Editorial: Linking people and resources

Cultural policy should provide conditions to enable everyone to participate in cultural life regardless of whether the aim is education, to experience culture or to engage in creative activities. It must be possible to take part in cultural facilities that are characterized by diversity and high standards regardless of where in the country one lives.

Culture is to be a dynamic, challenging and independent force based on freedom of expression. Everyone is to have the opportunity to participate in cultural life. And societies need a strong cultural life. Culture contributes both to strengthening the individual and developing society as a whole.

Public libraries are open institutions, where people have access to information, technology and training on an asneeded basis.With digital information and greater outreach, libraries are transforming the way they interact with the public. They are becoming much more proactive and collaborative, contributing in a variety of ways to a stronger local development. They are part of formal and informal community networks that support reading, learning, jobs, cultural activity and civic pride. Public libraries are building stronger communities.

A good library inspires and strengthens its visitors; it offers the users tools and support that can make possible an active, engaged and meaningful life. Visitors will be the driving force and the librarian the supporting.

Public libraries are now being defined by their ability to relate to patrons in a sensible manner. Public libraries contribute most to society and social progress through collecting (people in) networks – not through collecting books in shelves.

Public libraries have a special responsibility to create and reinforce reading habits, and to be a resource in searching for and evaluating information. Libraries for children and young people have long been a high priority area. Municipalities have had years of experience in successfully developing and maintaining library services for children and young people. Effective models for cooperation between public libraries, schools, child care centres and youth clubs have been developed. Through the diversity of library collections and activities children can discover for themselves the joy of reading and the excitement of exploring new knowledge. In this way libraries contribute to strengthening children’s and young people’s personal growth and their development into active members of society.

Another challenge for the public library is to reach the low-educated and people with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Public libraries are part of a larger infrastructure able to deliver a variety of services for lifelong learning to people of different backgrounds with different needs and goals. Many public libraries have initiated active cooperation with local learning centres, university colleges and adult education organisations.

A third challenge for libraries today is to be proactive in identifying the ways in which the library can complement local development plans.

Public libraries are important in local and regional deve- lopment, a development that takes place in cooperation with the surrounding community –cooperation with partners, cooperation with users. Close cooperation is rewarding and natural since the inhabitants frequently cross municipal borders for work and recreation. Close cooperation is rewarding and natural since the inhabitants frequently use the internet for information and sharing.

For the best local development you need to find the best way to organise local resources and local expertise. The library in the centre of society, where municipalities, regions, citizens, education centres, museums, job centres, societies of trade and industry, etc. are all partners. Keywords: Network. Interactivity. Collaboration.

If libraries are to broaden their role in the local community local strategies for communication should be formulated together with the local community and local environment. Cooperation should be developed within the municipality and with other municipalities in the region. The library’s profile should reflect local conditions. The more society changes, the more libraries fit in. The objective is local and regional development.

Mats Hansson
Desk officer
Swedish Arts Council
mats.hansson AT kulturradet.se

Administrative officer Swedish Arts Council