The history of libraries in Armenia dates back to Middle Ages. Throughout Armenian history libraries were built adjacent to churches. There was also the widespread practice of keeping large collections of literature in caves, located near monasteries.
The Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries (both are on the UNESCO World Heritage List), were built in the 10th century and by the 11th century they were well known for their rich libraries. One of the most important centers of the Armenian writing was the library at the Tatev Monastery (11th century). The libraries of the Catholicosates of Arkina and Hromkla (10th century), as well as that of the royal seat of Ani (11th century) were very renowned as well.
During the following centuries the Monastery of Getik, Gladzor, Geghard, Hovhanavank and Saghmosavank became famous for their rich libraries. There were libraries at the Monastery of Medzopa in Arjesh, in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, Yerzinka, Vaspurakan and other locations.
Public libraries-reading halls were first opened in Yerevan in 1902. By 1913 there were 13 libraries in Yerevan, which had a total of 9000 titles. Following the sovietization of Armenia, there was fervent development in the activities of libraries; new libraries were established in cities and in the regions, including Yerevan State University Library (1920), National Children’s Library after Khnko Aper (1933), Yerevan Municipal Library (1935), Central Library of the Academy of Sciences (1935), etc. By 1975 the Soviet Republic of Armenia had close to 3300 libraries. A rich network of libraries, millions of books…
After the collapse of the Soviet Union Armenia was faced with crippling problems and the fate of libraries was similar to the fate of many other institutions, which had flourished under the Soviet rule. After independence the protection and maintenance of libraries were handed over to municipal governing bodies. Faced with these insurmountable difficulties, city officials could not sustain the number of libraries that needed care and attention. As a result, there was a reduction in the number of libraries, primarily in the regions. Today 2600 libraries operate throughout Armenia.
Nowadays more attention and emphasis is put on the fate of the public library system in the country. Federal and local initiatives are being implemented with the assistance of publishers, booksellers, authors and civil society organizations to secure the financial viability of libraries and to ensure the replenishment of new books.