Debating Access to Information and the role of Libraries in Society
The round table discussions in the Dutch Parliament in the Hague. Photo by moqub.
Never seen so many librarians in the House of Parliament! The Hague – World Library Capital lived up to its reputation and significance. On 20th of June 2013 FOBID president Bas Savenije (director National Library) opened an international debate in the Dutch House of Parliament, supported by the initiative of Jasper van Dijk of the Parlementarian Committe for Education and Culture. Other parliamentarians, Pieter Duisenberg and Matthijs Huizing, also participated in the Round Table debate.
Councillor Ingrid van Engelshoven (Municipality of The Hague) welcomed the 100 Cycling librarians from all over the world and the representatives from IFLA, EBLIDA, CERL and many Dutch libraries and library organisations who chaired the Round Tables.
After a presentation of the Dutch library landscape and library issues, the debate was opened at the 15 Round Tables on the theme and the issues of the values and visibility of libraries in society, on library infrastructure and partnerships, and, last but not least: Copyright and new technologies. You can read the wrap-ups here below.
Roundtable discussion report by Marian Lefferts (CERL)
We discussed themes 1 and 2. In Nordrhein-Westphalen a Fachhochschule was recently opened (2009). They now have 20kbooks and 35k electronic books. What was a physical space created? Not a question that was asked, a university has a library, traditional view. Later it became clear that the library as a space fulfilled an important role and the library has now been furnished to support the learning environment (learning zones etc). The relevance of the library was through the University, and its role of offering education to society.
None of the participants listed specific tools to demonstrate the relevance of their institution. But when we came to talk about opening hours (all are extending these and are now to a greater or lesser degree open outside traditional office hours) and numbers of users (increase, more and more dads taking their children to the library), the public relevance was clearly demonstrated.
I asked if they got involved in writing funding proposals for academic research, no. Did they story research data? Some were beginning to, but felt there should be national repositories. They were, however, storing publications (mostly Green OA). I raised the issue of storing research data in one place, academic publications in another (actually, scattered: either at the publisher or at the university (or during a long career, universities)), correspondence about research in a third (again several: Facebook, MOOCs, Twitter, email). Retracing our steps 100years from now is going to be hard. The context of the research data may not be sufficiently preserved. Linking email, FB and Twitter to research output (data and publications) was considered to have various privacy issues.
Re theme 2. We felt themes 1 and 2 were related. Forming many partnerships will enhance our relevance.Libraries in DK have a programme where they work with volunteers. Not just to run the library services, but also volunteers helping members of the community to fill in forms, deals with administrative issues (banks, taxes, etc). A Finnish library shared their space with the Artotheek. Marian Lefferts, CERL20 June 2013
Roundtable discussion report by Klaus-Peter Böttger (President of EBLIDA)
It was an interesting discussion with the emphasis on the question of partnerships. Based on good experience in the youth sector and the cooperation with specialists of that sector the idea is to look for partnerships in the social sector. Especially on the background of a highly online-everyday-business developed country like Finland there is still the need of mediating skills for daily life.
The idea is to teach elderly people, who cannot come to the library, or at old people’s homes and to give them information for every day’s electronic life, to give them the information they need concerning tablets, online banking, mobile phones etc. So it would be the logical persistence of a service called ‘borrow a librarian’ to go outside the library and go to the patrons to give them a target group directed and user-oriented service. It was obvious that the besides librarians the library needs for such services also professional with different skills.
