Down with the Castle

  • 2007-02-21
  • by Stephan Eberhardt, Latvia
Do we really need this 'Castle of Light,' the proposed new Latvian Natio-nal Library? No! The 180 million euros or so that it will cost to complete it would be better spent on regional libraries, smaller facilities, every Latvian city and town, with good design providing decent and inviting reading and study space, and ...the necessary resources. These facilities would be used by more people than this central depository of books would serve, and at a much lower total cost. There is currently very little reading space that is clean and comfortable in Latvia. Maybe this is why many Latvians rarely read, as a recent report shows.

The promotional brochures requesting donations for the national library say that a 'network of light,' a national on-line information network, is already in place. What's missing are access points to use it.

Some gloat that it will be a tourist magnet on the level of Sydney's opera house or Bilbao's Guggenheim. Are we building this for Latvians, or for tourists? And anyway, it's silly and non-innovative architecture; this needs a re-think, Mr. Birkerts.
Additionally, the national library project will be a corrupt, non-transparent program, from the sourcing of equipment and computer systems to the bidding and construction process. This will further enrich the entrenched forces of Latvia at the expense again of the public.

It's time for action rather than just talk when it comes to Latvia becoming a 'reading' and 'knowledge' society.
The library's ahead of its time, a misplaced extravagance the state can't afford. Resources have to be pushed out to the regions, not concentrated in the center with access only by a limited few.
We've already built new hockey halls everywhere, so why not give the kids something more valuable, like somewhere to study, and save the Castle for another day.

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