TBA: A library!
It took its name from Dimitrios Vikelas, a cosmopolitan intellectual that originated from the island of Syros, who donated his library to the Municipality of Heraklion.
The library first opened in 1908 and moved in this building in 1930. Its collection was enriched by the donations of Ellie Alexiou, Georgios Anemoyannis and Maro Seferi, who donated her library as well as the one of Giorgos Seferis.
Apart from the 250,000 books, 300,000 newspapers, 500 magazines and about 1.650 hours of audiovisual material, Vikelea also holds another valuable treasure: seven centuries of archives left by the occupiers of Crete. This treasure includes the Venetian archives –which came from the State Archives of Venice in the microfilm format- the archives of the Ottoman period and the Cretan Revolution of 1896.
Every book-loving geek would jump from enthusiasm, BUT she or he will have to wait patiently, as the Municipal Library is still closed to the public. The renovation works started in... 2006 and went through the 'thousand waves' of Greek bureaucracy. An important reason for the delay was the excavation of part of the arab-byzantine wall (which crosses lengthwise Dedalou and Dikeosynis street and parts of it are visible in some of the shops!) and part of the eastern tower of Voltone Gate, both found in the basement of the new library building.
The new building
The new building of Vikelea library has a bioclimatic design and will be divided into three sections: in the basement there will be the children’s library; the first floor will host the general library where people can borrow or read the books; and the second floor will host cultural and literary events, as well as the libraries of Seferis, Vikelas and the Archives of Tzedakis and Spanakis. As for the semi-basement, it is planned to serve as a small exhibition of the archaeological findings discovered under the building, with special lighting and glass floors. For the time being, however, you can only visit the bookstore of Vikelea, where books on Cretan history and culture are also sold (some also in English).
The previous Municipal authority has announced that a large part of the building would be occupied by cafeterias and commercial stores. At the same time, an article in the local newspaper “Patris” revealed that a large part of the historical archives lie abandoned in basements without any protection from “book-loving” rodents! As a reaction, a movement was formed in the city: “Citizens for Vikelea”. The main request of the movement was that the whole building will be used to host library activities and nothing more... meaning, no commercial exploitation, full protection of the valuable archives and the development of a dynamic cultural life in the frame of the library activities. We hope that the new Municipal authority will take these requests seriously, and the “Cretan Science Academy”, as the European Commission characterized it a few years back, will 'shine' again by opening its gates of knowledge to the people.