tirsdag den 20. maj 2014

Bringing Libraries on the agenda - a political Question

Today I make a presentation on the Pre-conference for Decision Makers at the IFLA President´s Meeting 2014 in Helsinki.

The title is "Bringing Libraries on the agenda - a political Question" It's a introduction to The Danish Library Association and its unique organizational structure that involves both politicians and professionals.

In the Danish Library Association we represent one of the more radical solutions to achieving this political approach to working for libraries: We have brought the political decision-makers and the library professionals  together in the same association. The President is always politicians and local politicians always constitute the majority.

Therefore, we have a constant dialogue between professionals and politicians about libraries. Not only the economy, also how they should be developed and which need citizens has.

BUT 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.

It is hard to define, what the modern library is. And if we can’t say what it is, and if we can’t explain what the library has to offer. Nobody will say they need or miss the library.

And that's why it is difficult to make the political decision makers understand, promote and finance these changes.

That’s why we need to put the Library on the Political agenda.

In Denmark almost all the Libraries are funded by tax and all the libraries is free to use, In the way, that all the basis services are free of charge for the public.

We have 98 municipalities  and all of them are obligated, by legislation, to have a library and to finance it.

Some of the municipalities have more than one library. We have approximately 450 public libraries, to a population of 5,5 mil. people

We have 98 main-libraries and 350 smaller Libraries, some of them we call “open Libraries” it is term for a concept that allows users to access the library space in principle 24/7 and serve them- selves with loans and return materials. And use the computers, read or maybe even set up a meeting or an event, if the space allows it.

See: The development of ‘open library’ in Denmark 

One of the reasons for the tradition bringen politicians and and the library professionals together  is that Denmark, got its first Library Act in 1920. When you have library legislation, which needs regular revision, you need to have contacts in the political system. Another reason is that the Danish public libraries gradually moved from state grants to local municipality grants, therefore it is necessary to links to the local politicians.

So we have to work with both the locals politicians and our national politicians
The legislation is made by the parliament, while the funding for the libraries come from the municipalities. 

The Danish Library Association is organized on the basis of a number of local associations working on regional level. These local associations elect representatives to the Council of the National association.

The Council elects from within its members an Executive Committee with ten members
including a president, who is always a politician, and two vice presidents, one of them is a library professional and one is a politician 

I think this mix of politicians and library professionals works in a constructive way. The professionals inspire the politicians and the politicians give a good insight into how we need to prioritize and other times it functions inversely.

So I hope we also in the future will be able to get this symbiosis to function and that local politicians want to put as much thought into the matter and will work in our board, like they do today.

See my PowerPoint

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