Library holdings and collections

Size of the library collections

As of 1 January 2017, the National Library’s holdings and collections encompass a total of 8,040,804 registration units  /including the Bulgarian literature Archive/. 1,800,450 of them are books; 1,556,395 are continuing editions (including the Bulgarian Literature Archive); 210,931 – graphic documents; 13,195 – maps; 5,567 – manuscripts; 3,129,418 – archival documents; 7,209 – electronic documents; 12 – electronic data bases. The building of the library collections is related to the professional selection and compilation of documents in Bulgarian language as well as of documents in other languages, published in other countries.


The history of the library collections could be divided into three periods.

First period: from the establishment of the National Library to the end of the World War II.

In 1883 the Principality of Bulgaria adopted the Press Act.  Article 43 reads as follows: “Publishers of periodicals and non-periodical publications, and of any printed books, are required to send to the National Library in Sofia two copies free of charge.”

In 1897 the Law on deposit of print publications in the national libraries was adopted. This law was related to the name of Konstantin Velichkov, who was Minister of National Education. At that time, most of the collections of foreign publications consisted of donations to the newly established National Library by private individuals and charities, universities and other organisations. The collections were enriched with publications in Russian, French, German, Serbian, Romanian, Greek and other languages. Konstantin Irechek was the first who tried to define the parameters of the collections of foreign publications in the Library in his “Instruction for the Management of the Bulgarian National Library” /1884/. This document stated what had to be added to the Balkanika and Bulgarica collections: all classic works in the field of literature and science, as well as all major works in all fields of scientific study and reference books.

Second period: from the end of World War II until 1989.

In 1945 a new law on the library deposit was adopted (Ordinance on the deposit of print and lithographic publications in people’s libraries and institutes). According to this Ordinance six copies of printed publications in Bulgarian had to be deposited in the National Library. During this period, scientifically based criteria for the collection of foreign books and continuing editions were developed as a result of a lengthy discussion on the departmental nature of the collections as a whole. The understanding that the library collections were universal prevailed. The aim was to obtain all most significant and valuable academic and reference books in European languages. The approach toward collecting foreign periodicals was similar. Their number grew very fast and reached over 10,000 titles due to the rapid development of science and the important role assumed by the National Library in this process.

At that time the development of international book exchange began as one of the best ways to collect foreign publications, particularly those with limited distribution. In the late 1980s, the National Library had established about 1,000 partnerships in international interlibrary loan from around the world

Third period: after 1990

In 2001, the newly adopted Law on the mandatory deposit of printed and other publications entered into force. The mandatory deposit of copies in the National Library became two.

Bulgaria’s transition to a market economy and the accompanying economic crisis had a strong impact on the acquisition of foreign language literature. The acquisitions budget decreased drastically On the basis of a careful secondary selection, the foreign books and continuing editions were cleared of unnecessary multiple copies of propaganda literature in Russian and other languages, children’s literature, etc.

The financial stagnation on the one hand and the stabilisation of the central scientific libraries on the territory of Sofia on the other, required a rethinking of the universal development of all collections. The National Library reduced the acquisition of agricultural, technical and medical literature. Access to electronic databases for readers was provided.

The international book exchange became the main way of acquiring foreign books and continuing editions. Of great importance for the enrichment of the collections were the donations of both Bulgarian and foreign documents. The number of books acquired through participation in projects grew. There was a tendency for enrichment of the collections with new media such as electronic documents and electronic databases accessed remotely.

Content and structure

The National Library strives to acquire all types of documents published in Bulgaria both in Bulgarian and in foreign languages. The focus is on the building of the main collection and the archive although much attention is paid to the purchase of antiquarian books also. The acquisition of classical works in foreign languages in the fields of science, culture and literature is given the highest priority as well as books that received reputable international and national awards; scientific reports from scientific congresses and symposiums; Bulgarica, Balkanika and Slavica collections, first editions of works of classic and contemporary authors.

Priority areas for the acquisition of foreign books and continuing editions are: mathematics, philosophy, social sciences, law, economics, politics, sociology, international relations, history /mostly modern and contemporary history/, culture, science, library studies, bibliographical studies and scientific information, book studies, language studies, art studies, linguistics, literary studies and fiction. Considerable attention is paid to interdisciplinary scientific areas such as sociolinguistics, cognitive sciences, anthropology, politics, etc.

The National Library’s holdings and collections are catalogued through a system of traditional catalogues, inventories, scientific publications and the online catalogue COBISS/OPAC.


All kinds of documents in the library collections shall be used without restrictions by the readers only in the library reading rooms. The readers from the country can use the library services through the interlibrary loan system.

The bibliographic access is available via the following online catalogues:

Online catalogue COBISS/OPAC

Access to most continuing editions / 1844-1944 / is available via:

Digital Library