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Public Library of the Year Award 2023

What a great IFLA/SYSTEMATIC Public Library of the Year Award it was this year in Rotterdam!

What struck me most about the award ceremony was the diversity between the short listed libraries. The are very different and are all beautiful buildings that serves their communities. I personally think that all the shortlisted libraries are winners. They are all very different and beautiful libraries, and all deserve a visit:

You can find more information about the winning library here: Winner of this year Public Library of the Year (

As a member of the jury and selection committee for the Public Library of the Year Award, what keeps surprising me is the number and quality of global applications: all very different but great examples of what public libraries can be.  You can read more about all 16 of this year’s applicants below (in alphabetical order).

Biblioteca Gabriel García Márquez (Spain)

Biblioteca Pilarin Bayés (Spain)

City of Parramatta Libraries (Australia)

Hamilton Public Library Valley Park Branch (Canada)

Janez Vajkard Valvasor Public Library, Krško (Slovenia)

Jean d’Ormesson Library (France)

JinGang Library (China)

L’Atelier “Léonard de Vinci”, médiathèque-maison de quartier (France)

Dr. José Manuel Álvarez Manilla de la Peña Library, Mexico

Lippulaiva Library (Finland)

Mediateka MeMo (Poland)

Qixi Library (China)

Open Lab, Multimedia Center of National Central Library (Taiwan)

Shanghai Library East (China)

Taoyuan Public Library (Taiwan)

The Community Library Project (India)

Hopefully we will have some great applications from all over the world again next year and another well-deserved winner.

Sander van Kempen
Member of SC Public Libraries and member of the jury of the Public Library of the Year Award.


Libraries as Actors of Climate Empowerment: Satellite meeting prior to WLIC 2023

For decades, it has been self-evident for library professionals that libraries act in sustainable ways, promote the circular and shared economy and nurture environmental goals. Some discussions have even raised questions about why there is a need for even more efforts? Are there actually any further issues libraries should be doing in this context?

As climate awareness has risen, it has become more and more obvious that libraries are not an area that should be left out of this discussion. The carbon footprint of library operations must be considered as part of efforts working towards net zero.

However, the opportunity for advocating for sustainability in libraries is increasing. Libraries are increasingly promoting the UN sustainable development goals and helping to increase e.g. the climate awareness. This has not only made it easier for library professionals to begin to offer curated climate-related collections, events, and operations for customers, but also support the dialogue between libraries and wider organisations.

We know that sustainability is not solely about climate. By increasing the awareness of climate issues of communities surrounding libraries, we can also make room for other sustainability goals, such as gender equality, good health and well-being, peace, justice and strong institutions.

The joint effort of IFLA Public Libraries Section and Environment and Sustainability in Libraries Section bring together experiences, ideas and questions that have impacted both the communities and the professionals in the field. The focus will be on “Libraries as Actors of Climate Empowerment”.

It is both a duty and privilege for libraries to empower members of society to be engaged in climate action and sustainability. Libraries are strongly connected to surrounding communities and they have the capability to reach out to people of all ages.

The one-day conference will certainly raise interactions between participants, as they share ideas and plans. I am very sure, that the multifaceted conference will inspire everyone involved.


The WLIC 2023 satellite meeting will take place in LocHal Library, Tilburg Netherlands in Aug 19th.



Mr. Juha Manninen

Director, Finnish Library Association

Member of IFLA Public Library Section

Public libraries, an ideal place for cultural rights experimentation?

In recent years, many study days and seminars on cultural rights have been organized in France. Though this concept is several decades old, it remains relevant to rethinking cultural policies and its popularity is also a sign that a shift towards greater democratization of culture is no longer sufficient today to give all citizens the place they deserve in cultural life.

If you ask people working in the cultural field how they implement cultural rights in their institution, most will look at you with perplexity. Librarians are no exception. And yet, like Monsieur Jourdain in Molière’s play, they practice cultural rights without knowing it. So why is it important to know about it ? Because it is a framework which can help us give a coherence to our practices, promote our activities to the local authorities and the public, shift the way we look at the public, and even make profound changes in the inner workings of our institutions.

What is this all about ?

When we speak of cultural rights, we generally refer to a text dating back to 2007, the Fribourg Declaration. However, we find earlier mention of them in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which essentially says : everyone must be free to express himself, inclunding in an artistic form, to choose his cultural practices, to choose his cultural identifications freely and the meaning he gives to his way of life. These rights are also duties : each person should make sure to share humanity with others.

Various subsequent UNESCO texts are based on this notion, such as the 2005 convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions. To understand how these principles can be implemented in our institutions, it is important to question what we mean by culture. UNESCO’s conception of culture generally refers to the anthropological definition of culture : ways of life, value systems, ways of living together, traditions and beliefs… that each person is gifted with. However, in 2007, the Fribourg Declaration, a founding text that brings together, clarifies and highlights this notion present in various international texts, also includes knowledge and the arts in cultural identity. Thus, cultural rights not only imply the freedom to choose one’s cultural identity but also the freedom to create, to disseminate artistic works and to participate in cultural life and even, beyond, in the elaboration and evaluation of cultural policies.

Whether we speak of culture in the anthropological sense or of cultural life as a field of creation and sharing of artistic productions, the stakes of cultural rights are identical : it is a matter of recognizing the right of each person to know and to have his or her own culture respected and to participate in cultural life, it is a matter of promoting diversity and legitimizing all identities and forms of cultural expression, of making people active citizens, of sharing works, knowledge and experiences, of weaving links and creating community, of facilitating cooperation.

