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29 May, 2024
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Cyprus in need of a literary renaissance

Reshaping libraries for the 21st century

Apostolos Kouroupakis

Apostolos Kouroupakis

From this column, we've emphasized numerous times the pressing need for substantial state support within the book sector. It's a sector we believe has been overlooked, particularly due to the understaffed Department of Modern and Contemporary Culture, and regrettably, there's no sign of this changing anytime soon.

So, the question arises: Why advocate for a new Cyprus library when our financial capacity is strained? Perhaps what we truly need is a new, more inspiring structure for the President to inaugurate every few years.

However, upon further reflection, it becomes evident that we require not just a new Cyprus Library but also a fresh set of policies for the book industry. We've fallen behind in adapting to the ever-evolving world of books, unable to keep pace with our existing structures, no matter how much we desire to do so.

A new facility is imperative to allow the Cyprus Library to flourish, to gather literary archives, and to transform its spaces into cultural and social hubs. It should become a focal point for cultural affairs in Nicosia and across Cyprus, a bustling hub of literary and cultural activity. Yet, it's not just about constructing a single building; buildings will inevitably rise one way or another.

The real challenge lies in what comes next. Therefore, I expect a comprehensive plan from the Deputy Ministry of Culture for the operation of the New Cyprus Library, akin to the 2010-2014 Strategic Development Plan for the Cyprus Library, crafted by Philippos Tsimpoglou and Andreas K. Andreou, which unfortunately remains shelved. My colleague Meropi Moiseos pointed out in 2014 that with the 6.5 million we had in 2010, we could have had a "classical National Library." Yet, despite the strategic plan's creation, it was never put into action.

In that 2010 strategic plan, the authors astutely noted, "the existing building facilities are inadequate and unsuitable for the rational operation of the CB, much more so for its development." Fast forward to 2023, and we are still fixated on the building, still debating one thing or another. We discuss attending international book fairs and the importance of books and culture, but in 2010, a free study existed, and we didn't seize the opportunity.

My concerns extend to the visual arts, another field I perceive as somewhat marginalized. Some may argue that we have spel, a building intended for a State Gallery of Contemporary Art. However, it's still struggling to define its purpose as an exhibition space. When it was inaugurated, we were told it would display contemporary works of art from the State Collection, spanning from the 1950s onward, including pieces using unconventional and new media.

It was meant to serve as an extension of the existing State Gallery of Contemporary Cypriot Art on Stasinou Street. The opening took place in February 2019, yet spel is still searching for its role, and the State Gallery of Contemporary Art-Majestic remains in limbo.

Filling spaces is important, as I've mentioned before, even at the risk of appearing picturesque. However, it's not enough for these spaces to merely be occupied; they must have a purpose, to serve as beacons for the reason they were constructed.

In conclusion, it's evident that it's not solely about erecting buildings; strategic planning is equally vital. We need individuals with ambition, passion, and the political will to turn these plans into reality.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  heritage  |  library  |  books  |  culture  |  education

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