January 21, 2014

Human chain delivers books to Latvian library


Kaspars Garda, Rīga 2014

Kaspars Garda, Rīga 2014

Riga, the capital city of Latvia, was recently named a European Capital of Culture for 2014 (Umeå, Sweden is the other Capital of Culture). The programs and celebrations scheduled to mark the occasion so far have included a fire sculpture championship, a musical light show over the Daugava River, and — over this weekend, the Chain of Booklovers. The human chain was formed to bring books from the old building of the National Library of Latvia to its new location at the Castle of Light, which you can see in the photo to the right (the sloping building that looks like it’s wearing a crown), designed by American-Latvian architect Gunnar Birkerts.

A Reuters article—linked here via GMA News Online—reports that about 14,000 people of all ages turned up to be links in the chain, despite the cold weather, which clocked in at 10° Fahrenheit. Over the course of five hours, they passed some 2,000 books along the chain, which stretched out for 1.2 miles between the old and new libraries.

The Chain of Booklovers didn’t constitute an exhaustive effort to transport the library collection, which includes more than 4 million books, the remainder of which will be moved by truck later. It was, however, a fairly impressive symbolic act (10°, folks — those Latvians are not fooling around) that figures into a year-long celebration in a country that was hit hard by the economic downturn in 2009. Other literary events that Riga is planning include the People’s Bookshelf, where they can leave books for anybody to take, with a personal inscription on the first page; that will run from October 18-20.

Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.