Date: 18th April, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Place: Regional Authority of the Moravian-Silesian Region, 28. října 117, 702 18 Ostrava

The panel discussion was attended by Mrs. Dagmar Novosadová, DiS., mayor of Kunín and representative of the Union of Towns and Municipalities, Mgr. Karin Vitásková, head of the Heritage Care Department in the Moravian-Silesian Region, PhDr. Libuše Foberová, director of the Moravian-Silesian Research Library in Ostrava, Ing. Martin Víteček, 1st deputy mayor of Opava, Mgr. Herbert Pavera, mayor of Bolatice and a member of the National Network of Healthy Cities and Mr. Dušan Lederer, chairman of the Rural Renewal Association.

The introductory presentation was performed by PhDr. Vít Richter, director of the National Library CR Librarianship Institute.

The discussion was moderated by Mgr. Petr Bohuš.

Library - a Matter of Public

Ostravian Discussion Round Table on the Future of Libraries

""Libraries offer people" keys "for information, services,
to the public space and to each other. "

The discussion round table "Library - the Matter of Public" took place on 11th April 2018 in Ostrava in the Regional Authority of the Moravian-Silesian Region in the presence of librarians and mayors. The event was held on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia and in connection with the adoption of the 1st Library Act, which will also be a hundred years next year. It is for this anniversary that Czech libraries are opening a debate on their future in the digital world. The discussion Library - the Matter of Public [1] builds on the worldwide activity of IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations) "Together we create the future."[2] Czech librarians also took part in the vote on the future of the field, and the culmination of this activity is a discussion across the Czech Republic among library founders / operators, the Union of Towns and Municipalities representatives, Association for Rural Renewal, Association of Regions, Ministry of Culture, Educational and Cultural Institutions, and last but not least librarians of public libraries.

The Ostrava meeting was the first of a total of fourteen planned round tables. The initial (virtual) guest was Gloria Pérez-Salmerón, IFLA President, [3] who emphasized the importance of libraries and the topics that contemporary libraries must face.

Mrs. Dagmar Novosadová, mayor of Kunín and representative of the Union of Towns and Municipalities, Karin Vitásková, head of the Heritage Care Department in the Moravian-Silesian Region, Libuše Foberová, director of the Moravian-Silesian Research Library in Ostrava, Martin Víteček, 1st deputy mayor of Opava, Herbert Pavera, mayor of Bolatice and member of the National Healthy Cities Network, and Mr. Dušan Lederer, chairman of the Rural Renewal Society participated in the Ostrava panel discussion. The opening presentation was performed by Vít Richter, director of the National Library CR Librarianship Institute and chairman of the Central Library Council. [4] Panel discussion was moderated by Petr Bohuš.

Tradition and Present of Czech Libraries

The Czech Republic is a country with a rich tradition and a dense network of public libraries, but their perception and level vary. The aim of this meeting was to initiate a discussion about libraries, about the conditions in which they operate, but also to show the rich activity of libraries and examples of good practice, cooperation with various associations and institutions in the place. The topic was also the support of libraries - by the state, region or municipalities.

Today's libraries are transformed into "meeting places" - they offer a wide range of information and the ways how to approach it. People are the heart of the library - those who visit the libraries and those who provide the services. New spaces can be found there - cafés, children' s, teenagers' and students' facilities, facilities for common users, even for special needs groups. They offer a natural place for literacy of any kind, support a more active citizenship, and equalize social differences. Quality library collections are the basics of successful services. New technologies are gradually coming to the libraries along with the new interesting services. Modern libraries can provide all this. Despite of that we still face an obsolete perception of the library.

The panel discussion participants in Ostrava responded to a number of questions concerning the activities of libraries, thought about their future and their significance at present. What could libraries do more? What are the conditions in which libraries work? What and whether there are subsidy incentives for their construction and reconstruction? The big topic was the space and location of libraries - do libraries have suitable spaces accessible to disadvantaged citizens? Are libraries able to implement their activities and ideas fully?

