Libraries and Democracy
National Seminars on Libraries and Their Roles in Democratic Societies
Abstract: Libraries and Democracy: A Complementary Relation
Hermann Rosch, Germany
Initially the question will be discussed which characteristics qualify libraries as instruments to build up and to strengthen a democratic society. A brief historical review shows the importance of libraries for rulers in the early history of mankind. The enlightenment claimed education for everybody and public control of power. From this moment on libraries became an indispensable means of public education and of political participation.
Following these introductory considerations the fundamental role of libraries in a democratic society will be treated. Their main tasks are: Educational functions:
• General Education
• Provision of information literacy
• Industrial training Social functions:
• Inclusion of minorities
• Emancipation of disadvantaged social stratums Political function:
• Provision of unbiased information
• Advocacy for democracy
• Transparency and anti-corroption: public access to government information
• E-Government and E-Democracy
• Facilitate Political Participation
Establish and maintain the national heritage, the national memory: Enable or
facilitate the development of a national, a regional, a local or a cultural identity
• Free access to information
• Democratize the access to scientific information
• Make the global world of information available: fully utilise the potential of Internet and International information infrastructure (Integrtion?) Provide connection to the rest of the world
The next question to be discussed is how libraries can meet these expectations. It is quite evident that no single library is able to fulfil these tasks completely and satisfactory. Libraries have to cooperate and to develop networks. Only if they specialize and build a system based on division of labour they can tap their full potential and meet the requirements of a democratic society. Different fields and forms of cooperation will be described at a glance. If libraries have to fulfil such a multitude of tasks is clear that people who run a library and who claim to be librarians have to be skilled in their trade. Librarians need professional training and a systematic and thorough education in library and information science.
Just to top off the considerations two case studies will be presented in brief. The first one consists of a national campaign run by the German Library Association. It is called "Germany reads. The Library as a Meeting Point" ("Deutschland liest. Treffpunkt Bibliothek"). The second example is a project operated by IFLA and its Committee Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE). FAIFE has developed two important Manifestos called "Internet Manifesto" and "Manifesto on Transparency, Good Governance and Freedom from Corruption". Both will be introduced in few words.
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