Generation after Generation Exhibition (Slovenia)

The exhibition was placed in 2016 by the Association of Librarians of Gorenjska region in honor of the 40th anniversary of the renaming of the association. The Association president Maja Vunšek invited all members of the Gorenjska Librarians’ Association to cooperate. Finally, 8 librarians participated in the preparation of the exhibition.

The exhibition presented public libraries as they operated in the Gorenjska region from the late 1950s to the mid-1990s. It was divided into thematic sections and showed both social and library activities in Gorenjska. The introductory part was dedicated to the origin and history of the association, followed by the development of the Public Libraries in Gorenjska, their tasks and equipment. An important emphasis was the stereotypical appearance of librarians in the days when there were no computers. Younger colleagues had to inquire about individual work procedures from older or already retired colleagues, from whom they revived memories of their era. While searching for suitable exhibits, it was surprising that librarians have inadvertently discarded many subjects that was indispensable in libraries in the not-so-distant past.

The exhibition was set up in the gallery of Khislstein Castle in Kranj. In addition to all this, the authors have prepared a leaflet about the exhibition.

Public libraries in Gorenjska region

The first public libraries on Slovenian territory developed in the 19th century, when reading rooms and reading societies were established in Gorenjska, along with social libraries, which eventually grew into public libraries, the predecessors of today’s libraries.

Radovljica received its first reading room in 1848, the reading society in 1879, Škofja Loka in 1862, Kranj in 1863, Jesenice in 1885, and Tržič in 1889. In the autumn of 1904, the first public library in Jesenice was established. In 1906, the public public library in Radovljica opened its doors. In Kranj, the association’s library of the National Reading Room, which had been operating since 1863, was renamed the public library in 1907.

After the Second World War, the material of various pre-war society libraries was collected in public libraries, which were organized according to the principles of the modern library profession. “Public libraries collect and borrow popular science and literature books to spread general social and cultural education. At the end of 1960, the library network in the Republic of Slovenia numbered 2,209 libraries (526 public, 104 scientific and 131 professional).

Purchasing policy of public libraries

One of the fundamental issues in the public library has always been the selection of books offered to readers. The library acquired the books by purchase or gift. Books that became the property of the library were then entered in the inventory book.

The property was marked with a library seal or a stamp printed on the back of the title page. Above the round stamp, the signature was written with an ordinary pencil, and below the stamp, the inventory number. A rubber label was affixed to the upper left edge of the covers (along the back) and a signature was written in ink on it.

Each book was equipped with a booklet. The booklet represented the book in her absence and without it the books could not be borrowed. The book slip was inserted between the covers and the binding sheet – in a paper pocket that was embedded in the covers.

Working with readers in public libraries

One of the greatest features of the former public libraries was that they were accessible to all without restriction. With a basic library collection, they had to meet the tastes and needs of the simplest and most educated reader.

The librarian played a major role in gaining readers, and the best tools for this were book catalogs; they drew attention to the library material that the library offered to its members. The opening hours of the library were also important for the readers. Public libraries were supposed to be open continuously from morning to evening in larger places, and in smaller places at a time when most residents were free to visit the library.

In the public library, however, the reader not only borrowed books, but also looked for more and more diverse information in it, and that is why the largest public libraries have developed a special information service. The librarian-informant provided information to readers orally, by telephone, and in writing. Public libraries also kept a calendar of cultural events, anniversaries and holidays.

Search for material

Without good catalogs, book collections would be useless to the reader. According to certain rules, catalogs were lists of all book stocks in order to enable the reader to use the material quickly and efficiently. The catalog had two tasks: to help the reader and guide you in choosing books, and to give the librarian control over the book stock.

By appearance, libraries had book catalog and leaf catalog. The catalogs had to answer the reader’s question of where in the library he could find a work he was familiar with:
a) only the author and the actual title of the work,
b) only the title,
c) or a specific subject or profession.

There were catalogs according to content:
A. alphabetical noun catalog
B. title catalog
C. actual catalog
D. cross catalog

Catalogs usually consisted of five, ten, fifteen or more drawers. These stood on a special pedestal. They were stacked on top of each other in the vertical direction or arranged more horizontally next to each other. In the second case, such a catalog could be used by several readers at the same time. The dimensions of the drawers determined the dimensions of the file slips. Drawers for the 7.5 x 12.5-centimeter international format had an internal drawer length of about 37 centimeters; 1,000 to 1,200 file sheets were stored in one drawer.


In the beginning most public libraries in Slovenia were arranged according to the desk system. The book warehouse was separate from the reader – only the librarian had access to the bookshelves, while the borrowing of books took place in the lending office.

Library material could be borrowed for reading at home or in the library reading room. An adult reader was able to enroll when he or she submitted an identity document upon enrollment, while young readers were enrolled in the pioneer library by their parents. After entering in the directory of borrowers, each reader was given his own number, which the librarian used when entering the borrowed books instead of the name and surname of the reader.

In the 1960s, the library profession introduced a groundbreaking novelty – free access where a reader had free access to the bookshelves and could choose his own books directly on the shelf with the help of catalogs or a librarian.

Bookbinding department

Some larger public libraries also had bookbinder staff. His work included the preparation of books or periodicals for binding, minor repairs to the covers and book block, and various other works he was able to do in his workshop.

The bookbinding equipment included a work table, hand presses, weights, a cutter, scissors, glues (kleister – starch glue, carbofix), sewing accessories (needle and thread), transparent polyvinyl for wrapping books, canvas, cardboard, etc.

Periodicals were bound regularly. The librarian collected the newspaper for so long that he assembled a complete unit (the whole year), which was then bound into covers (foliant).

The bookbinder also made minor repairs. He pasted the torn sheet into a book with glue, repaired minor tears, or sewed small brochures with sewing supplies. He removed ordinary stains with an eraser, greasy stains with petrol, and ink stains with a special liquid.

Library equipment and development

After the Second World War, in modest conditions, in addition to shelves in a shelf or cupboard, the library equipment was represented only by a table and a chair, a few pens, a beer bowl and glue. If the bookcases were high, so was the ladder. On the walls, there were pictures of Tito and Stalin, the last of course only until 1948, while librarians preferred poets and novelists as France Prešeren. The first telephones did not ring in libraries until after 1960.

In the 1960s, the library free access was implemented. High barriers between librarians, materials and visitors have fallen. In terms of equipment, the change brought lower counters, a user-friendly signage system, more space for visitors, reading rooms with tables and accessible shelves for magazines.

With the rising standard, libraries began to open special departments for children. In addition to free access, they offered event spaces, reading equipment and tables, and accessories for creative activities.

Gradually, libraries transformed from elite reading rooms through transformation into open public libraries after the war into an open, versatile service for readers. By expanding the space between the shelves or in the halls, libraries began to add other activities that suited their mission: events, exhibitions and education. Thus, equipment such as chairs, blackboards, tape recorders, projectors, microphones and sound systems, picture hanging systems, etc. came into the library premises.

Pre-computer libraries in the Gorenjska region experienced the first turning point in the digital age in Kranj in 1991, when the Central Library of Kranj became part of the computer database of Slovenian libraries.

The original source of this story can be found here.