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Vikelaia Library in search of a home for its collection

It arrived simultaneously by post and e-mail, a brief text published by Grigoris Spanakis, professor emeritus of Ancient Greek at Aristotle University. In it, Spanakis writes about the challenges facing the Vikelaia Library, which belongs to and is run by the municipality of Iraklion, Crete. Next year is the Vikelaia’s centenary, but instead of holding celebrations to mark the occasion, the library is in trouble. The building that housed it until recently in the center of the city of Iraklion is under reconstruction. The library’s valuable collection, which contains the libraries of Dimitris Vikelas and George Seferis, is in cartons at three different locations around the city. Nobody knows where the library will be rehoused, since city authorities plan to give the ground floor of the building over to more profitable enterprises. «A century after Vikelas made his donation to the most prosperous prefecture in the country, we are still talking about where to house the Vikelaia and how many square meters it should take up in a building that was not constructed to house a public library. This does no credit to Iraklion,» writes Spanakis. He points out that no competition has been announced for an architectural study, not just to renovate the building, but also to tailor it to a new use. While Nikis Yiannadakis, who died in 1998, was the curator, the library made a significant contribution to cultural life in Iraklion. The Vikelaia organized major exhibitions (including the first El Greco exhibition, as well as those of the Cretan school and the Fayum mummy portraits), accompanied by academic conferences. Its publications have won awards from the Athens Academy. The library forged working relationships with universities and other institutes of learning, and was the first library in Greece to start putting its material into digital form, a project that has since been abandoned. «The heyday of the Vikelaia lasted just 14 years, from Yiannadakis’s appointment (1984) to his sudden death. Some of its cultural activities continued thanks to the force of inertia, his worthy colleagues and the contribution of volunteers,» Spanakis noted.