Many creative people work in libraries - they organize many diverse events, targeting all age groups. Support for reading, working with text, with illustrations, and developing digital literacy form the basis of library work. Lectures, discussions, workshops, meetings across generations, creative workshops - this is just a small list of activities organized by libraries.

There not always are the conditions in libraries to offer different community activities to the members of their municipality. Each library has different options, different spaces, different people live in each municipality and their needs may vary. The well-established communication - among the municipality, the school and the library - is important. It is essential that these institutions perceive each other well, or use the spaces that are available in the municipality in common. It is essential that citizens feel the library is open to all. The question is whether libraries will have the place they deserve in the life of a municipality or town, and whether municipalities and libraries will seek and find a common will that will move them further.

The Village of the Year Competition and Libraries

The Village of the Year [5] is an important competition for municipalities. The aim of this competition in the Rural Renewal Program is to encourage rural residents to participate actively in the development of their home. SKIP (Librarian Union and Information Professionals) is the co-promoter of the competition and the best library has the opportunity to obtain a Diploma for Modern Library and Information Services. The discussion showed that the participation of the municipality in the competition changes the attitude of the municipalities to the library - many of them have been extended, newly equipped, their space has been interconnected - representatives of the library meet, new citizens are welcome and thanks to the "Into Live with a Book" project [6 ] they and their parents can find the way to the book. Libraries create interest clubs for parents and children, witnesses meet, various events take place - memory training, Generation Clubs, Nights with Andersen, author readings, discussion meetings, quiz evenings and much more.

Panel Discussion Outputs

The panel discussion touched on a number of topics and many opinions were raised. What were its major outcomes?

  • The library is as important to a community as a good school or a church.
  • There is a significant lack of an interdepartmental body to support cooperation between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture; yet, individual libraries work closely with schools in the area.
  • Support for the library profession is essential.
  • The existence of a subsidy program for the construction and reconstruction of libraries is missing.
  • The library is just as important as other public services.
  • Each library has different options, different opportunities.
  • Reading literacy is the foundation of education - and libraries make many such actions.
  • The new role of libraries is to increase life satisfaction.

Changes are made by people working in libraries. This creates a good library - with the support of the municipality, which not only provides space but also adequate funding. Above all, it is a public service, accessible to all, without distinction. It is a space that is neutral, safe and creative. Such libraries attract more people; libraries offer what they need - a wide range of information, reading experiences, creating a positive environment, family and community space, engaging in reading support, learning across age groups and services for vulnerable community members as well. In many places, it is important to increase libraries' funding and promote librarianship as a profession. The use of libraries abroad and their financing is often twice as high as in the Czech Republic. Libraries are a network of established and trusted institutions that can reach all parts of the population. Each municipality is responsible for the conditions in which the library provides its services - space and finance - and libraries can serve as partners to meet the needs of the local community.

What is the future of libraries? This can be deduced from the systematic perception and assessment of the present, looking at what is happening and tracking changes. To follow the trends in librarianship, to perceive the needs of the local community, but not to forget their own professional values.

There are many ways to use your free time and one of them is the LIBRARY.


The Round Tables are organized by the Association of Librarians and Information Workers of the Czech Republic and the Association of Libraries of the Czech Republic under the auspices of the Association of Regions of the Czech Republic, the Association for Rural Renewal, the Union of Towns in the Czech Republic, supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.

Marie Šedá

[1] More information here: https://www.knihovna-vec-verejna.cz/
[2] More information here: https://www.ifla.org/globalvision
[3] More information here: https://ifla.org/
[4] The Central Library Council is an advisory body to the Ministry of Culture.
[5] More information here: https://vesniceroku.cz/[6] Information here: https://skipcr.cz/akce-a-projekty/akce-skip/bookstart/projekt-s-knizkou-do-zivota-bookstart