Date: 6th June 2018, 2-4 p.m.

Place: Small Hall of the Central Library of the Municipal Library of Prague, Mariánské náměstí 1, Prague 1

Panelists: Petr Bílek (Literary Newspaper), Eliška Kaplický Fuchsová (representative of the Capital City of Prague), Ondřej Kolář (mayor of Prague 6), Michal Kryl (New School, o.p.s.), Tomáš Lapáček (Institute of Planning and Development of the City of Prague), Tomáš Řehák (Prague Municipal Library), Blanka Skučková (Ministry of Culture) and Jan Wolf (Prague City councillor).

The discussion was moderated by Štěpánka Duchková (Czech Radio).

Library the Matter of Public - Prague Round Table

Round Table Library - the Matter of Public for the Prague Region took place on Wednesday 6 June 2018 in the Municipal Library in Prague.

Participants in the discussions were Petr Bílek (Literary Newspaper), Eliška Kaplický Fuchsová (representative of the City of Prague), Ondřej Kolář (mayor of Prague 6), Michal Kryl (New School, o.p.s.), Tomáš Lapáček (Institute of Planning and Development of the City of Prague), Tomáš Řehák (Prague Municipal Library), Blanka Skučková (Ministry of Culture), and Jan Wolf (Prague City councillor). Štěpánka Duchková from the Czech Radio Regina DAB took the chair in moderating. Representatives of city districts, non-profit and contributory organizations, schools, libraries and other organizations came to the audience. The first roundtable theme was how to work effectively with the dense network of public libraries we inherited since the First Republic. Libraries have been identified as the flagship of the city's modern cultural and community infrastructure. Great potential for speakers was in the community role of libraries, when libraries respond to the needs of the community in which they operate and also have the potential to be a stable partner for the activities of individuals and non-profit organizations. A summary of the director of the library Tomáš Řehák that the library is not a branch of culture, but its functioning and its potential is spread in three directions: cultural, educational and social was also repeated. The social aspect is not only in the sense of low threshold but also as a place of community cohesion. As stated by Blanka Skučková from the Ministry of Culture, the educational role of the library is directed to children and adults who prefer libraries to complement education rather than schools. Speakers saw the cultural role of the library and the audience, among other things, that the library provides guidance to those who do not know what they are looking for and can take them to an interesting offer within the cultural field.

Although the library does not earn money from its activities, it was clear from the Council of Culture Councillor Jan Wolf that the public funds invested in libraries would pay off. In 2018 the branches of the Municipal Library in Prague Letná and Malešice will reopen. In 2019, the reopening of the Černý Most, Hloubětín, Zahradní Město branches and the opening of a new Jezerka branch is planned.

During the discussion, there was also the theme of building new libraries, where the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) effect is visible, so the public wants the library, but nobody wants the building right at their home. This was documented by the mayor of Prague 6 Ondřej Kolář with his experience with the construction of a new library building in Petřiny. As for the design of library buildings, Eliška Kaplický Fuchsová emphasized their importance for the cultivation of the environment and the positive impression of library users. The discussion also included the proposal to use PPP funding for the construction of libraries in Prague, where funding is handled by a combination of public and private funds. For the Modernization of Libraries Tomáš Lapáček from the Institute of Planning and Development of the City of Prague plans to use existing funds. As Michal Kryl from Nová Škola o.p.s. mentioned, the library combines multiple functions and it is important that it offers both books and community space, without one of these elements dominating.

The editor-in-chief of Literary Newspaper Petr Bílek pointed out that books lose their value as a cultural artifact and it is necessary to count on it in the future. And thus, to tailor the offer of libraries to the generation of digital natives, for example, by making a huge offer of digitized works available. The loss of book value and the unavailability of older titles have also been mentioned in the discussion with the audience.

One of the topics was also the unification of the provision of services so that the reader could use a library with different founders with one card. As stated by the library director Tomáš Řehák, in this respect, the joint provision of online services is the first, in the form of the portal, which provides users with the widest range of documents from libraries throughout the Czech Republic. Boosting online collaboration over the years, hopefully, will also lead to closer library collaboration that readers welcome, such as the ability to return books to a library other than the one from which they were loaned. The equipment and offer of libraries were commented by Blanka Skučková from the Ministry of Culture, she stressed that the current Act on Libraries or the methodological guideline on the standards almost does not force anything upon the founder and has only a recommending character. However, the law presupposes cooperation of libraries within the region.

The conclusion of the debate focused on the cooperation of libraries with schools and non-profit organizations. Partnership with non-profit organizations can help libraries to fulfil their social roles because they do not have so much experience in providing social services and at the same time non-profit organizations appreciate the background of libraries that are capable of long-term cooperation and are a safe environment for users.

The debate has shown that the direction in which libraries have gone, not to just book lending, but to provide other services to the community, is right and politically and publicly supported.

Veronika Hyblerová Trachtová, Prague Municipal Library, June 2018