16 June, 2008

Libraries for everybody seeking to understand the world and themselves

This was the theme for the International Federation of Library Associations' (IFLA) Metlib conference in Prague which I have just attended. Metlib is a section of the association for large urban libraries and members include some of the largest libraries in the world, Toronto, Taipei, Shanghai, Queens, Seattle and Singapore as well as leading Scandinavian libraries, Helsinki, Stockholm and Copenhagen.

Strahov Monastery Library

The program included papers and visits to cultural institutions including some very beautiful libraries, in particular the National Library of the Czech Republic and the Library of the Strahov Monastery, both of which date back to medieval times.

One of the most interesting presentations was from Taipei , Chinese libraries are becoming world leaders in many areas and their new libraries are embracing green principles. There is a strong program of events and activities promoting reading, some of which we can try at Yarra Plenty, and some of their new libraries are being sponsored by private companies.

In Singapore they are attempting to raise the livability index through rejuvenation of libraries, and they are looking to have a Youth library in Orchard Rd and also a Sports library to complement the Performing Arts library at the new Arts Centre.

Stockholm too is using libraries to increase its profile, and its aim to be a world class city by 2030 encompasses the new Stockholm library that extends the famous Asplund library, that will be completed by 2014.

I have come back with many new ideas and a new energy for the vital role that libraries are playing in our changing world. Please feel free to share your experiences of overseas libraries on the blog.

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