Civil Literacy In Public Libraries

Article written by: Dr. Camelia Crisan, project manager

I had the honor to present the project The Third Space of Active Citizenship within the Next Library Conference from Aarhus (Denmark), unanimously recognized as the most innovative conference of the library profession, where only the most interesting and cutting-edge initiatives are accepted in order to be part of interactive sessions or as keynote speeches.

Our project drew a lot of attention and libraries from developed countries like Finland,USA, Sweden and Denmark have stated that active citizenship is an initiative that must be promoted in these countries’ public libraries too.

There has been an agreement among participants that the national states go through a systemic crisis, a legitimacy crisis of the political system, of the public institutions and of leadership, while the solution resides in citizens’ empowerment. People were able to learn how to fly so they can learn democracy too, was the position of Progress Foundation, adapting a slogan well-thought by our colleagues from the Democracy Nest Brasov.

On the occasion of this conference we had the opportunity to visit the most modern library of the world at this moment, DOKK1. It is a building whose design has been done through public participation, and a vision of the public authorities whereby the libraries should be the focal point of citizens interaction, in order to build a prosperous and cohesive society. When you visit this space you are under the impression that the space as a whole is under the control of the citizens, there is free access in most of the spaces and the interactions are available on several levels: reading, debates, learning and playing.

The Civic Action Groups have their natural habitat in the public libraries, sometimes in order to re-learn democracy, as a participant from Denmark mentioned – in some countries democracy is taken for granted, practicing it seems just something effortless.

Several libraries invited us to offer them for consultation the course and to show them the project’s results, as a model. We are proud that we have been able to inspire others with our ideas and innovation and all these have been made possible by the effort and involvement of 191 volunteers and 15 librarians who participate in the project. Kudos and chapeau-bas!