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EBLIDA Council & Conference 2015

Report from EBLIDA Council and Conference, 7-8 May, National Library of Latvia, Riga


EBLIDA Council Meeting


The 23rd EBLIDA Council meeting was held on 7th May. Items on the agenda included:


Approval of new members/dismissals

The Council approved four new members and six cancellations. The Belgian Library Association was subsumed into another organisation in January 2014. The current EBLIDA membership is 110 (46 full, 64 associate) from 37 countries, plus 3 sponsors. Each EU Member State is represented by at least one full member.


2014 Annual Report

EBLIDA’s work programme for 2014-2015 focused on copyright and literacy. Highlights during the year included the right to e-read campaign, publication of the Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe, a breakfast debate in Brussels to discuss the role of libraries in improving access to information and knowledge in the digital era which was attended by a number of MEPs, the JURI Committee Report on copyright reform drafted by German MEP Julia Reda, a joint statement with IFLA on the post-2015 agenda relating to literacy, and involvement in the ELINET project. The Annual Report is available on the EBLIDA website.


Reports from Expert Groups


  • Expert Group on Information Law (EGIL)

EGIL was involved in drafting the EBLIDA response to the EU copyright consultation, and the group also contributed to the Right to E-read position paper and the C4C copyright manifesto. There were two EGIL meetings during the year – in London on 23rd October 2014 and The Hague on 25th March 2015. A joint meeting with the IFLA committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters (CLM) was held on 26th March in which WIPO issues were discussed, and a pan-European meeting including IFLA, EBLIDA & LIBER was held on 27th March to discuss how best to lobby and co-ordinate copyright advocacy activities.


  • Expert Group on Culture and Information Society (EGCIS)

The group had three meetings (Athens on 13th May 2014, Bremen on 3rd June 2014 and Lyon on 20th August 2014) and two Skype calls (14th October 2014 and 19th December 2014). The primary focus was on two elements: Culture Action Europe (art, artistic expression, building connections with museums) and ELINET (which runs till Jan 2016). The group is working on a position paper on libraries and literacy and meetings in Brussels and Amsterdam are scheduled.


  • E-Books Task Force

The book sector is facing radical change, particularly regarding the digital marketplace, and different situations apply in each country regarding availability for e-lending in libraries. Some publishers refuse to sell e-books to libraries. The Amazon Unlimited product costing $9.99 a month is a professional competitor for libraries and the market is expanding to Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. A Dutch report on public library e-lending models in 15 different countries was published in December 2014. The EBLIDA “right to e-read” paper is being updated in co-operation with IFLA. The incoming Executive Committee will decide how to manage the campaign in the future.


Treasurer’s Report

There is a new accounting standard for non-profit organisations in the Netherlands, and the Dutch tax authorities are imposing a €100k limit on capital. The grant received from the EU last year didn’t have to be repaid after proof on EBLIDA’s non-profit status was provided. There was an increase in salary costs for the Director due to his being granted a pension. In 2015 EBLIDA jointly applied for a grant from the Public Libraries 2020 scheme with the Latvian Library Association, for the project “Library Advocacy 4 EU” which aims to co-ordinate actions among EU library associations. EBLIDA’s 2016 budget goals are to bring expenses in line with income, gradually reduce capital to below €100k, invest in a Brussels presence, address decreasing membership numbers, and identify grants and projects for extra funding. A small deficit is expected. The next Executive Committee will consider whether to move office – possibly to Brussels where the EU parliament may be able to provide office facilities. The draft budget was approved.



Jukka Relander (Finnish Library Association) was elected unanimously as President by acclamation.

The following 10 Executive Committee members were elected from 13 candidates:

Steen Bording Andersen (Denmark)

Guy Daines (United Kingdom)

Ulrika Domellöf Mattsson (Sweden)

Gerald Leitner (Austria)

Barbara Lison (Germany)

Charles Noordam (Netherlands)

Stefano Parise (Italy)

Jean-Marie Reding (Luxembourg)

Alicia Sellés Carot (Spain)

Uldis Zarins (Latvia)


Work programme 2015/2016

The work programme includes three policy areas: bridging libraries in Europe, enhancing access to information, and ensuring sustainability. EBLIDA is looking at collaboration and alliances to improve work for associations, libraries and librarians.


Next Council Meeting and Conference

The venue is yet to be confirmed. Possibilities include Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Brussels.



Glòria Pérez-Salmerón is standing for IFLA President Elect 2015-2017 and has the support of EBLIDA.

The Council meeting was followed by the inaugural meeting of the new Executive Council and a group photo.

A reception sponsored by Better World Books was held in the observation tower of the National Library in the evening.



The joint conference was held on 8th May at the National Library of Latvia, and was attended by 92 delegates from 27 countries. The conference theme was "Building a Europe of Readers", based on the key priorities of the Latvian EU Presidency: involvement, growth and sustainability. A video of the plenary sessions is available on You Tube.


