Benedictine monk Juan Jose Agirre has been collecting books, magazines and various other types of documentation about the Basque Country for the past four decades. His practices date back to the early 1970s, when his superiors commissioned him to manage the Library at the Benedictine Monastery in Lazkao –a daunting task, considering Aguirre himself acknowledged many times that he knew little about books at the time. This lack of experience prompted a move to Montserrat (Barcelona), where he took up Library Studies. And it was these studies that sparked his vocation as a librarian, and inspired him to embark upon creating his vast archive of Basque documentation.

Upon his return to Lazkao, Agirre was keen to devote himself to his new duties: organising the Library, acquiring new books, completing collections, and so forth. At the same time, he began creating what would later became known as the Basque Library, which comprises those Basque-themed books and magazines he found at the monastery, and those he began collecting thereafter. He also started collecting all sorts of other artefacts that were undocumented by other libraries and archives at the time, such as pamphlets, brochures, posters, stickers and calendars. And was particularly interested in anything published in exile or underground.

Agirre scoured the length and breadth of the Basque Country in search of books, magazines, etc., and slowly built up a network of material-collecting volunteers around him. He eventually began receiving papers and archives from people who had participated in the political, social and cultural life of the Basque Country, as well as archives from various institutions. During this time, he also set out on his first classification and cataloguing works, which quickly aroused the interest of researchers.

A pioneer in his field, Agirre has contributed to safeguarding an important part of documented Basque heritage thanks to his forward-thinking approach. And it is for this very reason that Agirre and Lazkao’s Benedictine monks have become a reference point for Basque culture.

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