Advocacy and Lobbying for libraries in Europe
Since 1992, EBLIDA's main goal is to lobby for libraries in Europe.
There is no need to quote Rousseau to claim that direct democracy maximizes participation. On the other hand, deliberation through direct democracy is emotion-driven if it is not accompanied by the conditions required to make good deliberations. The misuse of direct democracy can be contrasted by a well-informed debate with clear questions and outcomes, especially at local level.
At Political level, EBLIDA collaborates with Public Libraries 2030 in implementing:
A revision of current Library legislations in Europe is needed to attains minimal requirements for a library system supporting an equitable, democratic and sustainable society.
The flagship project linked to this Strand is to revise the Council of Europe EBLIDA Guidelines on Library Legislation and Policy in Europe approved by the Council for Cultural Co-operation at its 68th Session (19-21 January 2000) and by the EBLIDA Executive Committee in January 2000 - in the light of four major catalysts:
a) Active participation and the struggle for an equitable and democratic society;
c) The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market;
d) Artificial Intelligence.
In defining library legislation we need to look beyond laws that concern themselves primarily with libraries. There is a great deal of legislation relevant to libraries that is present in other legislative frameworks, first and foremost the nation's Constitution. These pieces of legislation are for non-library purposes, but incidentally exercise important effects on the ways in which libraries develop.
A Revised Council of Europe EBLIDA Guidelines on Library Legislation and Policy in Europe should take into account the following five domains:
1. Freedom of expression and free access to information
2. Libraries within the national cultural and information policies
3. Libraries and the creative and/or knowledge industries
4. Libraries within the national educational and social policies
5. The protection of library heritage.
In many European countries a Library Act does exist; it is relatively easy to extract some of the articles - objectives, scope, activities, funding entities, etc. – and make them a standard pre-requirement for library legislation in all countries. More difficult is instead to explore non library-related legislation which is relevant for libraries. The “social” library – what French librarians designate “Libraries as Third place” – can only be framed into the wider scope of the European 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Library statistics in the European Union started to be collected in a more systematic and intensive manner around 1990-2000, thanks to funding provided by the European Commission. There have been numerous attempts to collect library statistics thanks to EBLIDA (2013-2015), the IFLA Library Map of the World. In 2017, PL 2020 combined IFLA Library Map of the World with other indicators in its EU Library Factsheets.
Usual figures about EU libraries record 65,000 public libraries which are attended by some 100 million annual visitors.
However impressive library statistics may seem, they are far from satisfactory. The number of 100 million annual library visitors, for instance, can be dismissed with a scorn by a biased economist who might infer that similar, and perhaps better, results are achieved by social media, search engines and similar channels.
New library indicators are therefore needed, which assess rather than the intensity of use of library resources, how libraries are used. Library performance indicators which take into account Europe-wide sustainable development indicators based on Eurostat.
One of the tasks of ELSA (European Libraries and Sustainability Assessment) Working Group, set up by EBLIDA on 7th October 2019, is to examine appropriate methodologies for the assessment of library performances in the social and economic field, in association with general socio-economic indicators of a general nature, such as the Eurostat-based SDG Indicators, the OECD Well-Being Index, and similar. ELSA results will be made available through awareness, evaluation and training activities, and in particular during the 28th EBLIDA Conference in Beograd (23rd June 2020).
In the 19th century, literacy skills were linked to the progress of the concept of nation. After the 2nd World War, in a post-totalitarian era, public libraries were identified as agents of democratic change. In early 1970’s, this idealistic notion left the floor to a more “utilitarian” attitude based on technical applications and technologies.
At the turn of the second Millennium, information service providers broke the monopoly libraries had enjoyed for years. In the current economy of attention, many services – like Google services – are accessible free of charge and are at the users’ fingertip. A new political framework is therefore needed – and this framework can be clearly identified in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and, in Europe, the EU 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
There are at least two advantages in linking library action to the Sustainability Agenda developed by the United Nations and, in Europe, by the EU 2030 Agenda.
The first is political. Libraries’ cultural and educational objectives are not developed in an abstract manner, but they are closely linked to the sustainability orientations pursued by the communities they intend to serve. The concept of “social” library can thrive and develop in this broader political architecture and t or file in the archives: e specific policies assigned to each Goal.
The second advantage is economic. Libraries are much more than the content they store in their precincts and on their servers. As “third place”, their duty is also to develop activities targeted at the public as a whole. A more powerful evaluation system should look at library practices in terms of modalities of use, rather than on the intensity of use of library collections. They should include, for instance, the number of voluntary and community groups normally linked to the library service, the proportion of hours when libraries are used for organised activities outside of traditional library services, and formal connections with schools and colleges as well as with local businesses. A new battery of indicators is therefore needed, where libraries can demonstrate how good they are for the society as a whole. These indicators are much more effective if they are connected, in a way or another, to the Well-Being Index elaborated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the EUROSTAT SDG indicators.
Strand n. 4. lends attention to library evaluation and Impact Studies (the impact of libraries on the society). The EBLIDA ELSA (European Libraries and Sustainability Assessment) Working Group has been established to deal with this topic.
Interview with Steen Bording Andersen23 June 2020: Interview with Steen Bording Andersen, EBLIDA Executive Committee Member. Read more >
Interview with Marina Encheva21 June 2020: Interview with Marina Encheva, EBLIDA Executive Committee Member. Read more >
EBLIDA Newsletter June 202008 June 2020: As in any post-crisis scenario, librarians must be ready to embark upon all possible plans. Find out what's next. New publications on SDGs , ESI Funds; planned #Webinars & more in the EBLIDA June Newsletter. Read more >
Press Release: SDGs and Libraries – First European Report02 June 2020: A fully-fledged concept apt to frame library work into the broader and far-reaching scope of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in European libraries. Read more >
EBLIDA Webinars20 May 2020: EBLIDA is hosting a series of webinars focused on Sustainable Development Goals and Libraries, more particularly, why and how should Libraries implement SDGs. Read more >