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Serbia and the Serbian Collections in the Library of Congress

Serbian materials are located throughout the Library of Congress with the European Reading Room as the main point of contact. This overview of the collections describes books, electronic resources, journals, visual materials, and other special formats.


Image of 1902 Serbian budget annual
Budz̆et drz̆avnih prihoda i rashoda Kraljevine Srbije [Budget of state revenues and expenditures for the Kingdom of Serbia]. 1902. Library of Congress European Reading Room.

The Library of Congress has been collecting publications from Serbia for almost 150 years and has amassed a collection particularly strong in the areas of history, literature, economics, law, and the political and cultural life of the Serbian people. The intent of this guide is to provide an overview of the collections from and about Serbia in the Library of Congress to enable a researcher to assess if a visit to the Library will be necessary to undertake research. With descriptions of various genres of publications, as well as a bit of history on the development of the collections, the guide covers collection materials across most reading rooms and internal divisions of the Library, including our digital collections.

The first Serbian publications collected by the Library were scholarly and government titles arriving via the International Exchange Service managed by the Smithsonian Institution. The date of the first Serbian acquisitions is 1866, when the Library of Congress received the initial Smithsonian Deposit. The titles were early volumes of Glasnik Društva srbske slovesnosti and a two-volume set in Latin of a collection of documents from Venetian archives related to the Serbs and other South Slavs entitled Acta Archivi Veneti, spectantia ad historiam Serborum et reliquorum Slavorum meridonalium. Some philological titles also were acquired from the library of professor Martin Hattala (1821-1903) in 1904, but overall the Library was not particularly active in its collecting in the 19th and early 20th centuries, relying instead on international exchanges for materials from Serbia and the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Before World War II, publications exchanges and transfers of materials from other federal libraries were the most important methods of acquisition of Serbian materials, with few purchases or gifts. Large-scale exchanges and purchases began only in the late 1940s and provided not only a majority of the Serbian publishing output of titles of research value, but also enabled large retrospective acquisitions of materials dating back even into the nineteenth century. Gaps in journal runs were filled and newspapers began to be collected systematically, including titles from some regional cities. The Library's acquisition of materials from South Slavic countries was accelerated in 1967 with the introduction of the Public Law 480 Program, which enabled the Library to use Yugoslav domestic currency to set up an office in Belgrade and systematically to purchase all new titles from all parts of Yugoslavia and to subscribe to the most important journals and newspapers. The Library's Belgrade office operated for five years, and offered a unique opportunity for acquiring those titles that the government under Tito later banned and ordered burned (e.g., special issues of the serial publication, Praxis ).

The Serbian books in the Library of Congress collection are mostly from the post-World War II era, with 53% of the book holdings from the Yugoslav era of 1946-1990 and over 44% published since the disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1991. Strong, comprehensive collecting of scholarly and current events materials begun during the communist era continues to this day with the Library maintaining both exchanges and an approval plan for Serbian publications and acquiring approximately 5,000 pieces (both books and periodical issues) per annum. The collection has grown to over 52,000 book titles and over 2,000 serial titles, one of the largest in the United States. Examples of special acquisitions made in recent years are current award-winning children's books, some antiquarian works, back issues of many periodicals, and high school history textbooks in Serbian from Beograd as well as from Vojvodina in minority languages.

Library of Congress Guides to Serbian Resources

In addition to this overview-guide of the Serbian collections, staff of the Library of Congress have produced several other more detailed guides on Serbian resources. They are linked below.