Guest post by: Nina Yankova and Svetoslava Toncheva, Bulgaria
We were one of the lucky 332 librarians from 36 countries all over the world who took part in the Next Library Conference in Aarhus, Denmark from 16 to 19 June 2013. The purpose of this conference was to “inspire public libraries to new ways of thinking within re-imagination, civic engagement and collaborative innovation with a perspective of supporting equal access to technology, learning and active citizenship for all”.
We heard great and inspiring presentations of the top professionals, participated in workshops and discussions and learned a lot of our peer experience.
The conference was focused on the new, innovative practices. People and the world are changing so we have to change our libraries too. It was about gathering new ideas. You have to produce a lot of ideas to get the right one, as it was said in one of the presentations. The key presentations were:
- Ars Electronica – Interactive Art & Technology for Society of the Future. Keynote speaker: Gerfried Stocker, Artistic and managing director of Ars Electronica Linz, Austria.
- Re-imagining the Roles of Public Libraries. Imagine a culture where information is only available in digital media. That’s the challenge we’re facing says keynote speaker: Pat Losinski, Chief Executive Officer of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Ohio, USA.
- Using Design Thinking to Drive Innovation in Libraries. Keynote speaker: Mark Jones, IDEO.
And lots of parallel interactive sessions.
There were many optional events and site visits that took place during Next Library 2013. Our choice was Re-imagination and Collaborative Innovation in 3 Branch Libraries in Aarhus. The purpose of this event was to visit 3 local libraries on the outskirts of Aarhus. The development of Danish libraries continues on several levels simultaneously. About 8 years ago, the first “kombi-bibliotek” was born in Aarhus; a library that functions as both a public library and a school library. This is part of a strategy and re-thinking of the public library in relation to maintaining the service in smaller local areas, and a better utilization of the local resources and civic involvement.
The Aarhus public library network consists of 19 (1 main and 18 branch) libraries for a region with a population of 1 million. And a brand new library will be built on the beach. We visited the main library and 3 branch libraries that are amazingly cool, especially the branch library that works on self-service. A librarian there works only two times per week and not for a full time job. People just come and open the door with their plastic library cards, pick a book and check it out with a self-check machine. And if they want, they can just go and read there alone and nobody is bothering them. You can go there (the library card is free) and use the library from 9 in the morning to 10 in the evening. There are wonderful children’s corners in every branch library, where you can see kids playing with their parents.
What impressed us by far the most was the teen program for planting seeds (like beans or potatoes). The library has its own garden and everyone is welcome to take a wooden box with soil and do planting by him-/herfelf. And people come back and take care of their own garden. This initiative is much more for those who prefer to learn through experience, not through books and other materials.
We were at one of the greenest and nicest places in the world: Aarhus is a pure heaven. We are inspired and more motivated after this event. And the most of all we met wonderful people, we exchanged ideas, experience and business cards. We made a lot of friends from all over the world, and after all, our mission is the same – to give the best service to our users.
We attended this great conference thanks to the IREX-Ukraine. We received a grant of the Travel Fund Contest for Alumni of the International Young Librarians Academy. And we can say that this event has really changed our life; as we know librarians are a very important part of the library and libraries impact people, who impact communities that impact the world.