In 2004, almost a hundred years after the founding of the National Library of Wales, the Quebec government passed an act which amalgamated the collections and services of the national library and archives with a public library facility, to create the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ). Over the summer I visited BAnQ for a book history conference, and learnt that the design of this iconic glass building in the centre of Montreal represents a key element of BAnQ’s mission statement. BAnQ aims to engage with the people and culture it represents by actually showing the public what is going on inside of the building. The key phrase I kept hearing was: the library is in the city, but the city should also exist within the library.
The National Library of Quebec was actually created in 1967 at a key time in Québécois history known as the Quiet Revolution, when a surge of French-Canadian nationalism caused major socio-cultural change. This period is not dissimilar from Wales in the late nineteenth century, when a surge of Welsh nationalism became a political force, enabling institutions such as the National Library of Wales to come into being. A visually austere library, the National Library of Wales is a product of its time and was deliberately built on a hill away from the hustle and bustle of city life. However, the purpose and function of both libraries is fundamentally the same: to collect, preserve and disseminate publications and archival material relating to a particular nation or group’s culture and heritage, previously underrepresented by their designated national libraries.
Calista Williams @Ca7ista
Calista Williams is an AHRC-funded doctoral student, about to begin her third year of study. Her PhD is part of an innovative collaboration between the Open University and The National Library of Wales. https://open.academia.edu/CalistaWilliams
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