, reorganisation and closing in the towns and villages of the District is described. In 1939–1940, the libraries were established Subačius, Alizava, Skapiškis and Šimonys, in 1956 and 1964 there were 20 and 30 libraries, correspondingly. The development of the library network was strongly affected by the decision of the Executive Committee of the Kupiškis District Council, with the goal to have libraries in all kolhozes; so, in 1967–1975, 15 new libraries appeared in the villages. Centralisation of libraries done on February 1, 1977 widened functions of the central library, with village libraries becoming its branches; at the same time 15 unviable libraries were closed. With a decline of population in the District (26 295 people in 1992; 19 656 in 2012), the network of libraries was shrinking. The year of 1996 brought great changes in the activities of the libraries. Implementing the Programme on Restructuring of Rural Cultural and Educational Institutions in the Kupiškis District and Redistribution of their Functions, approved by the Kupiškis District Municipality Council, libraries of main schools were attached to 8 branches, while 5 branches were closed.

In 2013, the Kupiškis municipal public library and 16 its branches (Subačius, Adomynė, Alizava, Antašava, Juodupėnai, Laičiai, Lukoniai, Naiviai, Noriūnai, Palėvenėlė, Rudiliai, Salamiestis, Skapiškis, Šepeta, Šimonys and Virbališkiai) were active in the District. There were about 6.5 thousand clients of these libraries, i.e. every third resident of the District used to come there, or about 100 thousand visitors per year.

The most impressive changes due to new technologies and the Internet availability took place at the beginning of the 21st century. Today the library is a public informational and cultural centre that is open for new technologies and upholding old traditions, paying attention to informational and cultural demands of the population in Kupiškis District, to spreading of information stored in the library funds and the Internet, as well as heritage of the area. It expands its services and searches new work forms, cooperates with its partners–the community and various institutions and individual persons.

The first Internet reading-hall in the public library was launched at the start of 2001, and another one was opened in 2003 in its Šepeta branch. From 2011, visitors of all library branches can use the Internet free of charge. Taking part in the Libraries for Progress project, library computers are updated, Internet connection is improved, and computer literacy training takes place. In 2003, with the connection to the Lithuanian Integral Library Information System, an electronic catalogue began to be formed in the Kupiškis public library (in 2012, the catalogue contained 63569 bibliographic entries); and after a reader service subsystem has been uploaded on January 2, 2007, the access to the catalogue is available for visitors, which can order books, renew their time of use or reserve a book online by home computer.

From 2001, the librarians worked out over 40 projects, including 26 ones which got the funding from the Open Lithuania Society, the Emergency Fund in Lithuania, Culture Support Fund, ES structural funds, various programs of the Culture Ministry and other institutions for over 280 thousand litas (80 thousand euro). Implementation of these projects enabled creation of new services, renewal of premises and equipment of the libraries, and organisation of many events, as well as publishing books and other editions.