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Will the library spirit continue in the future?

Summary from presentations by Michel Steen-Hansen at a HIBOLIRE seminar in Copenhagen, December 14-15, 2009


Will the library spirit continue in the future?

Yes…..
– if we redefine the Library in a political context

The question then is, how to make the political decision-makers understand, promote and finance these changes.

I think our major challenges just now is to describe a new narrative frame to get public recognition


New narrative frame for the libraries
We need to create a new narrative frame, or should I say, create a definition for what the modern library is and we need to keep debating how to describe it.

We need to develop strategies to gain access to the politicians to convince them of the continued relevance of libraries in modern society.

The way in which we are securing this fundamental right is changing just now. Therefore we are redefining the library, and all over the world we are busy doing so.

We have to develop “new public value” and a new commitment to serve all kinds of users, regardless of where they are or what they need. Library professionals need to understand this reality and implement the necessary changes.

This, in itself is a problem, even for the professionals because technology is developing so fast. And if we can’t say what the modern library is, and if we can’t explain what the library has to offer nobody will say they need or miss the library.

A quite different thing is to make the political decision makers understand, promote and finance these changes.

My experience is that it is way easier to convince the politicians of the need for books than it is to convince them of the need for internetservices, development projects and contracting of database licenses. In that way we need a very different set of arguments when we lobby for libraries today, than we did just few years ago.

We also need to do our advocacy work in a very different way. For instance, we have to be much more outgoing and visible,

In my Danish environment I find that we are way better at convincing ourselves of the important of libraries than we are at convincing the outside world about the same thing!

We tend to blame the politicians for always forgetting us. It is true they offend forget us in their policies, but my point is that it is our Responsibility to ensure that they don’t. We must be able to convince the politicians that our case is, at least as important, as all the other good causes.

Therefore library associations as well as all other professional groupings need to be outgoing and aware of the political mechanisms. But in addition, the library associations must see themselves as a lobby organization and learn how to work as professional lobbyists

Three major challenges for the library in the 21th century

1. Integrate library services in daily life

The libraries have to offer:

  • relevant e-content – journals, e-books, music, films, multimedia,computer-games
    on a 24/7 basis
  • download should be permitted to relevant platforms: pc’s, reader devices like Kindl, Ipods, cell-phones ….( I don’t know the devices of tomorrow)
  • The library space – the third place – should offer lifelong learning opportunities, cultural experience, inspiration & involvement

2. Present new services- user driven innovation

The libraries have to offer:
- focus on creating national programs
- Literacy programs,
- lifelong learning,
- e-learning,
- workshops,
- book clubs
- We have to learn people to make, job applications, coping with new technology,
- Make courses in maintain your motorbike, garden, house, love, dating at the internet
….and much, much, more the only limitation is our imagination

3. Reach out- relevant offers to the entire population

The libraries have to offer:

  • Think in terms of public service – walk on two legsthink of the popular and of the specialized and academic
  • The Libraries have to Work systematically with new partnerships and varied offers to all segments
  • Meet people where they are:
    -on the web,
    -in their homes,
    -in schools,
    -on the job,
    -in the club,
    -at the concert or the football match
    And also in this case we are only limited by our imagination

I hope I made my point of the importance of working politically and creating a new definition for what the modern library is. If we still want the politicians and the public recognition and support we need to put Libraries to the political agenda!

Bringing Libraries on the agenda…………….
- Let’s do it together !

See the Power Point

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