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Estonia is covered with a comprehensive network of libraries, which operate on the basis of library standards and regulations. The Estonian library system has a long tradition and is used by every second inhabitant of Estonia.

The network includes 895 libraries: 
  • 528 public libraries
  • 38 science and specialised libraries;
  • 329 school libraries.

State and library network

The Ministry of Culture coordinates the development of the library network as a whole in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Research and other ministries.
The task of the state is to guarantee equal free access to information for everyone via the library service. 
 Loaning books and using Internet is free of charge in the libraries. 

Raamatukogu Magazine

The professional magazine Raamatukogu is published six times a year with the support of the Ministry of Culture and the Gambling Tax Council.
The magazine gives an overview of new trends in library studies, discusses problems, and shares information on the activities of libraries and the Estonian Librarians Association.




The activities of libraries in Estonia are regulated by the Public Libraries Act, the Legal Deposit Act and the National Library of Estonia Act.

Work is currently on-going regarding the amendments of two important sectoral Acts.

During the amendment of the Legal Deposit Act, the Ministry of Culture compiled the draft Legal Deposit Copy Act. The draft legislation aims to update the submission, collection, and storage of publications important for the culture of Estonia. The Legal Deposit Copy Act will be enforced as of January 1, 2017.

The process of updating the Public Libraries Act has also begun.




Libraries are financedon the basis of their form of ownership – from state or local government budgets. 
Libraries can also receive funds from donations, paid services that are related to their main activity, allocations from foundations and endowments, and so on.
The Ministry of Culture assists libraries with activity supports. The state aids public libraries in acquiring items that are significant from the viewpoint of Estonian language and culture, and in paying salaries to four employees of central county libraries as each central library coordinates library services within a county. 
An extra possibility to finance training and innovative projects in libraries are open application stages of a grant programme “Development of libraries” by the Ministry of Culture.

Libraries in Estonia


The Estonian library network comprises public, school, science and specialised libraries and the Estonian National Library.
Despite their varied tasks and specialisations all libraries work in close cooperation. The main objective of library services is to make books and information accessible to the readers. 

Estonian National Library

The Estonian National Library is a public institution that is tasked with the collection and preservation of books published in Estonia or containing information on Estonia, making these books available to everybody; with research and development in library studies and related disciplines; and with fulfilling the duties of a parliamentary and scientific library. The national library coordinates and advises the other Estonian libraries, and also serves as a culture centre. The activities of the national library are financed from the state budget in accordance with a contract concluded with the Ministry of Culture.

Estonian Storage Library

The task of the Estonian Storage Library is to preserve all seldom used printed works from all over the country, to oversee book exchanges from the exchange collection, and to service people with visual impairment. 
The exchange collection accepts unwanted books from libraries, organisations and private persons.

Estonian Library for the Blind

Estonian Library for the Blind services people with vision impairment or other disabilities, disorders or diseases that prevent them from reading normal writing. Those people have a chance to order audio books to their home and to use the Web Library, which holds about 4000 audio books, newspapers and magazines in Estonian and foreign languages. The library and association for the blind also has DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) books. The Estonian Library for the Blind is located in the building of the Estonian Storage Library.

Estonian Children’s Literature Centre

The Estonian Children’s Literature Centre collects children’s books, newspapers, magazines, book illustrations, and other material from Estonia and abroad, and studies children’s literature.

Public libraries

Public libraries are local government institutions the activities of which are coordinated by the Ministry of Culture. Cooperation between public libraries is organised by the Council of Public Libraries under the Ministry of Culture.
Each county has a central library, which serves as a distribution, training and advisory centre for the other local libraries. 

Science libraries

The task of a science library is to collect, preserve, and process scientific information and to make this available to the general public. Science and specialised libraries include the Estonian National Library, libraries of universities and other higher education institutions, as well as specialised libraries of various organisations. 
The activities of science libraries are coordinated by the Ministry of Education and Research. To augment cooperation between science libraries and reach joint decisions, the Ministry of Education and Research has set up a Council of Science Libraries. 

Specialised libraries

Specialised libraries are usually internal libraries of various institutions.

School libraries

A school library supports the learning process and is thus a component of an educational establishment. Pursuant to the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act, each school must have a library. In case there is no library in the school, the local public library shall provide library services to students. 

E-items and e-services


Estonia has implemented a lot of e-solutions to improve the accessibility of books.

The state supports digitisation and e-publication of high literature. Thanks to this, more than 160 noteworthy works of literature have been made available to readers in DIGAR – the digital archive of the national library.
E-books can be downloaded and read by everyone in an e-reader, computer or smart device. 

    DIGAR is the digital archive, or e-library environment of the Estonian National Library, which contains books, newspapers, magazines, maps, music sheets, photos, postcards, posters, illustrations, audio books, and music files. 


    ESTER is a common electronic catalogue of all Estonian libraries, which includes two databases: and, which will be joined in 2014.


    URRAM is a web-based system created jointly by the Ministry of Culture, Vaata Maailma SA and Urania Com OÜ, which allows the use of many library services via the Internet. URRAM provides an overview of all the items in school, museum and specialised libraries.  

  • ELLU

    ELLU is the e-library of Tallinn Central Library, which gives access to the work of Estonian authors and books both in Estonian and Russian.  
  • ISE articles

    Index Scriptorum Estoniae (ISE) is a public and freely accessible Internet database of articles published in Estonian newspapers, magazines, collections of articles, and other serial publications. New material is added to the database each day by 10 Estonian libraries. Administrative and development matters are handled by the ISE working group of the ELNET Consortium database.

  • DEA digitised newspapers

    DEA stands for digitised Estonian newspapers and is a public, freely accessible database of old Estonian-language newspapers. DEA contains a selection of Estonian newspapers from the years 1821 to 1944, plus some Estonian-language newspapers issued abroad after 1944.

  • The Red Book of Estonian Publications

    The Red Book of Estonian Publications is a list of publications that are considered valuable for our cultural memory. The nominees are chosen on the basis of their cultural worth, availability, preservation risks and condition. 

  • Kodulugu

    This portal of regional studies is a common system of Estonian public libraries for storing regional information. From the system one can search for articles and other items related to a specific area, and to read longer texts and encyclopaedic materials. 

Main partners


The science department of the Ministry of Education and Research 


Estonian Librarians Association (ERÜ)

The association unites 800 librarians and a number of libraries. Through ERÜ librarians can have their say in the development of library affairs. ERÜ organises trainings and professional events, and improves the librarians’ professional qualifications. ERÜ issues a yearbook and Raamatukogu magazine together with the Estonian National Library. ERÜ is a member of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). 

Consortium of the Estonian library network – ELNET Consortium

A non-profit association that was established in order to protect the public interests of libraries, which develops and manages the integrated library system Millennium, the e-catalogue ESTER, which is based thereon, and the Estonian article database ISE.


Ülle Talihärm
Adviser (Libraries)

Phone +372 628 2244


Last updated: 30 October 2019