Barbara Budyńska, Małgorzata Jezierska

Since 1989, when the social and political system in Poland changed, the number of functioning libraries has dropped. This applies to all types of libraries, in particular those that were originally organised by work places or which served such work places (in the period 1989-2015, the number of INTE centres went down by 98.5%, that of trade libraries by 87.1%, and that of trade and fiction libraries in work places by 95%).21 As for other types of libraries, the scale of the decrease was not so dramatic (it was the largest in the case of pedagogical libraries – 25,5%, and public libraries – 22%, followed by research libraries – 16.7%). However, this process is continuing. 

Since 2014, 102 libraries have been closed down (i.e. 1%), while compared with 201222 the figures were 339 libraries and 3.4% respectively.
This applies above all to trade libraries, trade and fiction libraries, libraries of scientific societies and INTE centres; for example, since 2012
the number of libraries attached to INTE centres has gone down by a quarter, while the number of trade and fiction libraries decreased by
a fifth. The changes in the number of libraries of individual networks that have taken place in recent decades, are connected with, among other things:

– the changed model of a network and the turn from its extensive development towards a more rational organisation, e.g. in public

– the introduction of new technologies and the combination of tasks carried out, for example, by main libraries and their branches, or
   else entrusting such tasks to technologically better equipped libraries (e.g. in research and public libraries);

– the introduction of the principles of organising and operating libraries in agreement with the functioning of local government
   bodies,which is connected with the idea of local library networks (e.g. in public and pedagogical libraries)

– the insufficient demand for library and information services, e.g. in the case of INTE libraries.

At present, saturation with libraries of various types depends on many factors, including the level of urbanisation in the area they are to be found, the existence of other cultural, academic and educational institutions, and the location of supervising bodies (e.g. of central libraries in large urban agglomerations).

In this respect, strictly defined principles apply to public libraries whose network is adapted to the country’s administrative division (threetiered:
district or powiat, commune or gmina, voivodship). What characterises public libraries is the deepening centralisation (monopolisation)
of library services,23 i.e. the concentration of services (the number of libraries), the variety and quality of the offer in large urban centres, as well as the emergence of multifunctional local cultural institutions, part of which are libraries (more or less a fifth of libraries function within such
larger structures). The number of public libraries (as is the case with other types of library) has been slowly dwindling – especially the number of library branches,24 although all of them still form a vast and internally coherent network. The structure of the library network is similar to those in other Central European countries, where they are as numerous and where their distribution reflects the administrative divisions, built up in the past decades according to the idea of extensive development.25

Pedagogical libraries – a typically Polish type of library – operate either independently or within larger institutions. Their number has recently
(2012-2014) decreased by some 15%, which is connected with attempts to reform their organisation (by incorporating them into educational institutions or – as branches – into public libraries, and entrusting to them the tasks of public libraries at the district level). 

Research libraries form an extremely varied group as regards their organisation and potential. They include both large, independent institutions
(central, concerned with one field of knowledge, attached to universities), and small centres, employing one person, for example libraries of research institutes. Among the research libraries there are: the National Library and 30 large specialised libraries (e.g. the Seym Library, the Central Military Library, the Central Agricultural Library, the Central Statistical Library and the Main Medical Library), 781 libraries of higher education institutions, mostly universities (322, including the Jagiellonian Library), technical colleges (199) and others (e.g. medical, economic, pedagogical and agricultural academies), 110 libraries of research institutes, 66 libraries of the Polish Academy of Sciences and 13 public libraries. The number of research libraries has admittedly dropped in recent years, but compared to the other libraries the situation is fairly stable, as in the case of public libraries. There is a tendency to centralise the services (e.g. to merge institute libraries together or to incorporate them into other units of higher education institutions,26 to form multifunctional conference-library-information centres either within one institution or on an inter-university scale27 etc.).

21 In 1989 there were 10,313 public libraries, 1,202 research libraries, 365 pedagogical libraries, 2,433 trade libraries, 1,379 INTE libraries. Data for trade and fiction libraries, of which there were 1,034, come from 1991. On the basis of: Kultura 1992, GUS, Warszawa 1992.
22 As of 2012, GUS uses a general form K-03 for all basic types of libraries in Poland.

23 This has an impact on the growth index of the region a library serves; the number of inhabitants per one library was 4,775 in 2015 (the figures for 2014 were 4,754 and 0.5% respectively).
24 The number of libraries and their branches in 2015 was 8,050. This applies also to book lending point (of which there were 1,295 in 2015), which complement the activity of larger units.
25 The structure of the network in Poland is similar to that in the other Central European countries, where they are equally numerous and based on the administrative division built in the past decades of extensive development. D. Grygrowski, Megabiblioteki czy sieć małych placówek, in: Megabiblioteki, op. cit.

26 R. Malesa, “Zawód bibliotekarza. Między przeszłością a przyszłością”, Folia Bibliollogica 2006/2007, vol. 48/49, p. 76, desklight-321086fe-207f-4fab-9f3a-cdc63355203b [accessed 31.03.2017].
27 Large research libraries are merged with other units of a given university, e.g. the Academic Library of the Navy in Gdynia operates within the framework of the Auditorium-Information Centre; the Library of the Białystok Technical University has been merged with the Centre
for Modern Education (Centre for Distance Education and Foreign Language School); the Library of the Poznań Technical University forms part of the Technical Library and Lecture-Conference Centre.