Roundtable discussion report by Vincent Bonnet (EBLIDA)
1. Value of libraries in modern societies
Actions like Cycling for libraries are important to communicate on the values of libraries in the society and to go outside t o advertise on the role of libraries. Values identified at the round table were:
- Connect people
- Develop reading programme
- Special programmes for kids (e.g., book start in UK existing since 1992)
- Parents/children programme (e.g. in Latvia the 20’ read everyday to your child create in cooperation with libraries)
- Develop kindergarten libraries
2. Library infrastructure and partnerships
Participants noted the importance to join forces especially with other libraries:
- Digital libraries: to have one interface giving access to Cultural Heritage;
- Building nice architecture;
- Developing programme with partners such as consumer organisations (e.g. in Latvia programme District eating to teach children about how to eat healthy and how to become a responsible consumer (rights))
- Project with local association
3. Copyright and new technologies
Participants noted the term of protection that is too long:
- Need reform of the term of protection (from 70 to 15 years after the author’s death);
- Problem of higher price for libraries;
- Development of self-publishing by libraries
To conclude, the 8 participants were asked to give (if possible in one word) the vision of the libraries of their youth, and the one of the library of the future. Answers below:
Library of your youth (past)
Library of the Future (future)
|Old books, mostly classical, boring||More services, space for studying, up-to-date, timely information|
|Leisure||(innovative) learning centre|
|A treasure of books||Exciting communication and new knowledge|
|Dusty||Social, community of learning|
|Place||Place with knowledge|
|Books||Social meeting spot|
Roundtable discussion report by Ap de Vries (Netherlands Public Library Association)
- we need more librarians with statistic skills > to show the society our added value as public library
- we need more librarians with research skills > to show the community our added value as public library
- in showing our added value to the local community we can use the story of the library users > (we can demonstrate by anecdotal evidence what our mission is and what we want to achieve as libraries)
- be in a permanent way in dialogue with users, non users and stakeholders; talk with them not only in hard times but all around the year
- find collaboration with other community services, like the primary schools, welfare service, social housing initiatives, unemployment offices, learning centres, kindergarten a.o. :
- spend money in advertising
- don’t talk about our books and collections, but about our added value
- be proud you can offer a quiet place in our hectic society
- organise job fairs
Comments and summary of the discussions
The reports from the chairs Annemarie Beunen (National Library) and Wilma van Wezenbeek (Technical University Library Delft) as well as the other chairs’ are included below in the wrap-up of the three issues for statements and Round Table discussions.
1. Value of Libraries
- According to the general opinion libraries are a place to borrow books. But here is much more! Libraries should get better at demonstrating their societal value. Demonstrating means to make the public aware, it requires thoughtful communications: tell stories! Have your patrons telling their stories.
- On societal value: how to do it? Work on advocacy: find supporters among especially politicians; engage in relationships with those in power, at the national level. This may be different in each country but library associations should work towards this powerful position at national level
- Reach out to different groups in society (immigrants, young people) & make them connect. Library as a platform to improve the communication in the neighbourhood
- Organize campaigns
- Target future users. For a US example look at : Geek the library: http://get.geekthelibrary.org/
- Demonstrate ‘new’ value through innovation; seek non-traditional ways: create maker space: teaching by doing: example can be the Dutch Fablab truck going to schools, festivals etc.: http://fablabtruck.nl/en/over-de-fablabtruck.html. In this way digital, literacy can be addressed: target groups can also be young pupils and families. An example from Switzerland is the librarian joined by schools to visit homes for the elderly, discussing books.
- The value of the libraries depends on the librarians: Bring people to the library or bring the library to the people: i.e. train stations, using vending machines
- Change traditional think about libraries: start out to educate, fight old fashioned ideas or memories, which are expressed in speeches by politicians and others: the libraries offer more than books, they have more services, surpassing the DVD stage etc.
- Libraries educate for empowerment of people; this is stressed differently in various countries, more or less democratic/elitist; Libraries play a role in offering a ‘safe’ environment for gathering information, and expression of opinions
- Develop 23 good reasons to have good libraries: good advocates, show your value, good case
- Libraries have to go out to the people. They should meet people on unexpected occasions and show what is on offer, physical offers and digital offers. Make use of apps.
- Librarians should stress the value of libraries themselves
- It becomes more important to engage with content/resources in ‘open libraries’ with ‘no staff’ than to close down libraries due to budget cuts. It is important to research the consequences in that case
- The library is a place where you want to be. With a reading room. To cope with individualization, libraries can play an important role in a social and cultural way
- Question: What did we lose if there wouldn’t be any libraries anymore?
