One of the oldest and most important public libraries of Romania is surely the Astra Public Library in Sibiu, one of the most popular cultural objectives of the city, in no small part due to the huge and varied collection of books, magazines, newspapers and various documents that have been gathered here over the decades.
This library was founded in the autumn of 1861 by the enthusiastic members of the Transylvanian Association for Romanian Literature and Culture (ASTRA), who wanted to take the first steps towards a new public, national library, where readers could find simply anything of importance, especially Romanian books and authors. But at first the number of books was less than modest - only about 195 titles. Not much, especially by today's standards, but a lot in those times, and slowly but surely the number of prospective readers grew. So did the number and variety of volumes, and it wasn't long for important writers and thinkers to work here, studying, reading and copying.
The oldest book here was published in 1511, and it is called "Bonifacius VIII. Papa sexti libri decretalium", while the oldest Romanian book dates from 1580. Over the years the Astra Library published over 100 works, mainly catalogues and important bibliographies. According to the recently completed catalogue, the Astra Library now has over 792.000 books, manuscripts, magazines, records, videos, CD-s and the likes, making up to one of the largest and most valuable book collections in the country. It is no wonder that every year the library receives the visit of over 23.000 readers, from Sibiu and from all over the country - and the world - drawn by the richness and variety. With over 48.000 magazines and various publications and over 12.000 manuscripts, mainly of Romanian authors, it is clearly a treasure for researchers of all kinds.
Besides the Romanian books and publications, there are several foreign books collections, such as German, French, English, Russian, Hungarian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Italian and so on, a huge collection continually enriched by donations and acquisitions, especially after the 1990's. Much of the newer foreign books were donated by private collectors, libraries and various societies from Germany, France, Belgium, Holland and so on.