Opening Ceremony

Uldis Zariņš from the National Library of Latvia welcomed the following speakers:


- Dace Melbārde, Minister of Culture (message delivered by Linda Pavļuta)

Latvia has 2000 libraries, 800 of which are public, and each Latvian can access a library within 20 minutes. Libraries have become centres for local communities, and serve as cornerstone of European culture. The National Library of Lativa is known as the Castle of Light, and is a symbol of knowledge and freedom. This corresponds to the political agenda of the EU ministers of culture – freedom of expression, quality and trustworthiness of content, and safeguarding cultural values and heritage.


- Arvils Ašeradens, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Finance

Libraries are a great asset to the social and economic fabric of a country, and the National Library of Latvia is a central focal point for all cultural events. There is not enough recognition of the positive impact that libraries have on the economy, and there is a measurable chain of causality which is often overlooked by policy makers. People need to be well educated and socially engaged to be successful in their professional lives, and a recent study showed that there was a €9 million direct financial benefit from libraries. It is necessary to develop strong arguments and case studies to be heard, and to work together with partners from different sectors.


- Andris Vilks, Director, National Library of Latvia

30% of Latvians are library users, compared to the EU average of 20-30%. Libraries are part of a wide network of social services including education, employment and welfare, and should work with other providers. The mission of libraries is to make people’s lives better by making them smarter.


- Kristīne Pabērza, President, Library Association of Latvia

Reading is a fundamental skill and literacy for all is connected with strong economic growth. Literacy is a pre-requisite for smart growth as identified in the EU2020 strategy, and libraries can help achieve this goal. The world is dominated by the written word and the ability to evaluate information critically is crucial to ensure skills remain relevant to the current economy. The ability to read, understand and be understood is becoming more important than ever. Libraries in Latvia and all over Europe are and will serve as the gateway to the future by providing lifelong access to resources, knowledge and tools, which will benefit families, communities and society as a whole. Libraries feature in the Digital Agenda for Europe, which aims to make cultural heritage collections accessible and preserve them for future generations.


- Jan Braeckman, Chair, NAPLE Forum

Public libraries were originally intended as a form of social integration but evolved into institutions focusing on reading as an end to itself. There is a need to promote reading as a means to an end – as a way to educate ourselves in our developing society, and change from a service/product to a platform serving the community and empowering people.  Building a readership involves engaging people to help themselves and forming partnerships with lifelong learning organisations, cultural organisations and media.


Session 1: For a knowledge-based Europe


- Klaus-Peter Böttger, outgoing EBLIDA President

Klaus-Peter opened the session with a quote from Galileo – “you cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself”. 75 million people in Europe are illiterate and many lack basic language/literacy and digital skills. Literacy is a core competency needed to play an active role in society and is a key issue at the European level. It is not acceptable to have one in five Europeans experiencing difficulty in reading - people are part of the economy and should be able to contribute to their future. For a knowledge-based Europe we need educated people and libraries are helping support people in learning. 60% of young people’s activities revolve around digital media. Libraries can make their voices heard on the EU digital agenda by demanding cross-border solutions and a digital single market strategy.


- Sylvie Guillaume, Vice-President of the European Parliament (video message)

Sylvie highlighted the evolving nature of libraries and librarians in an ever-changing environment. Few people study online as they prefer to meet and share, and libraries play a key role in learning. She referred to a quotation attributed to Einstein that if bees disappeared from the Earth we would only have four years to live, emphasising the importance of libraries in society by likening them to bees.


- Prof Inese Vaidere, Member of the European Parliament (speech delivered in Latvian)

Libraries are becoming cultural centres and places for building democracy. They are the key to the EU2020 strategy and should be better supported.


- Sven Birkerts, Editor, AGNI

Sven’s childhood was dominated by books, which were familiar and reassuring. Libraries are about reading, preserving content and processing information. A new set of rules apply - we are at an axis point between spoken, written and digital forms and are in transit from one paradigm to another. The world of information is still largely book/paper based and this is a vital part of the ecology of knowledge. There is an enormous and ever-expanding cloud of electronic information, and literary reading is in danger as we are in the age of distraction. Libraries have played a role in curating and determining access to information since ancient times, and are important in safeguarding the culture of reading regardless of format. In the 21st century there was a significant change in the way of doing things, and modern libraries serve the “bit” (electronic information) rather than the “atom” (physical collections).


