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Brief History of the State Technical Library

"A Library On the Move"

I Library Origins

The collections of the present-day State Technical Library were founded in 1718 as a collection of books of the first professional Professor of engineering Christian Willenberg (1655-1731).

The professional professorship of engineering was established by a decree of Czech estates dated November 9, 1717, coming into force on January 1, 1718, in order to teach "military skills", especially the building of fortifications. In this decree, Ch. J. Willenberg was appointed engineering professor and received 300 guilders "once and forever" to purchase books and teaching aids. Books assumed to be once part of this first collection are still included in the STL collections.

The decree of the Estates, dated November 11, 1717, appointed 12 students of Professor Willenberg, whom he was supposed to teach in his apartment, where has also was to keep the books and teaching aids bought for the assigned 300 guilders. Professor Willenberg lived in Prague, in the so-called Saxon House in Lesser Town.

In 1720, Professor Willenberg moved with his collection of books to the Old Town, to a house standing on the corner of the Liliová street and Anenská street, known at that time as "Sartorial Dosshouse".

The reason for his moving were complaints by students, who lived in a college in the Old Town and some of them were university students at the same time. They complained that walking across Charles Bridge took too long and was unpleasant due to heat in summer and snow in winter.

Johan Ferdinand Schor (1686 - 1767) became the second professional professor of engineering on March 1, 1726. He taught his students and kept his collection of books and enlarged it using his own money in his apartment in the "Golden Wreath" house in Small Square.

II Professor Herget

The Engineering School of the Estates, as the original professorship of engineering was called after the number of its students significantly grew in the second half of the 18th century, experienced its biggest growth while having being led by its third and last professor, Franz Leonhard Herget (1741-1800). After he acceded to office in 1767, he taught his students and looked after the collection of books in his apartments, first in the Týnská street, then in the so-called Broumov House in the Kozí plácek square (demolished in 1900) and finally in a house standing on the corner of the Old Town Square and Melantrichova street.

Due to the growing number of students, Professor Herget started looking for an alternative location of the school instead of his apartment. He managed to find one classroom, three small rooms for books and teaching aids and a garden with a hydraulic drive for mechanical and physical experiments at the Prague Klementinum. Their exact location is unknown, but it is assumed that it might have been in the southern wing on the premises of the former Jesuits printing shop

(entry from the Karlova street). The school and library were located there in 1777 - 1786.

In 1788, Professor Herget also managed to win from the Estates a regular annual grant of 250 guilders in order to be able to buy books and teaching aids. The school and library changed its focus from military to civil engineering and Professor Herget started purchasing books on mathematics, physics, architecture, civil engineering, and mechanics.

One of the most important successes of the versatile activities of Professor Herget was the winning of the so-called Seminar of St. Wenceslas from the abolished Jesuits Order in present-day Husova street, at that time Dominikánská street in the Old Town. The Engineering School of the Estates moved here together with its library and teaching aids in 1786.

III The Seminar of St. Wenceslas

The library was located in the building of the former Seminar of St. Wenceslas in Husova street as part of the polytechnic teaching institutes, predecessors of present-day Czech Technical University, in 1786 to 1935.

In this building, the Engineering School of the Estates was transformed into the Polytechnic Institute of the Estates, divided in 1869 into two independent institutes - German and Czech. In 1875, both institutes were subordinated to the Austrian Ministry of Culture and Teaching instead of the Czech regional home-rule as the Royal and Imperial Czech and Royal and Imperial German Technical University. Both institutes shared the library until the abolition of the German Technical University in 1945. Its name from that time, Library of Technical Universities, remained unchanged until 1960.

The library was located in the back wing of the building. From 1834, when a new two-floor wing was built in the courtyard, you had to cross two courtyards to get to the library. The library was located on the first floor in three rooms with a total area of 114 m2. In 1875, a study room with an area of 102 m2 and 73 seats was added to the library, originally the back wing of the former director of the Institute, who was disengaged in 1863 because the Institute was to be managed by a chancellor elected for one year.

In 1891, when the current premises of the library did could not hold the growing collections, the Chancellor of the German Technical University allocated another hall to the library.

The Polytechnic Institute of the Estates, inaugurated on November 10, 1806, was to the largest extent the result of the efforts of František Josef Knight Gerstner (1756- 1832).

Gerstner is also considered to be the founder of the library in the sense of an organized and properly documented collection of books and journals. On May 31, 1831, he entrusted Karl Joseph Napoleon Balling (1805 - 1868), an adjutant in the chemistry department and later professor and chancellor of the polytechnic institute with the task to organize books, until then dispersed with individual professors. It was Balling who created the basic layer of the State Technical Library collections, consisting of five major groups: mathematics, civil engineering, chemistry, mechanics, and the military. He was in charge of the library until 1865.

IV Library of the Technical Universities (LTU) in the eastern wing of the Klementinum

The prime mover behind moving the LTU to a more suitable premises that those available in the building of the German Technical University in the Husova street was the academic senate of the Czech Technical University, founded in 1920, which made a decision at one of its first sessions "to move the common technical library to more suitable premises". In February 1927, the Chancellors of the German Technical University and of the Czech technical University demanded from the Ministry of Education that a necessary number of rooms in Klementinum, vacated after the Czech University had been moved to the new building of the Faculty of Arts, be assigned to the library. The Director of the Public and University Library, Dr. Borecký, then responded to an enquiry from the Ministry by allocating premises in the eastern wing of the Klementinum to the LTU.

An approval by the Ministry of Finance an adaptation was granted in early 1931, a crucial approval by the Ministry of Public Works was issued on June 23, 1932. The budget was set at CZK 4,430,412.75 plus 25 000 CZK for the restoration of the historical ceiling in the present-day general study room. Complicated negotiations were conducted to win more money in order to be able to buy furniture, bookshelves and other furnishings.

The restoration was designed by arch. Dr. Ing. Ladislav Machoň, who closely cooperated with the then Director of the LTU, PhDr. Antonín Moucha. The adapted premises in the eastern wing of the Klementinum were inaugurated on May 9, 1935.

The interior of the library and its technical equipment which the two men managed to create - e. g. pneumatic mail , were at that time considered as best library in Central Europe. For the transport of books, a unique horizontal and vertical conveyor was installed, capable of collection 1-3 books in closed wire baskets, designed by Dr. Moucha and manufactured by the Mikrofone company.

The large study room was equipped for 142 readers and the historical wooden ceiling of the Jesuit theatre, restored by the painter B. Číla, enticed library visitors.

The fact that the library had been moved to sufficiently spacious premises with pleasant interior and functional equipment reflected in increased numbers of visitors: 100,000 in 1936 compared with 37,000 in 1934.

V National Library of Technology, Prague 6 - Dejvice

Since 1935, the State Technical Library has been located in the eastern wing of the Klementinum, leased from the National Library. Since the collections of both libraries are constantly growing, the building of a new building for the State Technical Library has been contemplated for quite a time. There have been several projects since 1963, but none of them has materialized.
In 2001, an architectural tender was made for the building of a new National Technical Library, which it to be built on the university campus in Prague 6-Dejvice and supposed to include the STL collections as well as those of the Czech Technical University and of the Central Library of the Institute of Chemical Technology.

History of the STL compiled by PhDr. Eva Sošková

29. 12. 2004   Public Relations Section         [CNW:Counter]