MEP Library Lovers breakfast with representatives from EU libraries

MEP Library Lovers met representatives from EU pioneering libraries

On April 25th, the MEP Library Lovers met representatives from pioneering libraries across Europe for a breakfast at the European Parliament to discuss the way modern libraries are meeting the challenges faced by society today and providing creative solutions.

DSC_1315After a short welcome by MEP Library Lovers sponsor Catherine Stihler MEP, Rolf Hapel, Director of Citizen Services from the award-winning library DOKK1 in Aarhus, Denmark, presented the current trends in library innovation across Europe. DOKK1 is leading a wave of public library transformation. Through its user-driven innovation, Aarhus public library provides innovative citizen services, like hackerspaces, fablabs, mediation and a bunch of other projects, mostly developed in partnership with other entities. DOKK1 is at the same time a friendly space that meets user needs.

“Public libraries are about accelerating innovation to create better solutions to the challenges in society!”, Rolf Hapel said.

DSC_1343Modern libraries should change their perspective: it is all about working with people, rather than working with books, adds Frank Daniel from StadtBibliothek Köln. Cologne Public Library, which was named the German Library of the Year in 2015, stands out for its unconventional initiatives and extensive programmes for migrants.  The library even started a Spachraum (literally, the language room) at their library. The project began in 2015, shortly before Germany experienced a massive influx of refugees. The room was furnished with tables and chairs, books for learning German, a projector and whiteboards and a comfortable seating area with a couch and a coffee machine. Now, around 15 teams use the room in the morning for their courses and 55 volunteers come by in the afternoons to help migrants learn German or other subjects.

The driving idea was to turn Cologne public library from a simple supplier of products and services to a facilitator to help people to develop their skills and their idea, creating bridges in the community.

DSC_1359The breakfast provided a great opportunity for MEPs and library representatives from their country to discuss country-specific issues.

Sean Kelly MEP was particularly interested in library use and whether it was increasing or not. The new Ghent library, visited by the library representatives the day before, was an excellent example: since the opening of the new smart library the number of visitor has tripled. Smart libraries providing services to the citizens attract indeed more people.

Julie Ward MEP underlined the fact that libraries are a natural space for occupational literacy, while Cécile Kyenge MEP was more concerned about libraries as a major tool for successful development policies.

Everybody agreed on the fact that libraries have a major role to play in improving literacy of any kind (reading and writing, media literacy, digital literacy, etc.) and promoting a more active citizenship. It is therefore of utmost importance to allow them to modernise and adopt modern technology which will keep pace with what is happening in our societies.