Surprising things to do at the Prague library – with or without a card

A new report says library visits are up in Czechia. If you don't have a card yet, here's how to get one plus unexpected services open to all.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 22.11.2023 17:00:00 (updated on 26.11.2023) Reading time: 4 minutes

A new report shows that Czech Republic libraries saw a 9 percent increase year on year in registered readers in 2022, on the rebound from a two-year pandemic slump. Book and periodical lending rose by 19 percent while physical visits increased by 39 percent. In 2023, libraries are expanding activities, organizing more cultural and educational events, and playing a crucial role in digital literacy, especially in rural areas.

Foreigners living in Czechia who may be unfamiliar with the network of libraries throughout the country should get to know the offerings at their local branch. It's not just about books; despite lending English-language titles, libraries are also a great (and very affordable) place to sample the local culture, take kids to while away a rainy afternoon, or catch up on work in a peaceful setting.

Checking out and returning books is largely automated these days with interactive touch screens that can be switched to English. That means you can still check out materials even if your Czech isn't up to the challenge. We've put together a brief guide to what you can do at Prague's libraries with or without a library card as well as how to sign up for one.

Note: Throughout the article, we refer to the "main branch." This is the Prague 1 public library in Old Town on Mariánské náměstí (famed for its book tower sculpture in the lobby). There are a total of 44 branches throughout the city including a newly opened location at Velký Mlýn in Prague 8, a space that dates back to the 16th century and has been transformed into a cultural center, library branch, and café from September.

New libary space in Liben / Photo via Facebook
New libary space in Liben / Photo via Facebook

AGENCY PROPERTIES

services for guests without a card

Access e-books: During the Covid era, the popularity of the library's vast e-book collection soared. With over 200 titles in English, you can delve into classic novels, academic literature, and children's books. See the catalog here.

Attend concerts: The Municipal Library has a vibrant cultural calendar. From folk to jazz and classical music, the library hosts performances in its large hall on Mariánské náměstí. Affordable tickets are priced between 200-300 CZK. See the program here.

Puppet shows for kids: The library doesn't just cater to book enthusiasts; it also provides entertainment for the younger audience. Regular puppet shows and children's performances take place at the main branch in Prague 1 and other branches during fairytale weekends. See upcoming performances here.

Cinema at the library: Kino MKP, the library's cinema, showcases a diverse range of films. From movies for children to non-commercial art productions and documentaries, the cinema offers an eclectic selection. Screenings (films are in original language) take place at the cinema halls on the main branch on Mariánské náměstí and cost less than a standard movie ticket at the multiplex. See the program here.

Ongoing activities and workshops: All library branches regularly host workshops and events ranging from crafting to reading clubs. Though conducted in the Czech language, many of these events are free or cost a small fee to attend. Full schedule here.

Free working spaces: Prague's public libraries provide a great place to work and the Municipal Library is no exception. The historic reading room at the main branch is particularly atmospheric, not to mention quiet (and you don't need a card to use it).

The annual fee for a library card is 60 CZK, plus a CZK 20 fee for the card (the fee is waived for individuals under 15 and those over 70 years of age). EU citizens looking to register need to present a valid identification document issued by an EU country. Third-country nationals are required to have a Czech residence permit for registration. If a residence permit is not available, a deposit of 1,000 CZK registry with a guarantor is required. Read more here.

Services for guests with a card

Borrowing books: Depending on the branch, the library provides a varied and current selection of English books, particularly contemporary fiction. The main branch, in particular, boasts an extensive collection of foreign-language titles. Additionally, you can order and reserve books from other branches for a nominal fee.

Borrowing media: In addition to books, you can check out board games, magazines, music, DVDs, language textbooks, and sheet music. In one branch you can even borrow art at a unique "artotéka."

Get crafty: Jezerka Studio at the Jezerka branch rents sewing machines for dress alterations and learning to sew. DOK 16 at the Smíchov waterfront hosts workshops and courses on paper and wood crafting, Saturday family activities, community events, swaps, and more. Suterén in the basement of the main branch gives access to photo and video editing software, printing, lamination, mechanical binding equipment, and 3D printing (not all activities/events require a library card).

Prague's best study libraries

  • Academy of Sciences Library: A library card to access this popular workspace costs CZK 150 for the whole year.
  • Klementinum (National Library of the Czech Republic): One-year registration costs CZK 150 for over 25-year-olds, and just CZK 100 for 16-25 year olds.
  • National Library of Technology: This library features quiet study spaces, individual rooms, and group study areas. Registration for one year is CZK 100 (CZK 50 for students).
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