Farewell to a kind, modest booklover

The passing away of the National Library head Filippos Tsimpoglou

Farewell to a kind, modest booklover

He was an excellent character: kind, modest, fair, without arrogance, steadfast to his ideas and ideals. He loved his work, was passionate about the National Library of Greece (NLG) and devoted his life to its service,” Stavros Zoumboulakis, president of the organization’s Supervisory Council, says of Filippos Tsimpoglou. Tsimpoglou was director general at the NLG until his death on Thursday, following a brief illness. “For 10 years we worked together without problems,” he said.

The unexpected loss of this dedicated public functionary who, according to those who worked closely with him, always sought to promote the work of his colleagues, has deeply moved the people at the organization. “He was selfless and always open to new initiatives,” Zoumboulakis says, describing the optimism with which Tsimpoglou dealt with the adversities and challenges during his time at the helm of the organization.

Tsimpoglou was born in Farsala, Central Greece, in 1956. He received a BSc in economics from the Athens University of Economics and Business in 1983 and in 2005 a PhD in library and information science from the Ionian University. From 1983 until 1999, he worked at the National Documentation Center (then still part of the National Hellenic Research Foundation), where he was responsible for European structural and development programs. Between 1999 and 2014, Tsimpoglou was director of the University of Cyprus Library. He became director general at the NLG in 2014 after a long period during which the position was filled by deputies and the organization was able to move forward mainly thanks to the efforts of the supervisory council and staff.

The relocation project

‘I can’t help but feel a thrill when less than a meter away from my desk sits the first book to have ever been printed in the Greek language, in 1476’

Tsimpoglou had a full plate from the beginning as he had to grapple with the chronic problems of the organization and at the same time plan the historic relocation of the NLG from the neoclassical Vallianeio building in central Athens to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in Faliro. Relying on his strong skills in librarianship and program development, he sought from the outset to modernize the library so it would have an international reach and play a social role in knowledge and learning.

“The wager of modernizing the National Library, in every aspect, must definitely be won. Right now, we are making a systematic effort to make up for decades of lost ground so we can move into the future. We work for it, putting our mind, heart and soul into it. The National Library is a hidden treasure and the bet is to cast a light onto this treasure,” he said, referring to the demanding work and dedication required to move the library into a new era.

The preparation of the relocation program was based on a series of extensive and specialized studies. Their planning, execution and coordination was the work of an informal group of executives and specialist advisers that was set up for this purpose. Tsimpoglou was responsible for every detail of developing the program and using the donation from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF). He also oversaw the connection between the NLG collections, operations and staff with any project, idea or decision concerning the organization and its future.

Having completed the massive relocation project, the next strategic goal for the NLG was to provide scientists and researchers with the best possible access to a wealth of print and digital material on Hellenism by providing upgraded digital services and interconnection with other libraries at home and abroad.

“Perhaps he did not manage to complete his work at the library,” Zoumboulakis says. “But this anyway presupposes the involvement of many people as well as large budgets,” he adds.

In an interview with Kathimerini’s weekly K magazine back in 2017, Tsimpoglou said: “I can’t help but feel a thrill when less than a meter away from my desk sits the first book to have ever been printed in the Greek language, in 1476. It’s good fortune to be among those who have the responsibility to save books like this one.”

Tsimpoglou’s funeral service will be held on Monday (February 6) at 11.30 a.m., at Agios Konstantinos Church in Zografou’s Municipal Cemetery.

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