Contributions of discussions

The process for orienting the action of Biblioteques de Barcelona for the period 2011-2020 has achieved an important milestone with the organisation of the conference The Futures of the Public Library that took place in the auditorium of the Jaume Fuster library from the 13th to the 15th October 2010, with more than 400 attendees.

The programme was structured in three fields of debate: Users and services, Digital contents, and Spaces.

We counted on the participation of directors and people in charge of European public libraries, and professionals from the publishing and architectural worlds. We have produced a document that collects the main and most relevant ideas from all the contributions made. We have grouped them in the following three areas of work of the Conference.


1. The users are really the centre of the service. It is necessary to think of the space for the users and not for the collection: the library is for people and not for books. The library should be a place to be, to relate with others. A space which channels collective experiences.
2. We need to know the users better, as well as the uses they make of the library. We should know the reason for the non-users to be included as users of the library services.
3. It is necessary to orient the resources and services according to the interests of the users, following a more commercial concept of segmentation of the offer. The marketing of services has to play a more central role in library policies. Inter-personal communication between professionals and users is a key element. Libraries should have fewer information desks and the professionals should get closer to the users in an active way.
4. The library needs to make a commitment to youths. The specialisation of services in topics of interest to them can be a way of involving this group. We have to construct it with them.
5. Innovations need to be incorporated in the library projects and at the same time the library should act as a centre for social innovation.
6. Participation goes hand in hand with cooperation. The library should listen and facilitate channels of participation and involvement of the users and other agents and at the same time establish frameworks for cooperative work.
7. Many things happen in the library. It’s a service that you can look at from different perspectives. It’s not enough anymore to place the loan service as the central service, we have to move forward from transaction to creation in the widest sense. Reading, training and initiatives for social cohesion should be central in the services of the libraries.
8. We shouldn’t differentiate the library services because they are online or onsite: the library has to integrate them and connect them to the user.
9. The new needs of the library propose us two possible models in terms of professional profiles: more and new skills for the professional librarians or the incorporation of new professional profiles in the library.

The phrase from this field:
The library is a very strong brand. We have to make known everything you can find there and everything that the library can contribute. We have to fix the main activity of the library and be open to other related activities.

More questions than answers – Any truths?

1. It will be difficult to maintain the value chain of the book with the current intermediaries (between writers and readers – editors, distributors, bookshops, etc.) at least in general terms.
2. The different intermediaries should contribute value to the chain… or they won’t survive.
3. The e-book is still in an incipient market… in Europe.
4. The co-existence of the e-book with paper seems assured…at least for some years to come.
5. Despite the fact that the experience of reading is different according to the form – text, image and sound, we still know little about the changes brought about by digital reading in terms of cognitive processes and in the use of different reading devices.
6. The genre will end up choosing the most suitable support format.
7. In the sector of e-books there are two or more business models: one with a more commercial offer, and another that aims to facilitate access to contents with a direct relation between the author and the reader.
8. A mixed model will be imposed on the open model and the protected model of the different devices.
9. Technology is not what is important, but it is necessary to make a commitment for not owned devices and for compatible standards.
10. The Copyright laws we have are not suitable for digital settings.
11. The creation and digitisation of contents offers us many new possibilities in terms of the work of the libraries.
12. The incorporation of digital contents in the libraries should be worked on from a country perspective, with flexibility when personalising in a local way.

The phrase of this field:
What is important is that people read.


1. The European cities continue to project major library facilities: Helsinki and Oslo are examples.
2. In a local network of libraries it’s necessary that each centre has its own profile that responds to the needs of its surroundings. It is important that the network has a major central library that gives visibility to the service and functions as an icon of the city, but its role shouldn’t be over-valued.
3. It’s necessary to programme and plan the libraries with the people: citizens, users and workers, that is to say “with” and not “for”. It is a work in cooperation with the architects, the librarians, other professionals and the users.
4. It is important to try out some innovative proposals on a small scale before generalising them or incorporating them in certain projects.
5. The library is a public space that acts as an agora and helps to construct the community.
6. When designing the spaces it is basic to know the uses of the library: the people end up modelling them.
7. It is more and more necessary to take care of the interior spaces as the users spend more and more time in the library. For this reason it is necessary to look after the interior design.
8. We need spaces with the capacity for “seduction” and as a stimulus for reading. We want flexible spaces: we have to incorporate flexibility in the spaces and flexibility in the installations. It is important that there are free and available spaces that can generate unplanned activities.
9. The library with its inter-generational value is the only public space that offers a space for the coexistence of all age groups.
10. It is necessary to incorporate habitability to the fields that make up the circle of sustainability: material, water and energy.
11. The public library should be an educating instrument of aspects linked to sustainability. The building itself should be sustainable and explain its environmental virtues. In addition the library should act as a promoting element of this value. The managers of the library have the responsibility of incorporating this theme.
12. The library isn’t an island, it is part of a system, it is a key nodal point (with the market). This fact should be borne in mind when thinking about the location of a library, and also when facilitating ways of sustainable mobility: on foot, by bike, etc.
13. When we talk of sustainability, the economic aspect should be analysed in the long term, taking into account the fact that the investment has to incorporate the exploitation.

The phrase of this field:
We don’t use sustainability in vain: it’s an issue which is too important.

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