Date: 25th September 2018

Place: The Research Library of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, lecture hall, first floor

The Region's promise to introduce a separate subsidy title for libraries and other conclusions

The discussion over the role and future of libraries in the Czech Republic was conducted in a friendly manner. Participants included representatives of municipal, municipal and regional governments, as well as institutions that contribute to the development of the region. At the beginning there was a presentation by PhDr. Vít Richter from the National Library dedicated to the one hundred years of public libraries in the Czech Republic and their future in the digital era, which the participants of the discussion followed in their inputs. The mayors of Kaplice and Boršov upon Vltava shared their experiences with persuading politicians to build libraries, their priorities and approaches. Mgr. Patrik Červák empathically appealed to the audience, he pointed out that it is difficult to expect money from the region without quality and meaningful projects. And since the money is only in the last row, the promise of Pavel Hroch (deputy governor of the South Bohemian Region) to introduce a separate subsidy title for libraries in the spirit of the already functioning model of South Moravian Region grants was one of the key and encouraging conclusions of the discussion.

The moderator was the former editor of Czech Radio České Budějovice PhDr. Hana Soukupová, who had a great share in the very pleasant atmosphere of the meeting. More than 70 participants from the ranks of mayors of towns and municipalities, directors of libraries, librarians and employees of the South Bohemian Regional Authority followed the discussion. Our thanks to everyone involved.

Discussion Areas:

1/ We have a tradition: a very dense network of libraries. What do you think about maintaining or developing it in the coming years?
2/ What should libraries do more in the future? What should libraries improve in the future?
3/ How to engage municipal leadership to support the transformation of libraries?
4/ How to support the transformation of libraries, what to concentrate on - e.g. in connection with schools?
5/ How does South Bohemian Region support the development of libraries in its territory? Are there any grant programmes to support libraries? What to support in subsidies - ICT, space, equipment, cultural and educational events?

The discussion participants:

Mgr. Ivo Kareš - director of the South Bohemian Research Library in České Budějovice, Pavel Hroch - deputy governor of the South Bohemian Region, Mgr. Jan Zeman - Boršov upon Vltava mayor, Mgr. Pavel Talíř - mayor of Kaplice, member of the Union of Towns and Municipalities presidium, Ing. Jaromír Talíř - deputy mayor of České Budějovice, Ing. Petr Švec - director of the National Net of Healthy Cities of the Czech Republic, Mgr. Patrik Červák - head of the Department of Culture and Conservation of the South Bohemian Regional Authority.

České Budějovice discussed the future of libraries

In September 25, 2018, a round table was held in the building of the South Bohemian Research Library in the morning of the same-name nationwide event Library - the Matter of Public. The participants of the discussion were Pavel Hroch, deputy governor of the South Bohemian Region and Kovářov mayor, Mgr. Patrik Červák, head of the Department of Culture and Conservation of the South Bohemian Regional Authority, Ing. Jaromír Talíř, deputy governor of the South Bohemian Region, Mgr. Pavel Talíř, mayor of Kaplice, member of the Union of Towns and Municipalities presidium, Ing. Petr Švec, director of the National Network of Healthy Cities of the Czech Republic, Mgr. Jan Zeman, Boršov upon Vltava mayor and Mgr. Ivo Kareš, director of the South Bohemian Research Library in České Budějovice. The audience of a full-fledged hall was mainly composed of librarians from all over the region, but also representatives of municipalities.

The presentation foregoing the discussion by PhDr. Vít Richter Development Trends in Librarianship, opened a number of topics: how to keep the current unique network of public libraries in the Czech Republic, which is the densest in the world; how the South Bohemian Region can support public libraries and how their founders, municipalities, can do that; and how to improve activities of the libraries and what to focus on when transforming them. In his short excursion, Mgr. Červák recalled the importance of libraries in history and emphasized the need to preserve these institutions even in the digital era. In a lightened tone, Pavel Hroch confessed his affection for books and pleased all the audience with an information that the South Bohemian Region also wants to support smaller municipalities in the near future with systemic subsidies for the equipment and modernization of their libraries, as some other regions have already done. He also mentioned the financial reinforcement of the regional functions of libraries authorized to make more money to buy books for the exchange fund.

There were also a few more tips on how to get funds for libraries. In addition to sponsorship donations or subsidy programmes of the Ministry of Culture CR or the European Union, there was also a talk about the activities and ideas of librarians themselves, who should be able to enthuse the leaders of municipalities or the region by their projects. Consistently low salaries in the field were also mentioned, a problem that has been solved without success for decades. There were also concrete examples of municipalities that consider their libraries important and support their operation. Boršová nad Vltavou mayor Jan Zeman described with some humorous exaggeration how he managed to push through the construction of a completely new library, which now offers, in addition to lending books, various cultural events and courses and has five times more readers than the old one. In turn, Kaplice mayor ing. P. Talíř introduced a "mediatheque", a reconstructed library in a former cultural house, and explained the circumstances of its creation. The importance of multifunctional libraries in modern times was also emphasized by Petr Švec from the National Network of Healthy Cities. At the same time, he recalled that not only a one-off investment in repairing or building a library, but also its operation, could be challenging for municipalities and highlighted programmes that allow energy savings in similar institutions. The question of whether the benefits of libraries for society can be concretely determined aroused a half-serious, half-light-hearted discussion. Ivo Kareš mentioned in this context the methodology for calculating the return on investment in libraries, according to which, for example, funds invested in JVK will return to the company roughly four times.

Another topic was the cooperation of libraries with schools, i.e. various educational activities. In small municipalities, such cooperation is usually based on personal contacts (Kaplice) and it is succesful generally, whether it is a small schoolchild who can get acquainted with the library for the first time, or seniors vice versa, e.g. participants of the University of the Third Age. This is also important for intergenerational meetings in the library. Today, when personal contacts and communication are diminishing, it is double as important, Mgr. P.Talíř added. Libraries could also contribute significantly to the media literacy of the population, which is currently a very topical subject. There was also the question of which activities are no longer included in libraries - libraries of things, charity bazaars, etc. were mentioned. From concrete examples (Boršov, where St. Martin's Goose is even baked in the library), it is obvious that the traditional function of book rentals has really changed and expanded. However, libraries should remain mainly cultural, pedagogical and educational institutions, and they should definitely prevent efforts to set up, for example, a dispatch station of items ordered in the e-shop, Ivo Kareš said with a slight exaggeration.

At the end of the discussion, all the participants agreed that even in the 21st century, public libraries have a meaning and are worth supporting. But it is important that information about the role of libraries in a changing world reaches those mayors who have not yet appreciated their significance. For libraries in smaller municipalities a subsidy programme can be a great encouragement and specific help for their equipment and modernization, which representatives of the South Bohemian Region promised.

PhDr. Hana Soukupová