The National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bedita Islamović



Undefined legal status of the Institution is undoubtedly the leading problem it has been facing. This problem causes other problems, primarily of financial, but also of structural nature: there is no regular funding provision for overhead costs – salaries and running costs; the steering board’s mandate expired, and the new one was never appointed; rulebooks regulating the operation of this institution are outdated; all these issues lead to developmental problems (professional and trained staff leaving, no funding for development of collections and improving work procedures, for cooperation with other institutions, for modernisation of the existing services…)

The State of BiH has legally inherited the National and University Library of BiH: The Council of Ministers BiH (specifically, the Ministry of Civil Affairs BiH), should act as the legal sponsoring entity, but it does not; it has not appointed members of the Steering Board, the Supervision Board, the Director, and so on. The Ministry of Civil Affairs denies its obligations in relation to these responsibilities , and several other Institutions that were founded by the BiH government in the past.

The State of BiH should, in accordance with the Dayton Agreement, comply with the laws in this area (The Law on Libraries from 1995, as well as pre-war legislation), until it either makes changes to these laws or adopts new legislation.

The National and University  Library was established back in 1945, and there is no question about justifying its existence. Back when the University of Sarajevo was founded, the National Library was given an aditional prefix: University. After the breakdown of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, all republican  libraries were given the status of ‘state institutions of culture’, except in the case of Bosnia and  Herzegovina.


We have sent countless appeals for help sent to all relevant institutions in B&H, as well as to the Helsinki Committee and the Office of High Representative.

We gave media interviews and held press conferences – with no significant effect. There was occassional, temporary public attention, but with no reaction from the authorities. In January 2012 all local and world media, including BBC, reported a story about difficult conditions we were operating  under, yet  our position remained unchanged.

Our staff worked with no heating  in winter with temperatures dropping to minus 30○C, but we never closed our doors to the library users.


  • We have about 4,000 permanent users, majority of which are students, lecturers, researchers, scientists and citizens. Out total capacity is 8 reading rooms with 300 seats. Users spend eight hours per day on average on our premises and using various off-site library services.
  • The Library’s collections comprise a total of 800.000 items.
  • The Library holds preparatory courses and professional exams for librarians from all parts of B&H.
  • The Library hosts the headquarters of the Virtual library of B&H, the COBISS.BH (Cooperative Online Bibliographic and Information System and Service), a network of 50 libraries from all parts of B&H. The Peoples and University Library of Republika Srpska is a member of COBISS.NET.
  • The Library represents B&H on various European and global professional associations and organisations (IFLA, CENL, TEL, EUROPEANA, LIBER, CDNL, etc. )
  • Fond Bosniaca is a symbol of the statehood of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it comprises publications about B&H, of Bosnian editions, and of the works by authors from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • The Library offers online access to the catalogue and all global science databases such as Web of Science, ScienceDirect and EBSCO to all its users.
  • Until 1992 The Library had 107, and now has only 60 staff members. By comparison, libraries of this profile in [[the]] neighbouring countries (Croatia, Serbia, etc. ) have almost 350 employees each.


Minimum funding required for operations (salaries for staff, running costs) is 1,200.000 KM per year.


The State of B&H (Parliamantary Assembly BiH, The Council of Ministers B&H, The Ministry of Civil Affairs B&H), should take an official and public stance in relation to existing institutions of culture founded by governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The relevant bodies should pass regulations that will define the status and govern the mode of working of these institutions.

The financing issue related to covering the overhead costs should be resolved (i.e., these basic operational costs should be covered from public budgets).

There is no ‘self-sustainable’ library of this profile anywhere on planet Earth, i.e. library that would be ‘self’-financing’.


The Library is open, but operating  at a reduced capacity, which, in turn, limits its developent and growth. Since the beginning of 2012 staff have not been paid any salaries, with bills for heating, elevtricity, water etc piling up.

As the Call for grants for cultural projects recently annouced by the Ministry of Civil Affairs limits the funding that may be requested to 350.000 KM, we can expect our condition to worsen. Even if we receive the funding from this source (and we do not know that yet), it won’t be an amount sufficient to cover our  most basic needs .


Funding: The Library does not have a stable source of financing that it could rely on. The responsible party for this institution, the State of B&H (which inherited this institution from the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, within former Yugoslavia), fails to secure finance to cover the operational costs of this institution.

Over the past decade, the Library received funding from the state-level Ministry of Civil Affairs by applying for grants. In 2011, however, due to the failure of the existing parties in power to form a government (The Council of Ministers) and as the state budget was passed postfestum, this funding lapsed.

Federation B&H Ministries of education and science, and of culture and sport do provide certain financial support to the Library, as well as the Canton Sarajevo Ministry of education and science; However, these grants are insufficient and are not guaranteed, so we cannot rely on them.

Such an important institution cannot rely only on funding from grants anyway, nor can it be self sustained by charging for its services. Institutions of this profile are financed by the state budgets in all modern countries, not relying upon more than 10% of their budgets from their own revenue.

The Library is temporarily located at the campus of the University of Sarajevo.

2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the Vjećnica’s (the original National and University Library building) destruction. The city administration is slowly reconstructing  the building, but not for its previous purpose; instead it plans to turn it into city hall.


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