Friday Fun: University Library Bucharest

Something a little different this Friday – a lesson in modern history, as the 25th anniversary of the fall of most East European Communist states takes place this year (and I will spare you the ‘am I really so old, it feels like yesterday’ monologues).


Today I want to take you to a journey in the South-East corner of Europe, to Bucharest in Romania. This is the University Library in the heart of the capital in its renovated reincarnation. But it didn’t always look like that…

25 years ago, in December 1989, as Romania was struggling to shake off the shackles of the Ceauşescu dictatorship, the library (BCU, as it’s known in Romanian) suffered from its central location and proximity to the Communist Party headquarters. A fire devastated the building, destroying more than 500 000 books from its collection, as well as countless manuscripts of famous Romanian writers.



I remember a librarian telling me that she was going back into the burning building and carrying out books with her bare hands, tears streaming down her face, as if they were her children.



Fortunately, an appeal made by UNESCO in 1990 led to an outpour of sympathy, support and book donations from all over the world: 100 000 books donated by private individuals and associations in Romania, 800 000 from elsewhere.

Just behind the library was a Secret Service stronghold and listening centre (now integrated into the library extension). The bullet shots attest to the heavy fighting that took place there during those confusing days in late December. I had to write my thesis in another library, as the BCU was closed for many years following this disaster.


The library reopened in 2001. The refurbished old reading rooms are pretty much as I remember them… except for the laptops on every desk, of course.



The new wing is perhaps less ‘atmospheric’ but much more user-friendly. And I like the combination of open shelving and book ordering system. After all, a library without shelves to browse is a bit lifeless, isn’t it?

biblunitatea centrala

Unless otherwise specified, all the pictures are from the website of the library .



13 thoughts on “Friday Fun: University Library Bucharest”

    1. There is also a new, wonderfully organised National Library to explore as well – so the next time I’m over there I have to allow plenty of time to explore both!

  1. I found this incredibly moving especially that they got all those books donated to them from all round the world. There’s a proverb ‘when an old man dies a library burns down’ and it reminds me of dismantling my father’s library after he died and how very difficult that was to do. It also reminds me of those terrible images of the Rennie Mackintosh building in Glasgow going up in flames. Beautiful post.

    1. Oh, I remember that news about the Mackintosh building – what a loss. Are they renovating it, do you know? And yes, it was a wonderful feeling of solidarity back then…

  2. What a powerful, moving story, Marina Sofia! Such a loss that all of those books were burned, but how wonderful to know that the library has been rebuilt. What resilience! Thanks for sharing.

  3. oh wow.. what a beautiful library… would love to visit one day and just sit there for a bit and read and watch people… so cool… and what a shame that so many books were destroyed in the fire… i can imagine how the heart of that librarian was bleeding…

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