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European Libraries–Directions and Insights: The Tuesday Evening Session

Erik Boekesteijn, Founder and Director of DOKLAB at the public library in Delft, Netherlands and author of The ShanachieTour (Information Today, 2008) reported on his recent tour of 21 European libraries in a series of highly entertaining videos and descriptions of the issues faced. A common theme across all the libraries was that libraries are changing lives, and the videos portrayed interviews with the librarians and users that emphasized this theme in 3 specific areas: social inclusion, lifelong learning, and digital inclusion. Employment is a major issue across Europe; youth unemployment in Spain is around 60%!

Case studies from Ireland, Romania, and Denmark were shown. Libraries are knowledge buildings; for example, in Aarhus, Denmark, even though their library has just opened recently, plans have been made to rethink its layout after only 2 years. In Romania, the library is housed in an inconsequential building with used furniture. People learn how to appreciate their local heritage in a library where there is a communal “living room”. Children come not only to read books but to learn things other than what they learn in school. An Association of Animal Breeders was formed in the library. These events show that information is the most valuable element regardless of country.

Libraries can offer people a space where their entrepreneurial skills can develop. They have reinvented themselves and are playing a role in community development. Over 13 million Europeans use their local libraries.

In Ireland, CoderDojo, a programming environment for children, has been installed in a library. It is geared for learning but the learning is not apparent because the children are having so much fun playing games, etc. It is important for libraries to have systems like CoderDojo because they attract children into the library. The curiculum is led by the children, who bring parents to the class. There is a waiting list of 100 children.

Libraries are changing all the time and are offering a home for people to come and meet each other. They also offer learning centers, intergenerational activities, and are an unexploited resource that we should be using even more. Makerspaces are the best thing you can do to create a sense of community. YouLab is a project to destroy the digital divide by open sharing of knowledge.

We need a place to find resources to learn new skills. They are already here, welcoming over 100 million citizens each year. We cannot do without them. Libraries change lives!

Following his presentation, Erik conducted a 25-question multiple choice quiz in which contestants were ranked not only on whether they answered correctly but also whether how fast they answered.  Amy Affelt, Director, Database Research Worldwide, Compass Lexicon, was the grand prize winner.


(L-R) Jane Dysart, Erik Boekesteijn, Amy Affelt

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