Libraries around the world have something no other space has: their wonderful smell of paper. With some 120,000 volumes and valuable archival material in its collection dating back to the 16th century, the Piraeus Public Library is no exception. In fact, in its newly modernized, fully refurbished form, it can hold a whole lot more paper! Yet the “American Corner ” Piraeus, which will be part of the municipal Public Library from now on, could not be further removed from a traditional repository of “printed” knowledge.

While it respects the principles that have governed libraries for centuries, it also responds to the needs of the present and provides its visitors, most of whom are young people, with an ultra-modern perspective on educational and cultural programs.

The opening of the American Corner Piraeus

The grand opening of the “American Space Piraeus” on the third floor of the city’s Public Library, on Eleftheriou Venizelou Street, took place at noon on Monday (April 22). The initiative was made possible by a pioneering collaboration between the Piraeus Public Library, the US Embassy in Greece, and Olympiacos FC. The ribbon was cut jointly by the Mayor of Piraeus, Yannis Moralis, and US Ambassador George J. Tsunis.

This new venture, an open window on knowledge made possible by fields such as robotics and 3D printing, was warmly welcomed by both. The mayor and the American ambassador acknowledged the benefits that the ground-breaking new project will convey, which include strengthening Piraeus’ already close ties with the United States.

Woody Guthrie’s iconic American folk song “This Land Is Your Land” was heard alongside the “Children of Piraeus”, composed by the superlative Manos Hadjidakis. Both songs were performed live by members of the “Protypo” Music Center of Piraeus to herald the start of the main part of the splendid event, which was also attended by His Eminence Seraphim, the Metropolitan of Piraeus, the President of Olympiacos FC, Evangelos Marinakis, the CEO of Alter Ego Media, Ioannis Vrentzos, and a host of guests who filled the reception area.

Moralis: A Piraeus that’s open to initiatives

In his address, the mayor of Greece’s largest and most historic port city noted, among other things, that “Piraeus must be open to initiatives that highlight its international character.”

Of course, he praised the fine work that has been done by his collaborators and by officials at the US Embassy to ensure that the new “innovative space” within the Public Library promotes free access to knowledge along with interaction and creativity.

He also urged the ambassador to put on his football boots and join him in a scheduled exhibition match!

Tsunis: Piraeus is a place of special importance

From the same podium, Amb. Tsunis, after humorously requesting that his cardiologist be present at the game, if he was going to play, described the initiative as “a united force for good.”

He also used examples from real life to highlight the public-benefit nature of Piraeus’ “American Corner,” which will provide a welcome outlet for all those children, both Greeks and refugees, whose daily lives are fraught with difficulties. He also referred to the war in Ukraine and to the mothers fleeing with children in their arms in search of a better tomorrow.

Acceptance and love

The US Ambassador to Greece argued that “we have no choice but to provide security to those who have lived through such terrifying experiences,” quoting the old saying that “democracy works best when it works for everyone.”

He also sought to highlight the power of the spaces that will inspire tens of thousands of children, inculcating a belief in equality of every sort along with an acceptance of diversity. He invited everyone to “break down the wall,” since acceptance and love are “the language the blind see and the deaf hear.”

“We have to support each other,” he added, recalling his own difficult childhood, during which a group of friends from the old country remained close out of solidarity for one another.

Amb. Tsunis also made special mention of Piraeus, a place of particular importance for him and his family, as it was from here his parents left for America in search of a better future for all, before making a new and happy life for themselves across the Atlantic.

Pop-up space at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium

Doing all it can to support the initiative in practice, Olympiacos FC will establish a separate pop-up space at its Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, where various tech services will be provided, on match days in particular. These include making it possible for fans to surf the internet using special passwords and to gather information on subjects of interest to them.

Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis believes this pioneering partnership will strengthen the culture of sport and competitiveness among young children, which is why he has pledged to assist in any way he can.

For his part, Metropolitan Seraphim, having first recalled the strong traditional ties between the United States and Greece, noted that this is a project with cultural foundations and justice and love for the world at its core.

‘To be together’

Guests of honor at the opening ceremony and the other activities included two former football internationals, Carli Lloyd, who made 316 international appearances with the US national team and holds two awards as one of the world’s top female soccer player, and Cobi Jones, who amassed a total of 164 caps for the US side.

The two spoke about the opportunities which the integration of the American Corner into Piraeus Public Library and the pop-up space at Karaiskakis stadium will provide. “Sport teaches,” Jones stressed, referring to people’s common goals and the need to “be together” by prioritizing the acceptance of others.

In any case, knowledge is power.