Following the appeal for international support for the National Library of Latvia (NLL) project made by the President of Latvia at the 155th session of the Executive Board, in 1998, the NLL project started in 2000 under the auspices of UNESCO. An International Commission of Experts, comprising nine members, was set up following the resolution 38 adopted by the UNESCO General Conference at its 30th session which acknowledged that the NLL would be a multifunctional centre contributing to the safeguarding and promotion of cultural heritage, providing access to educational, scientific and cultural information, and encouraging cultural diversity and inter-ethnic knowledge and understanding. The General Conference called upon the Member States and the international community to provide all possible support for the implementation of this project.
The architectural idea of the National Library of Latvia appeared 20 years ago and turned into one of the widely recognized harbingers of the new age in architecture. Designed by the internationally renowned Latvian architect Gunnar Birkerts as a 'castle of light', a metaphor for wisdom, it is described as a world-class building for a world-class library. It offers a thousand reading places, with shelf space for the library's entire active collection of over 6 million items. The Castle of Light will offer new services in the new building – a multi-media centre, fairy-tale room for children, facilities for training and events, spaces for individual and group work, silent reading rooms and zones of repose opening the view on Daugava River. The external appearance refers to the country Latvia, e.g. architecture of rural farmsteads, complemented with layers of Riga’s historical architectural manifestations. The interior reflects the emerging new age, being a center of digitalized information which is accessible for a global population.
In his inaugural speech today, in Riga, the Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. Getachew Engida, emphasized the essential role of libraries for promoting the free flow of ideas and for maintaining, increasing and spreading knowledge. He also pointed out that “as repositories of books and other printed material, they are key to promote reading and writing”. In this particular context, the UNESCO representative, praised the significant contribution of the National Library of Latvia to promote learning, reading and access to knowledge and education in the country by developing a national level solution for management, preservation and access of the digitized cultural heritage.
Furthermore, Mr. Engida expressed the firm belief that “the new National Library building is one of the most significant projects of the 21st century in Latvia. I am confident that this ambitious project gives the National Library of Latvia (NLL) an opportunity to become a modern information and cultural center of international importance”.