- Ideas: public library in a museum, school or pub
- Libraries are the keepers of human heritage. They should be aware of this role, while adapting to new eras. Libraries seemed to be forced to fit into a business model, in a political and economic climate inspired by neo-liberalism. The international participants are shocked by the costs of the library memberships in the Netherlands and the way of speaking about membership fees, business models etc.
- In the current crisis, economic, but also ecological etc., libraries represent political values which must be observed
- The library and it services, physical and digital, must be incorporated into law in order to guarantee access. Membership fees hinder easy access. Why not giving a (life long) library card to every child from its birth on? What values do we give children? (Qualifications of teachers/librarians).
- Libraries are and should be comparable to schools in terms of public funding; they are crucial for lower income families and must be accessible (just like hospitals etc.)
- Qualitative research can help to bring about true value of libraries in people’s lives
- Guarantee access
- Recommended: Implement iterative on-the-spot evaluations
- Collect meaningful metrics for your community and politicians
- Libraries and library associations should combine forces to develop creative ways to show that libraries create economic growth: create standards at network level
- Harness the power of the media for the benefits of libraries (like Cycling for Libraries!)
Create opportunities for people to engage directly with information
- Seek partnerships also with technology partners, which can also help with sponsorships.
- Possibilities and opportunities have to be thought through, as libraries are and should remain independent institutions
- Provide an easy accessible platform for open discussion, culture and exchange of knowledge
- Invite groups of immigrants to the library, watch their own movies & discuss afterwards – library as a meeting point & cultural centre (Finland)
- Integrate collections of other libraries & also private collections in the catalogue of the public library – connect collections and show your clients where to find them (Belgium)
- Partnerships are very important for the libraries in their community, but libraries should stay close to their mission: literacy in reading and media.
- ‘Library as a third place’ is a concept in several countries.
- Partnerships with cultural institutes, but also with council services, and with university libraries are important
- Embed library services or projects to where the people are (train stations, shopping centres)
- Reach out, form innovative partnerships with non-profits, government agencies, local businesses
- Example was given of the Business and IP Centre at the British Library. http://www.bl.uk/bipc/
- Go on-site to conduct specialized training, go to your community
Copyright and new technology
- Recommended: join forces to give access to e-books through the library
- Do this also and especially on the European level
- Work for digital library including sources of libraries, museums and archives. Present the good examples, following Europeana. Realise services with open source software
- Collaboration with Fablab: acquaintance with new technology. Extended concept of information – transfer information into knowledge (Denmark)
- Reach out through social media: create contact with young people, speak their language, learn about their interests – reach out & try new concepts (Sweden)
- Digital library in underground station, see for example NY: http://undergroundnewyorkpubliclibrary.com/ (US)
- Denmark: started with the e-book case but initiative slowed down because the publishers were hesitant and wanted more control. As a result there a less titles available. See http://slq.nu/?article=denmark-borrow-an-e-book-the-e-bookcase (Denmark)
- Sweden: libraries work together with publishers in digitizing books (recent and old titles). http://www.theliteraryplatform.com/2012/12/swedes-think-different-a-new-model-for-e-lending/
- Recommended: make a choice in what Public Libraries would like to offer in e-books; there is too much to offer it all structurally
- Copyright is something you can’t protect. We have to realize it is a lost battle. After cd’s and dvd’s now e-books are being copied. That means we have to find alternatives to finance authors and publishers. And the copyright law has to be changed accordingly.
- New question: how to finance authors in a new system?
- Be proactive, libraries producing content (?)
- Develop new model that works for libraries, and create new frontier of digital information: it takes activity in every country.
- Stress the importance of education: teach kids how to use information and to respect copyright.
- Does anyone have a solution?
- IFLA is advocating at WIPO to make things easier for libraries.