Cavalcade of costumed children swarms National Library

An estimated 1500 children, most of them dressed as characters from their favorite books, paraded from Old Riga’s Town Hall Square across the Stone Bridge to the National Library (LNB) building Monday afternoon to mark UNESCO's International Literacy Day 2014 with a festive march.

The event was co-organized by the LNB and the Riga2014 Foundation, which runs the European Capital of Culture program.

Participants in the carnival had to write an essay about awakening Princess Saulcerīte from her slumber on the Glass Mountain of Rainis’ folk play The Golden Horse, which is metaphorically invoked by the jaggedly reflective yet transparent structure. Plenty of kids wore costumes of characters from the Latvian literary pantheon, while others were dressed up in the more globalized garb of Disney characters or the juvenile wizards of the Harry Potter series.

Upon arriving to their first visit at the recently-launched virtual shrine of national culture, the crowd of selected schoolchildren from all of Latvia’s provinces took part in creative activities and workshops outside in the building’s courtyard. For example, they met up with and had to overcome the resistance of seven stern ravens, which quickly gave out in the face of a flock of friendly librarians.

“What do I definitely want to see in there? Lots of books, for sure. I visit hospitals a lot and read very often. I got to like it so much now I read all the time,” an eighth-grader named Jānis from Pāvilosta told Latvian Television news program Panorāma before entering the building for a grand tour of the Children’s Library and Reading Room on the 7th Floor.

A number of popular children’s book authors and translators were also on hand to visit the new library’s dedicated kids’ floor.

LNB director Andris Vilks pointed out that most of the world’s national libraries are not known for catering to the juvenile patron.

“Traditionally, kids are served at public libraries, by schools and towns, very seldom do national libraries serve this function. We are quite outstanding among the world’s other national libraries that love and welcome children,” he told Panorāma.

The LNB hands out library cards to readers who can prove they have reached the age of five.

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