Kaunas Central bookstore is waiting for changes 2

Laura Rimkutė
www.kamane.lt, 2016-08-01
Kaunas Central bookstore

In brief: Heated debates sparked this spring on the future of the long-existing Kaunas Central bookstore. The concerned part of society was frightened that the bookstore will be destroyed after the planned privatization, just like other public places. While this story is full of political issues, I will try to distance myself from them and to look at the problem from the cultural heritage point of view.

A residential building with a bookstore function on the ground floor emerged at the address of Laisvės Ave. 81 in 1953. It was designed by architects Algimantas Mikėnas and Marija Matušakaitė. Kaunas Central bookstore settled in it in 1956 and exists to this day. During more than half a century of its existence the building has gained a number of valuable features and was included into a register of cultural heritage. First of all the building has an undeniable architectural value.

Bookstore has also preserved an authentic interior. True, it is not the original, but the one that remained after the reconstruction in 1980-1983. It reflects the design trends of the early 80s. In addition to artistic and architectural value, the house has a historical and memorial value. Composer, conductor and singer Juozas Indra lived in it between 1954 and 1963. This is shown on the memorial plaque hanging on the wall of the building. The bookstore itself was hosting various unannounced gatherings of artists, during the 80's, just before the restoration of Lithuanian independence.

Kaunas City Municipality ensured that Kaunas Central bookstore will have to exist as a bookstore. Other activities are prohibited in the contract. The new tenant will have to keep the staff and the authentic interior. However, very often it so happens that such requirements are not that specific or are easily circumvented.

The most interesting thing was the reaction of Kaunas residents to the situation. They did not remain indifferent and took on various protests and rallies, trying to save the bookstore. In early April they organized a protest Je suis Central bookstore and on the 12th of April the concerned residents met next to the Central bookstore and surrounded it with a symbolic wall of books.

The protests publicized the event, but did not reach its goal - the bookstore was rented in June. Its new owner - the biggest Lithuanian bookstore chain Pegasas. This at least ensures that the building will retain its function but the fears of literature fans might come true - the bookstore might be forced to sell the books of major publishers without leaving any space for smaller or less popular publishing houses or self-published books.

Read comments
Write your comment