Dedicated to the 500th anniversary of printing in Belarus and the 95th anniversary of the establishment of the National Library of Belarus.
There is no woman in the world who could ever adorn herself with this jewel, the world’s largest and most valuable diamond. Its weight is measured not in carats, but tons – 140,000 tons, to be exact. This is equal to 14 Eiffel towers. At night, it can be seen even from outer space, thanks to an enormous, multicolored LED screen that lights it up when the sun goes down. Such a grandiose marvel is to be found in a tiny European country – Belarus; the diamond is its National Library.
This glittering gem of knowledge is the largest structure in the world built in the shape of a diamond. Its facets are made up of 18 squares and 8 triangles, covered in special reflecting glass and resting on an enormous stepped platform.
The building’s shape is not the only unusual thing about it. It is almost 242 feet high, containing 23 stories. Near the main entrance stands a statue of Francisk Skaryna, the pioneer printer of Belarus, in the form of an open book. The library was built using state-of-the-art technology, making it very stable and fire- resistant. It was built to last 500 years.
The library was constructed using the «thermos» principle, which makes it possible to maintain a constant indoor air temperature. Hallways along the external walls are technologically designed to help prevent temperature fluctuations. This innovation dictated the interior: the library is decorated with more than 1,000 plant species from virtually around the world. There are actual gardens in the halls and reading rooms, and moisture-loving tropical and subtropical plants are growing near small reservoirs.
This unique building, which has become the trademark of the Belarusian capital, was designed by architects M. Vinogradov and V. Kramarenko back in the 1980s. However, it was not built until 2006.
Ever since that year, by order of President Alexander Lukashenko, the library has housed the Center for International Meetings and Negotiations, outfitted with ultra modern equipment that can be used for a variety of cultural and political events by people up to and including heads of state.
The building also features a 490-seat conference hall, art galleries, and a recreation area that includes a children’s playroom, a restaurant, and three cozy cafes.
The National Library of Belarus is not just a gathering place for Minsk book lovers. Fitness enthusiasts are also glad to visit, to take advantage of the sports and recreation complex complete with a modern gym, a sauna and a health bar that you can go to for beverages and snacks.
The 1,500 computers in 20 storage rooms and 20 reading rooms are available daily to several thousand users, providing them with access to 10 million books.
Nearly 5 million Belarusians visit the library each year, confirming the country’s honorary title as one of the most well- read nations in the world. Most of the readers are residents of the capital and the Minsk region, but there are also representatives of all parts of Belarus and even people from foreign countries.Here you will see high school and college students, along with scientists, office workers, blue-collar workers, and retirees. The library is also accessible to people withdisabilities.
Belarus’ main library, one of the world’s largest, outperforms all other libraries on the planet in speed of book delivery from the stacks to the reader. It also gets high marks fromprestigiousworld rankings: The website “Village of Joy” names the National Library of Belarus among the 50 “most unusual buildings in the world.” The US publication Flavorwire ranked it 11th on its list of «20 Works of Architecture That Belong in a Sci-Fi Film.»
This year, the National Library of Belarus launched a charity campaign called «Books are the source of wisdom, knowledge, and science…” dedicated to the 500th anniversary of Belarusian printing. Within the framework of the project, libraries of public institutions will receive printed publications to replenish their stock.
The name of the campaign dates back to the philosophical reflections of Skaryna himself, who so highly prized the printed word.
The birth date of Belarusian printing is featured in the calendar of UNESCO, under whose auspices the National Library in Minsk hosted an international congress devoted to this significant anniversary. It drew staff from libraries, museums, archives, research organizations, and educational institutions, as well as lawmakers, software developers and manufacturers of technology and information products from all over the world.
During the Congress, the National Library of Belarus held its 95th anniversary, a celebration of this invaluable diamond of knowledge, a major source of future progress.
By Irina Webster