We cannot but make the connection with the UNESCO Manifesto for Public Libraries, whose updated version in 2022 by the IFLA Public Libraries Section and UNESCO was presented at WLIC 2022. The Manifesto is driven by the same concern to promote the multiplicity of cultural expressions and the participation of citizens in the life of libraries. Present in all urban and rural areas, welcoming all publics without discrimination and the most diverse groups free of charge, providing resources, tools and mediation workshops to accompany each person on his or her personal path, articulating the collective and personal dimensions, libraries are undoubtedly among the institutions in the best position to make these principles a daily reality. What remains to be done is to make cultural rights a backbone, a structuring axis that will help libraries build a strategy, make the social and political benefits of their action visible, and constantly evaluate it in order to make further progress.

And what can libraries do with it ?

Participatory places: integrating the public in the life of libraries and in the public reading policy

  • Participation in acquisitions is developing in public libraries with very positive effects. The updating of the documentary charter can be co-constructed with the users (and non users!). It can be the opportunity to question the representation of minorities, women, linguistic diversity in the collections. It is also the right time to rehabilitate less legitimate forms of cultural expression.
  • Cultural programming is a vast playground for involving users. As with documentary policy, it is a question of breaking with a top-down logic of supply that is supposed to respond to needs, in order to start from what people know and wish to share.
  • Virtuous organizations : rethinking the internal functioning of the library according to this logic

Staff training and development:

  • Staff members have professional skills and lived experience that can be valuable
  • Colleagues should commit to tracking down possible forms of discrimination in managerial practices
  • In French libraries, “workshops on detoxification of stereotyped language” have been organized.

Access to cultural life and the quality of hospitality:

  • Make hospitality the first motto of the library
  • Extend the opening hours and make the library free of charge whenever possible
  • Ensure that the principle of non-discrimination is respected in cultural programming
  • Networking the territory: develop the network according to the demographic, urbanistic and socio-economic evolution of the territory and improve the service in the areas with little coverage

Contributing to cultural life: ensuring that users have a place as informed creators and spectators

  • Promote amateur creative activities
  • Open up spaces for exchange in the cultural program
  • Encourage inter-learning based on people’s knowledge and know-how
  • Develop artistic and cultural education in order to give young people the possibility to build their cultural path in complete autonomy, to develop their critical spirit and to become creators

The library as a place for intercultural dialogue:

  • Through the cultural and linguistic diversity of the collections, through cultural programming
  • Introduce diversity in the library team through recruitment

Evaluation as an ongoing process:

  • Cultural rights provide a framework for analyzing our practices; at the very least, libraries can use them as a basis for introducing new indicators.
  • Francophones can refer to Paideia’s self-evaluation guide, an action research group that analyzes public policies through the lens of cultural rights
  • Of course, implementing cultural rights also means not forgetting to involve the public in the evaluation of our actions

Cultural rights, more than a source of innovation, are first and foremost a reference framework that can guide the actions of libraries through a strategic plan and an evaluation process.

It is also a call to take the time to reflect and to take some distance, to get rid of preconceived ideas and to cultivate change.

Annie Brigant, Public Libraries Section

IFLA/Systematic Public Library of the Year Award 2022

A white man with a blue shirt and navy jacket

Sander van Kempen, IFLA Public Libraries Section and member of the 2022 judges panel for the award writes:
“What a great public library of the year award it was this year! It was so great to have a live and in person award ceremony and I enjoyed it so much. You can watch a recording of the event on You Tube.

I was honoured to ask the short listed libraries a question. I am part of the jury as well as part of the IFLA SC public libraries and found it very tough to choose a winner. I think the entire short listed libraries are winners. They are all very different and beautiful libraries and all deserve a visit. See the short list below.

  • Missoula Library, United States, winner!
  • Ogre Library, Latvia
  • Gellerup Library, Denmark
  • Itra Library, Saudi Arabia

You can also find out more about the short list here: Four impressive libraries nominated for the Public Library of the Year 2022 award (

You can also find more information about the winner here: World’s best new public library found (

It gave me a lot of energy to be part of the process and I look forward to next years award. As you may know there were a total of 20 libraries from 18 countries that applied to the public library of the year award 2022 and if you think the short list consists of different libraries, think again!

I wanted to share the entire list of applicants for the award because there are many other fascinating libraries that deserve the recognition, so see below the list of 20 applications of the award in alphabetical order:

Biblioteca de Sant Climent de Llobregat, Spain

Choa Chu Kang Public Library, Singapore

Clinton-Macomb Public Library North Branch, USA

Edgeworthstown Community Library, Ireland

Forest Library (Orman Kütüphanesi), Turkey

Gellerup Library, Aarhus Public Libraries, Denmark

Guanajuato State Congress Library, Mexico

Ithra Library, Saudi Arabia

Lacina Diarrassouba, Ivory Coast

Misr Public Library (MPL) (Ezbet El Borg), Egypt

Missoula Public Library, USA *

Nuevo Occidente Library Park, Lusitania, Colombia

Ogre Central Library, Latvia

Peyo K. Yavorov Regional Library, Bulgaria

Sanshui Library, China

Shirak Regional Library SNCO, Republic of Armenia

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, New York, USA

Tagum City Library and Learning Commons, Philippines

Te Paataka Koorero o Takaanini, Takaanini Library & Community Hub, New Zealand

Yazd Central Library, Iran

I look forward to the award ceremony in Rotterdam next year. Hopefully we will have some great applications from all over the world again and a much deserved winner.

Sander van Kempen
Member of SC Public Libraries and member of jury of the public library of the year award.