House of Languages

The Story of the Library of the House of Languages

Founder Snorre’s love for secondhand books started young. While other children played football and video games, one of Snorre’s favourite activities in his native Oslo was visiting used book shops and flea markets and snatching up prize finds on history, politics, literature, and of course, languages.

In the Nineties, when Snorre as an exchange student came to Riga, his favourite place was the Nordic Library on Basteja bulvāris. Later he worked at the Latvian Academy of Culture. Over his ten years there, he enriched their collection by expanding the range of Nordic literature available at the Academy and its Nordic Centre.

Snorre studied philology and was particularly keen on books about linguistics. One day, Snorre came across the chance to obtain the personal library of linguist Rasma Grīsle (a student of great 20th century Latvian linguist Jānis Endzelīns). He seized the opportunity without a moment’s hesitation. Just like that, his library suddenly doubled in size. He now wanted to share this collection of precious books with the public, so that others might enjoy them. “A shared joy is a doubled joy” – as Latvians say.

This dream was realized in the fall of 2018 with the installation of a custom-made bookshelf by production designer Artūrs Arnis. This bookshelf is now the central object of House of Languages, chock full of books on linguistics. The unique cut of the bookshelf embraces the light from the street as it enters the reading room on its left side.

The library organizational system was developed by Anta Novikova.

Using the Library

You may read books in our store-front reading room, or you may borrow a book or two, by leaving a deposit.

The Goal of the Library

To become the best library for language acquisition theory and language instruction books in Latvia.

The book collection is based around the works of the following language experts:

  • Rasma Grīsle (1922-2013), linguist
  • Snorre Karkkonen Svensson, founder of the House of Languages
  • Olaf M. W. Jansen, professor at the University of Tromsø — the Arctic University of Norway