Bitola, 14 August 2019 (MIA) – The “AL-BI” library, located in the village of Babino, houses first edition copies of the Macedonian orthography, the Macedonian Bukvar (alphabet book), Vancho Nikolski’s book “Volshebnoto samarche” (The Magic Saddle) and the “Nova Makedonija” (New Macedonia) newspaper, printed in the village of Gorno Vranovci.
The library, which houses thousands of books, is a symbol of our culture, said the owner Stevo Stepanovski.
“The first edition copy of the Macedonian orthography was given to me by Bozhin Pavlovski, and the first edition copy of “Volshebnoto samarche”, which had been in the author’s possession for many years, was given to me by his grandson, who decided the book was to be kept here and always be available to the public. All the first edition books in the library’s possession are properly stored,” Stepanovski said.
Some say the “AL-BI” library is the world’s biggest library located in the smallest populated area, as currently, the village of Babino has only two permanent residents. Others claim that it’s the smallest library in the world, because it houses over 20,000 books, both old and new, in one modest building.
“The library was founded in 1882 by my great-grandfather Jovan, who used to be paid in books written in Ottoman Turkish, Arabic and Persian. It houses books printed in Baghdad, Teheran, Damascus, Istanbul, Ankara, Sofia, Moscow, Leningrad, London, Paris, Vienna, Thessaloniki, Philadelphia, Heidelberg, Gottingen, Belgrade, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Amsterdam, Leipzig, etc.
“We abide by the 1994 UNESCO Public Library Manifesto which states that a public library the local center of information, that makes all kinds of knowledge and information readily available to its users,” Stepanovski said.
He expects over 3,500 bibliophiles to visit the library this year.
Based in a two-story stone building, the “AL-BI” library houses a number of books, newspapers, magazines, maps, audio recordings, albums and slides. The resources kept there are diverse and include documents from the Ilinden Uprising and the National Liberation War of Macedonia (a WWII operation), as well as world classics and books that have been banned in the past.
“The library houses over 400 dictionaries, encyclopedias, monographs, and works from over 70 local authors. According to the size, the smallest book we have is the French-Russian dictionary, printed in Leipzig. Additionally, we have many books which are over a century old and original soldiers’ letters from World War I,” Stepanovski said.
The library also houses an ethnographic exhibit which features over 120 objects from the Demir Hisar area, including traditional clothes that depict diverse cultural influences, and furniture, such as a chair once owned by the famous Macedonian revolutionary Jordan Piperkata.
“We strive to promote our cultural heritage, art, scientific accomplishments and innovations. The library houses a collection of old and rare books and we strongly support the publishing businesses.
“Additionally, we try to instill good reading habits in kids. Every child (and the adults, as well) that visits the library is given a library passport that encourages them to enter our little land of books,” Stepanovski said.
The “AL-BI” library has a tourist and diplomatic destination seal, made out of semi-precious stone in Beijing. The seal, which features the names of the “AL-BI” library and the owner Stevo Stepanovski, had been personally designed by Petre M. Andreevski and Ivo Andrić, during their visit to China in 1973.
Tr. by Monika Mihajlovska