- Prof. Divina Frau-Meigs, Sorbonne University

Divina outlined her main research findings on media usage by young people, which indicate that young people read a lot, are ambitious in their reading, and the practice is not patrimonial. The book as a long narrative form is under threat and there is a move towards convergence of content and comment. Online peers can be any age group e.g. grandmothers. New digital skills such as programming and curating are emerging and libraries are catalysts for sustainable digital development. Digital tools enable young people to produce their own collections and provide the means of stocking them. A key issue for libraries is access and the library plays a crucial role in serving as a “porous” space, in enhancing mobility between school and life beyond, and in transferring abilities to different information cultures. The profile of a librarian has changed in recent decades and new competencies are needed. Libraries should support transliteracy, which involves reading, writing and interacting across a range of platforms, tools and media. Librarians are pedagogical mediators, not just curators or teachers, and need to focus on hybrid practices. Libraries are shifting from the logic of equipment to the logic of users, and they are moving towards digital humanities, online public services, new literacies and reorganisation of knowledge around information. Library associations need to fight for access, equity and the right to global information commons.


A panel discussion on the link between literacy and libraries followed, and how to connect with people who don’t read or write. The session was moderated by Kate Russell, freelance journalist and author, with participation from Klaus-Peter Böttger, Jan Braeckman, Sven Birkerts, and Prof Divina Frau-Meigs. The need for libraries to offer a broad social experience and to co-operate with educational and learning organisations was highlighted.


Session 2: Parallel Interactive Breakout Sessions


Building Literacy Advocacy: the Role of Libraries and Library Associations

Organised by EBLIDA, Library Association of Latvia and ELINET. Chair: Divina Frau-Meigs.

I attended the second of the two parallel sessions.


  1. Skilled By My Library: Connecting Policy and Practice in the EU

Organised by NAPLE and the Reading and Writing Foundation. Chair: Gina Ebner, Secretary General, European Association for the Education of Adults.

Gina outlined a national reading campaign in Denmark called Denmark’s Reading which involved creative writing workshops, pop-up libraries and the distribution of 100,000 books on World Book Day last year. The campaign involved a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Culture, public libraries, bookshops and publishers, and the manifesto was to reach people where they are, remind them of the benefits of reading, and provide inspiration for more reading. Events were held in shops and libraries, and advertised via TV, radio, and print sources. Evaluation methods included self-assessment, anthropological field studies and research by Aarhaus University. Survey results indicated that 51% of people had heard of the campaign, 85% of who had a high opinion of it.


- Annette Kelly, Head of Libraries Development, LGMA

The topic of Annette’s presentation was Libraries as Non-Formal Educational Institutions: Opportunities and Barriers. She discussed how libraries can support children and adults in literacy and life skills. From an Irish perspective services include high quality library collections, skilled staff supporting users, reader development activities and programmes, access to formal and informal learning, and the library as a space for research and study. The Right to Read campaign is in its beginning stages. The traditional role of the library as a university of the people engaged in book lending and self-improvement is changing to a focus on active intervention, community engagement, delivering national agendas, and forming partnerships with educational institutions and government organisations. Initiatives include collaboration between libraries and universities to provide FETAC accredited business entrepreneurial courses, and co-operation with the Department of Social Protection on internet support for job seekers. Barriers include reduced funding at national and local level, a skills gap in the leadership and workforce, resistance from staff reluctant to move from traditional roles, reduced capacity to respond to new demands, lack of engagement with national and local strategies and stakeholders, and inconsistency across and within library services. Half the country librarian posts in the country are currently vacant. There has also been some resistance from educational institutions to libraries taking on a literacy support role. Library staff support users in educational activities, but are not literacy tutors.


- Martina Ni Cheallaigh (European Commission) (video message)

Martina introduced the European Agenda for Adult Learning which provides a framework for European co-operation in adult education policies for the period 2012–2020.  The strategy began in 1996, the European Year of Lifelong Learning. The emphasis is on non-formal and informal learning as well as formal learning. Only half of EU Member States have a comprehensive strategy in place, and many are still struggling with the adult learning component. There is a national co-ordinator for each country to implement the agenda at national level – the co-ordinator for Ireland is Majella O’Dea from the Department of Education and Skills. Libraries are not mentioned specifically in the policy documents.


Session 3: What’s next?


- Wrap-up: Kate Russell, freelance journalist and author

Kate wanted to become a writer so her work would be in libraries and live on in the minds of others, providing a form of immortality. People don’t write to become wealthy (it’s the publishers that want to get rich) - they do so because it’s a passion. Librarians are becoming custodians of content in an ever-increasing forest of information, both in the form of atoms and bits. The old fashioned view of a librarian needs to be wiped out, and librarians need to need to be given enough training and support to enable them to keep up with technological change and to become guides across multiple platforms, disciplines and trans-literacies.


- Conclusion and next steps: Jukka Relander, incoming EBLIDA President

In summing up Jukka said that libraries represent a good return on investment to the community. He highlighted the key issues for EBLIDA in future - literacy, e-books and copyright.


Guided Library Tour

A tour of the National Library of Latvia took place after the conference.


Cultural event

An excursion to Sigulda National Park took place on 9th May, including the Sigulda new castle, Gutmana cave and Turaida Museum Reserve.


EBLIDA conference delegates 2015

Delegates at the 2015 EBLIDA Conference held at the National Library of Latvia in Riga.


Zoë Melling

May 2015