Session 3 Question time: a policy panel discussion Session 3 created an opportunity for a dialogue with some European policymakers, politicians and sector commentators to vocalize some of the opportunities and challenges for public libraries wishing to engage with the European Union policy landscape. The format of the session was a panel including Linda McAvan MEP; Jakob Heide Petersen, Head of the Library Division in the Agency for Libraries and Media, Denmark; Gabriel Rissola, Scientific Officer, IPTS, European Commission; and Wouter Schallier, Executive Director, LlBER. The chairman Chris Batt opened the discussion by asking the panel to talk about the unique selling point of libraries. Should they focus on e-inclusion or rather on a broader framework like life long learning? The panel and audience did agree on the important role libraries can and should play in the field of e-inclusion. Linda McAvan provided insights from her own experience and stated that all our lives are touched by the digital world. She explained that 15 years ago, libraries were seen as hubs of access into the digital world. However in current times access to digital information should be supplemented with training people to make use of these media to improve their lives and help combat the economic crisis. Jakob Heide Petersen stressed the fact that in order to fulfill such a role libraries should rethink themselves. The key point is not how big the collection is or how many loans there are annually, itâ€™s about making an impact on our communities. To make that shift Gabriel Rissola explained the need to refer the library sector to the EU Digital Agenda, which contains many keywords that can orientate future initiatives. Based on the wide variety of answers coming from the audience, it soon became clear that the library sector does not have a tradition or consensus around formulating its unique selling point. Different concepts like access, trust and safe havens were suggested by the audience. The discussion also focused on the possible tension between libraries and other organizations combating the digital divide, like the Telecentres. Since libraries already have an excellent infrastructure paid by the government, shouldnâ€™t they be the ideal places to focus on e-inclusion efforts? Although Telecentres have been filling a gap in some places the audience feels that cooperation between all kinds of organizations involved in e-inclusion should be a priority. Rather than creating a diversity of seemingly competing initiatives one should foster old partnerships, find new ones and plan collective actions.
Published on Sep 17, 2011