Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
While doing some research for the TODAY IN KREUZBERG series, I found this little piece of historic information: on January 1st, 1895 in the house No. 13 in Neue Schönhauser Strasse in Berlin-Mitte the invited guests and accidental passers-by were celebrating the opening of the first public library in Berlin.
The two rooms the library leased inside the Volks- Kaffee- und Speise-Halle (People´s Coffehouse and Canteen) offered 80 seats, 53 magazines and 43 newspapers. Plus, obviously, books.
It was thanks to the great efforts of mostly two people that the library was born: Ernst Jeep, a librarian from the Royal Library, and Bona Peiser, the first professional female librarian in Germany. Opening a public library in Berlin was Bona Peiser´s dream and goal for a long time. She even spent some time in Manchester, in England, learning from the best how such a place could and should be run.
So much for history. As for the modern times, recently I have read in my daily that a small local library in Berlin-Kreuzberg is about to close down. As a saving measure. The costs are high and the public dwindling. No wonder. The library is mostly attended by the elderly people from Otto-Suhr-Siedlung between Oranien-, Alte Jakob- and Stallschreiberstrasse. And by the children living there. As most small local public libraries are.
Now those two groups, who are least likely to voice their anger or despair at their loss on Facebook & Co, will be left to do without. The costs of the library´s upkeep were too high and the use of such a place should by definition remain free of charge. Otherwise, the automatic exclusion begins.
“Die öffentliche Bibliothek muss jederzeit für jedermann unentgeltlich offenstehen” – “Public libraries must be always free and open to everyone.”
Who said that? Bona Peiser. The woman after whom the small local public library in Oranienstrasse 72 was named.