Estonian Librarians' Association

The mission of the Estonian Librarians' Association is to help preserve Estonian national identity through appreciation, preservation, development and acknowledgement of libraries in Estonia.

The vision of the Estonian Librarians' Association is to bring together different types of libraries and librarians while acting as a policymaker, treasurer and moderator of information. The Association is a trustworthy partner for the state, civil societies and the private sector.

A Brief History

The founding congress of the Estonian Librarians' Association was held in February 1923 in Tallinn, with the participation of 54 librarians from all over the country. The congress was the first attempt to unite librarians in order to improve the quality of librarianship in Estonia.
The Association had only 17 years, from 1923 until 1940, to take action before the Second World War, and they started practically from zero: at that time the university offered no degree in librarianship in Estonia, there existed no state network of libraries and the libraries did not have their own buildings or rooms or financing. At schools and in the local communities librarians worked without salary. The first undertaking of the Association was to organize training courses for librarians. That began in 1924, and until 1940 they managed to give 36 courses.

A difficult task for the Association was to prepare the Libraries Act for the Parliament, which was passed in 1924. The Act stated that one copy of every publication printed in Estonia is to be sent to the Tallinn City Library. Thanks to this new law, the collections of the Tallinn libraries came to be well provided. The Libraries Act set a firm ground for the development of public libraries and made books easily accessible for everyone at the libraries.
In the 1920s the Estonian Ministry of Education created a position for an advisor who, besides other responsibilities addressed problems dealing with libraries.

In 1923 the Association started publishing their own journal which was, and still is called "Raamatukogu" (The Library).

The Soviet invasion put an end to the Association’s existence, but a department for libraries worked under the Ministry of Culture and studies in librarianship became available at the university. A network of libraries was created all over Estonia.

The year 1988, in the time of the “Singing Revolution” and “Perestroika”, a few years before independence, was a very lively period in Estonia when many societies and associations were newly created or brought back to life after having been prohibited under the Soviet regime. Such was the case also with the Estonian Librarians' Association. ELA was among the first organisations that restarted their work when favourable conditions emerged after the end of the Soviet occupation. In the twenty years that followed, a lot has changed. But the mission of the Association has not: promotion of librarianship, development of vocational education for librarians and the protection of vocational interests of librarians were set as goals of the Association already in the first statutes that was passed at the first congress in 1923. These goals have remained the priority of the Association until this day.