When the University of Bucharest was created in 1864, there was no central university library; this role was played by the Central State Library of Bucharest until 1895. That institution was moved to and housed in the university building, and in 1867 was specially reorganised for the university's needs by the scholar August Treboniu Laurian. It had an unmistakable university quality, being governed by a special university committee (including the rector, the faculties' deans, the school ephor and the chief librarian as secretary), and the deans were always consulted for selection and purchasing. Nevertheless, the need for a proper central university library became increasingly apparent.
The present Central University Library was founded in 1895 as the Carol I Library of the University Foundation. It was built on land bought by King Carol I of Romania for the "Carol I University Foundation" (Fundaţia Universitară Carol I) and designed by French architect Paul Gottereau. The building was completed in 1893 and opened on 14 March 1895. In 1911, the building was extended by the same architect and the new wing was opened on 9 May 1914. It began with an initial stock of 3,400 volumes of books and periodicals. The collection grew to 7,264 volumes in 1899, 31,080 volumes in 1914, and 91,000 volumes in 1944. In 1949 (after its reorganisation on 12 July 1948 as the Central Library of Bucharest University), the collection contained 516,916 volumes; in 1960, about a million; and over 2 million in 1970.
During the Romanian Revolution of 1989, a fire was started in the building and over 500,000 books, along with 3,700 manuscripts, were burnt. Starting in April 1990, the building was repaired and modernized, being reopened on 20 November 2001.
In parallel with the development of the central library, a more complex network of specialised library branches was developed. For example, the Library of the Law Faculty was founded in 1873-76 (based on Professor Alexandru Lahovary's donation of books); in 1884 the Archaeological Seminary's Library was established through Professor Grigore Tocilescu's grant; and in 1892 the Library of the Slavic Languages Seminary began, based on Ion Bogdan's donation. These libraries functioned within the Faculty of Letters. Specialised libraries were also founded in the Sciences Faculty, such as the Mathematical Seminary's Library (after 1890), the Laboratory for Animal Physiology Library (1892, on the basis of Professor Alexandru Vitzu's grant); and the Laboratory for Plant Morphology Library (1893, using Professor D. Voinov's book donation). Until 1869, the Faculty of Medicine had only the customary collection, but by 1884 had a well-organised, specialised library.
In general, these libraries were founded and developed using teachers' donations, state grants and, after 1890, a percentage (usually 10%) of student-paid tuition.
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