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Striving towards an equitable, democratic and sustainable society

The European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations is an independent umbrella association of library, information, documentation and archive associations and institutions in Europe.

Working Group on European Libraries and Sustainability Assessment (ELSA)

Aims and goals

The aim of the Working Group is to apply impact methodologies that can fit different contexts at a national, regional, or also library level.

ELSA aims are:

  • To establish proper methodologies for the assessment of library performance in the social and economic field, in addition to current collection-oriented quantitative library measurement
  • To advocate for libraries at European level by measuring the impact of libraries on society as a whole and link this impact to socio-economic indicators of a more general nature, such as the Eurostat-based SDG Indicators, the OECD Well-Being Index, and similar

  • To disseminate WG-ELSA results through awareness, evaluation and training activities, in particular during the 28th EBLIDA-NAPLE Conference in Beograd (23 June 2020)

ELSA activities started officially on 7th October 2019.


There are more than 65,000 EU libraries in Europe which are attended by some 100 million annual visitors. (Cross-European survey to measure users’ perceptions of the benefits of ICT in public libraries. Final report March 2013, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2013.)

Quantitative library indicators normally include registered users, number of visits and number of loans, both in physical or in a digital form. The activities of the “social” library and how they impacting on ordinary citizens, migrants, minorities, socially excluded citizens, through library collections or not – are not recorded anywhere. Qualitative assessment of library impact, in terms of urban planning, social inclusion and democratic participation, is missing in official statistics. A new political framework is needed to include the "social" library – and this framework can be identified in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and, in Europe, the EU 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

The EU 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is slightly different from that of the UN in terms of goals, indicators and implementation of EU project [Implementing Sustainable Development Goals in Europe].

European libraries can rattle off figures and statistics concerning the annual number of library visitors and transactions – this is certainly useful to show the volume of their business. However, the best way to advocate for libraries and to convince politicians and policy-makers of how relevant they are for the socio-cultural and economic development of a country or a region, is to show the extent of the impact of libraries on sustainability, well-being, and GDP Indexes - at European, national and/or local level.

Members of ELSA

  • Ms Selenay Aytac
    LIS Professor, Long Island University, United States;
  • Ms Maija Berndtson
    Retired Library Director, Helsinki City Library, Helsinki, Finland;
  • Mr Christophe Evans
    Sociologist, Service des Études et de la Recherche, Bibliothèque Publique d’information, Paris, France;
  • Ms Chiara Faggiolani
    LIS Professor, University Roma La Sapienza, Rome, Italy;
  • Ms Marjolein Oomes
    Researcher, Royal Library, The Hague, Netherlands;
  • Mr Mats Öström
    Former Culture Director, Gävle and Sandviken, Sweden;
  • Ms Ulla Wimmer
    LIS Professor, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany;

Ex officio

  • Mr Giuseppe Vitiello
    EBLIDA Director
    g.vitiello [AT]
  • Mr Ton van Vlimmeren
    President EBLIDA

Phases and Possible Outputs

Phase 1: Assessing research about qualitative assessment of public libraries in relation to ELSA Objectives

(early October 2019 – January 2020)

On the basis of the summary provided by the EBLIDA Secretariat, ELSA Members will provide input on how they can contribute to general ELSA Objectives and clarify their needs in relation to the progress of their research.

Phase 2: Assessment practices and training in sustainability assessment

(January – March 2020)

On the basis of the achieved results, possible orientations concerning on-going research and an evaluation scale which might be applied during the Stelline Conference in Milan (13 March 2020).

Phase 3: The 28th EBLIDA-NAPLE Conference (Beograd, 23 June 2019)

(March-June 2020)

Fully-fledged application of research, evaluation scale and training.

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