27 February 2018
Culture, Cohesion and Connectivity: IFLA Calls on EU to Support Libraries’ Work
IFLA has joined with members from across Europe in signing the Sofia Declaration. This calls on European Union institutions and governments to recognise the importance of documentary heritage, pass forward-looking copyright reforms, and give libraries the support they need to fulfil their potential to support culture, cohesion and connectivity.
Through its programmes, laws, and soft power, the European Union can make a major contribution to building a vibrant culture, social cohesion and digital empowerment. The next few months will be critical in this respect, with decisions due on future budgets and a major copyright reform.
A workshop on 26 February in Sofia, Bulgaria, organised by the Bulgarian Library and Information Association, EBLIDA and IFLA provided an opportunity to discuss priorities during the Bulgarian Presidency of the European Union. It brought together an impressive number of representatives of the Bulgarian library community, as well as Emil Radev (Member of the European Parliament), Manuel Mateo Goyet (Advisor to the European Commissioner), and representatives of the government.
IFLA underlined the importance of the work of libraries in bridging some of the gaps that divide people within our society. The preservation gap which risks seeing large parts of our heritage lost if its safeguarding is left to private actors. The access gap which restrictions on libraries represent to people who cannot buy the right to read and use knowledge and culture. The cohesion gap that not having meaningful access to information can make to education, health, and wellbeing. And the skills gap which allows some to succeed in the Internet economy while others fail.
The climax of the meeting was the presentation of the Sofia Declaration, which highlights three areas where the European Union and its governments can help. First of all, it can recognise and support the work of libraries in preserving and celebrating cultural heritage. Secondly, it can pass modern copyright reforms which ensure that libraries can allow their users to take advantage of the possibilities created by digital technology. And finally, it can ensure libraries take their place as key skills providers in the EU’s own programmes and policies.
We look forward to seeing progress on all of these fronts in the coming months.