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Public Library of Mytilene - History



The Central Public Library of Mytilene is housed in an old mansion, located in the city centre across the park of Agia Irini. The mansion, which used to be a clinic (Doukaros Clinic), has in the past been used by the Committee for Refugees' Rehabilitation and the Association Providing Work, whereas during the German Occupation it was requisitioned as a detention centre.

The first attempt to establish a Public Library on the island was made in the 1920s, reaching a climax in 1929, when it was decided to found the Association "Friends of Books" the exclusive aim of which was to establish a Library. To raise funds, the Association decided to offer weekly lectures with a low entrance fee. The Library would include a Department for newspapers and periodicals, a Department for Students, one for manuscripts and a Reading Room, at the same time functioning as a lending library. During the same period, the refugee associations of the island, which were beneficiaries of the Tsinar Mosque, resigned from their rights in order to grant the mosque for the accommodation of the Library. Another decision taken was to create traditional costumes for each community and buy books about the history of each area, which would consist a special collection of the Library entitled "The Asia Minor Library". After the departure of the prefect of Lesvos, Kyriakopoulos, however, all these efforts failed and no one knows what happened with the funds and the books that had been collected. Almost a decade later, the issue was raised again, and the Municipality of Mytilene, registered 25.000 drachmas in the municipal budget aiming to organise the Municipal Library. Meanwhile the local press expressed their concerns about a significant number of valuable items included in private libraries and being destroyed due their owners' ignorance, instead of being incorporated into and enriching the Library. The same concerns were expressed for the Library of the academic D. Vernardakis, many books of which were either destroyed, or lost. The Library of D. Vernardakis is inextricably related to the founding of the Public Library on the island. For half a century, mainly due to inheritance issues, the uniquely valuable books included in this Library, remained packed in the High School of Mytilene. And only in 1945, after an initiative taken by EPON (United Pan-Hellenic Youth Organisation, i.e. the youth wing of EAM) and EAM (National Liberation Front, i.e. the main Greek resistance movement during the Axis occupation of Greece during WW II), without asking for the permission of Vernardakis' heirs, were the books transferred from the High School to the building where the Library is accommodated nowadays. This way and after long term efforts the much desired Municipal Library was finally founded.

The newspaper "Free Lesvos" ("Eleftheri Lesvos"), on 10th March 1945, published the official announcement for the opening of the Library, located in a building on Smirnis street, informing the public about visiting hours, whereas the founding of the Library was also confirmed by a decision issued by the Municipal Council of Mytilene. The local press united, greeted the founding of the Library warmly, at the same time making appeals for book donations. The most significant donations were made by H. Binos, Ar. Nianias, Gr. Rousellis, A. Sifnaios and the expatriates from New York, G. Papanikolas and Str. Hatzirokas. Finally, it would be worth to mention the donation made by the High School Headmaster, Ioannis Olympios, who donated his whole library.

In 1952 the Library became Public and since then is constantly being enriched through donations and purchases, with items amounting to more than 100.000 titles and covering a wide field of human knowledge. Since the 1970s the Library has a Mobile Library Service , whereas in 1992 it started being computerized, providing free access to computers and the internet to all inhabitants and visitors to Lesvos, as well as access to people with disabilities . The Library has 8.500 members and lends about 1.500 books per month. Finally the Library cooperates with local agencies and organisations, as for example the University of the Aegean and the Primary and Secondary Level Schools of the Prefecture of Lesvos.