The Role of Public Libraries in the European Knowledge Society
Information provision for the postmodern user
NAPLE Forum, the Helsinki draft
• When representatives of 24 National Authorities on Public Libraries in
Europe met in Helsinki during Finland´s EU Presidency 2006 the NAPLE
Forum General Assembly agreed upon salient points in a paper,
• The Role of Public Libraries in the European Knowledge Society,
• brought forth by the host country.
• This paper referred to a report by Member of European Parliament Mrs
Mirja Ryynänen, adopted by the European Parliament in 1998:
• The Role of Public Libraries in the Modern World (A4-0248/98)
• Mrs Ryynänen´s report called on the European Commission and the
Member States to support a number of measures in regard to consolidating
the role played by libraries in ensuring access to information and
Report on the Green Paper on the Role of Libraries
• The Role of Libraries in the Modern World was an own-initiative report of
the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education and the Media, adapted by the
plenary session of the European Parliament in October 1998.
• The Commissioner announced that the Commission would begin work on a
Communication stimulating concentration on all the important aspects
affecting modern library services and citizens´access to them. The
Communication would address a number of specific issues, including
lifelong learning, copyright, literacy, regional information services and public
library collaboration on access to knowledge. More emphasis was to be
placed on activities involving public libraries under the Framework
The Helsinki draft 2006
• referred to the missions of the public library in accordance with the
IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto 1994, the IFLA Internet Manifesto
2002 and the IFLA/UNESCO Alexandria Proclamation on Information
Literacy and Lifelong Learning 2005.
• The draft pointed out common views shared by European public library
authorities on how to meet the challenges of the knowledge society. On the
EU agenda, the role of public libraries as providers of information and
knowledge and promoters of media literacy and information literacy is
overshadowed by the memory institution role of libraries, archives and
museums digitizing cultural heritage. Public library policies aim at ensuring
access to information and knowledge, civic skills needed for daily life, at
promoting literacy and media skills, not forgetting the promotion of literature
Other salient points of the Helsinki draft
• the draft emphasized the potential of the European network of public
libraries, open for all, easy to access, and the diverse roles of public
libraries in the cultural and multicultural sphere of a European knowledge
society for all. Public libraries promote equal opportunities, social and
cultural cohesion and integration.
• The draft called for recognition of the expertize of public library auhtorities
as outlined in policies, strategies and project funding on a national level,
and for recognition of the on-going, intense cooperation in the NAPLE
Forum, aiming at developing services for a transparent, democratic citizens´
• In Helsinki, the national authorities agreed that a Public Libraries Expert
Group should be established on a European level, in order to support and
harmonize the development of services.
The postmodern library user
• Public library activities and services have changed profoundly in a very
short time. Entering a library today one sees a multitude of computer
terminals with users busily looking for information and knowledge. There is
a profound change in thinking and attitudes behind this every-day view. The
role of public libraries is no longer to be mere distributors of "right answers".
This way of thinking is no longer valid in the postmodern world.
• The answer is right or wrong depending on who is asking, depending on the
information seekers views on society, politics, religion or eating healthy, for
instance. This was foreseen already in 1979 by Jean-Francois Lyotard in
The Postmodern Condition.When the meta-narratives have lost their
obvious legitimacy, then most everything can be – and is, indeed – called
The new generation of library user
• is familiar with Google and has a clear idea of what should be the result of
the search - information that fits in with the user´s personal view of life is
• Libraries have to compete with other information providers and compete for
• In it´s own words, Google has the grand mission "to organize the world´s
information and make it universally accessible and useful".
• Very similar to the mission of libraries...
• Can libraries compete?
• -One of the library´s trump card in the era of search machines – whether it
be a question of face-to-face service or ask-a-librarian on the web –is that
libraries serve individuals and their needs in the current life situation.
Access to information and the use of information
• In its report Living Information (2006/07), UNESCO links two important
concepts – access to information and the use of information. The concept
"living Information" also refers to knowledge that helps people to improve
their own life situation, information that helps people enhance their lives.
• Library professionals are actually needed more than ever.
• "Knowing the actual opportunities available and the skill to find exactly what
one is looking for – reliable information and the ability to use it –pose the
greatest challenge for an individual." (Finnish Public Library Policy 2015)
• Key words in the Finnish national library policy 2015 are competence and
quality. Reacting quickly to changes in society, new technology and new
lifestyles, constantly focusing on expertise and emphasizing quality, is how
libraries compete today, and in the future.
• A British Library report on the Google generation mentioned the 24/7
service expectation, the "instant gratification at a click" attitude, the
readiness to rapidly scan, flick and power-browse through large amounts of
digital content, and on the other hand the total lack of interest and the
ignorance concerning validity of the information. How to meet the
expectations of a generation looking primarily for massive choice, easy
access and simple-to-use-tools?
• Libraries accomodate to societal and technological change, to new ways of
seeking information and new user expectations. The social web and the
wiki-thinking strongly influence the current development of services. Visible
on Second Life or not, the objectives are still there – to promote equal
opportunities among citizens for personal cultivation, for literary and cultural
pursuits, for continuous development of knowledge, personal skills and civic
Partnerships for strength and visibility
• NAPLE Forum is an unofficial coalition of official national authorities. The
national authority can be a Ministry, a National Agency, or another authority
responsible for the development of the public library sector.
• We very much appreciate this opportunity to be part of the work and efforts
of our partners on this occasion, which is in line with our own national
policies and aims; e-inclusion, access to information and knowledge and
• the ability to use it for a better life.
• NAPLE Forum was established in Copenhagen in October 2002. The
importance of developing and harmonizing European public library services
by benchmarking and comparisions is obvious.
• The joint EBLIDA- NAPLE Conference in Vienna in May this year confirmed
a new, dynamic partnership for a Library Policy for Europe.