Tallinna Keskraamatukogu - Page 278

‹ 278 › The Establishment of Tallinn Free Public Library In 1906 the Tallinn Temperance Board of Trustees turned to the municipal authorities to ask support for the establishment of a public library in Tallinn. The local government, aware of the function of the trustees as an extension of the czarist arm, decided on 7 June 1906 to open a library. Preparations started in the autumn of that year when the city councillor Juhan Umblia sent the City Council a letter containing precise proposals in the matter of establishing a library. Umblia used the municipal libraries of Helsinki and Riga as his models. He proposed that the library’s collections should correspond to the nationalities living in Tallinn and contain literature in three languages: Estonian, Russian and German. He thought it necessary to consider the nationalities as a proportion of total population – as the greatest part was Estonian, 5/6 of the books should be in Estonian. Umblia’s letter was effective: quite soon a committee was chosen from the councillors to prepare the library, headed by the mayor, Voldemar Lender. The committee scrutinized and supplemented Umblia’s proposals and decided to use the statutes of not only Helsinki’s and Riga’s libraries as a model, but also those of St Petersburg and Moscow. On 13 December the City Council accepted the decision to establish a library, allotted 3000 ruble of the city’s resources to the library and appointed Juhan Umblia to the position of chairman of the steering committee. The provincial government of Eestimaa did not approve of all the statutes: on their orders the minimum age of readers was set at 16, not 10 as the preparation committee had intended. Only books with more than one copy in the library could be lent, and only the previous year’s magazines. As the library could not afford to buy more than one copy of any book, the lending of books was thus circumscribed. Vigilance was evident elsewhere as well: schoolchildren could only use the library with the written approval of the headmaster. The issuing of these permits was controlled. Hendrik Mikkor, a teacher from Viljandimaa, was chosen to be the director and Hugo Kurnim became his assistant. After Kurnim’s death, Adam Peterson from Viljandimaa, a well-known figure in the national movement, became assistant director. The library was in a busy location near Raekoja plats at Nunne 2 at the corner of Nunne and Lai.There were three rooms, one of which was used as the wardrobe, and the other two contained 63 seats for readers. The library was much used from the start and in the evenings long queues formed. Finding new rooms for the library already then came under discussion. The readership of the library was quite varied. The greatest proportion were skilled workers (25.1%) and people with a secure profession (14.1%). There were somewhat fewer workers(13.8%) and office workers(10%). Teachers made up 3.8% and students 2.1%. In 1908 the great Estonian writer A. H. Tammsaare (1878–1940) started visiting the library. After a bout of tuberculosis and a long time away from Tallinn, Tammsaare started visiting the library again in 1921 after the library had moved to the premises of the Russian Social Club, which the city of Tallinn had bought for the library. In 1919 the director Hendrik Mikkor resigned. His successor Anton Schmidt lasted in the position only one year – the work was to strenuous. In December 1920 Aleksander Sibul (1884–1981) was chosen to be the new director of the library.