Seminar 2020

An online conference held over 3 weeks
Wednesdays 14, 21 and 28 October 2020, from 4 to 6pm

📅 Choose your slot(s) & register for free

▶️ Watch the previous sessions

The seminar will seek to explore the ways libraries can play a vital role in the times of crisis through online presentations from speakers in Europe and through highly interactive sessions involving the audience.

The breadth of the chosen topic is expected to cover the themes of health epidemic, environmental issues/catastrophe or socio-economic/wartime crisis involving the migration or subjugation of large numbers of people and the role a library or group of libraries has played in alleviating the situation.


All sessions will be held on ZOOM. All sessions are in English. Time for questions sent via chat will be reserved at the end of each presentation.

SESSION 1 | Wednesday 14th Octobre | 4.00pm (GMT)

Introduction & welcoming note by John Lake Eurolis

Seminar chair & UK Speaker 🇬🇧 | Libraries in Lockdown by Isobel Hunter – Chief Executive, Libraries Connected

Public libraries in the UK had to close their doors in March, in line with the government’s COVID-19 lockdown. Libraries immediately pivoted their activity to digital and remote services – developing innovative new approaches to online engagement and events, servicing a boom in eLending and developing new partnerships to support the most vulnerable in our communities. Thousands of library staff were also redeployed by their councils to deliver essential support work such as phone calls and food distribution. Libraries expanded way beyond their usual roles, using the skills and energy of their staff to do things like making PPE with their 3D printers, running breakfast schemes for poor families and making keep-in-touch calls to isolated people.

Research by Libraries Connected demonstrates the impact of libraries’ work in lockdown, supporting their communities in the most challenging of circumstances.

Libraries are now in recovery, reopening services in line with the lifting of lockdown restrictions. This is not a process of returning to how things used to be, as the world around us has changed. Libraries are now looking ahead to determine new ways of working, and how they will build on the innovation during lockdown to expand their digital offer, forge new partnerships and work in more flexible ways to respond to emerging crises.

Throughout the whole period, the striking factor has been the connectivity of library services. Through networks facilitated by Libraries Connected they have worked together to develop the #LibrariesFromHome digital programme, to forge the national recovery plan and guidance, to share expertise and innovation and to provide much needed mutual support.

Isobel Hunter is the first Chief Executive of Libraries Connected, the membership body for public libraries in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Her approach is to capitalise on the expertise within the sector, by developing strong communities of practice and fostering peer networks. She has secured funding for major programmes to develop library capacities in income generation, reader engagement and to develop more diverse and confident leadership.She believes that libraries are central to people’s lives and communities across the country and is committed to working with members to help develop and advocate for the public library sector.

French Speaker 🇫🇷 Libraries in Crisis Contexts: Catalysts for Empowerment & Change by Caroline Bedos Esteban Director of Operations for Libraries without Borders.

Access to information empowers individuals, enabling them to make informed decisions about their life. In this, libraries can assert themselves as levers for the reduction of inequalities, places to build social ties and to provide toolkits to build the future. It is this very idea that was  highlighted in IFLA Declaration of Lyon in 2014, which resulted in a better consideration of access to information as a fundamental right by the United Nations in 2015 :“We, the undersigned, believe that increasing access to information and knowledge across society, assisted by the availability of information and communications technologies (ICTs), supports sustainable development and improves people’s lives. We therefore call upon the Member States of the United Nations to make an international commitment to use the post -2015 development agenda to ensure that everyone has access to, and is able to understand, use and share the information that is necessary to promote sustainable development and democratic societies.”

This vision of the library as a catalyst for social change, in particular for crisis-affected populations, is full of promise. Yet, in many cases, it comes up against an obvious reality principle, even more so in developing countries: the lack of resources to achieve these ambitious goals. For 13 years now, we at Libraries Without Borders have worked alongside librarians and partners around the world to address barriers in access to information, education and culture, working in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, with children living in the streets in Burundi or with communities in Colombia, amongst others. Each time, putting libraries are the center of the response and advocating for access to knowledge to be considered a basic need. This talk will shed light on the work carried out by Libraries without Borders, and the impact achieved by libraries in crisis contexts.

Caroline Bedos Esteban has been working for the past 15 years in designing, leading and managing humanitarian programs with INGOs in complex environments. She is the Director of Operations for Bibliothèques sans Frontières (Libraries without Borders), an NGO created in 2007 and operating in 30 countries.
BSF strives to support access to information, education, culture where most needed, to empower crisis-affected populations. To that end, BSF provides partners with quality and contextualized content, capacity building and innovative tools, including through “offline internet” , transforming libraries into powerful hubs for social change. 

SESSION 2| Wednesday 21st Octobre | 4.00pm (GMT)

German Speaker 🇩🇪 | Why Corona Should Make Libraries Optimistic by Stephan Schwering – Head of the central library of the Duesseldorf City Libraries

During the Corona crisis, public libraries have temporarily lost the basis of what defines them today: not just as lending service providers of books and media, but also as places of communication, exchange, cultural and digital education with events, ‘maker spaces’, laboratories and cafés – they have become ‘third places’. How were libraries able to remain active during the lockdown while they were closed? How did they manage to stay in contact with their customers and provide services? The Duesseldorf City Libraries reacted directly and made intensive efforts via social media to reach the existing digital community as well as new audiences. In addition, digital offers such as lending eBooks, digital newspapers and magazines were made available to all Duesseldorf residents free of charge during the lockdown period. – Stephan Schwering reports on how the corona crisis has affected libraries; how it will also change the future work of the library, and why we can look to the future with optimism.

Stephan Schwering started working in senior positions in medium-sized public libraries in 1992. Since 2014, as head of the central library of the Duesseldorf City Libraries, he has been mainly responsible for the internal future processes and for the conception of the new central library – ‘KAP1’ – planned for 2021. In particular, he deals with the digitization in libraries and social media as a management task. He is co-founder of the monthly German library twitter chat #BIBchatDE (since 2017) and was a board member of the Association of Libraries of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. He initiated the ‘Night of Libraries’, which takes place every two years in North Rhine-Westphalia (next 2021), and was a member of the advisory board of the library service provider ‘ekz-bibliotheksservice’ from 2008 to 2014.

Italian Speaker 🇮🇹 | Precariousness by Devid Panattoni – Librarian
The talk will examine some situations of “precariousness” in Italian libraries (public, academic, local, etc.) that manifested themselves in a very evident way during the COVID-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020. Unfortunately libraries face various crises almost on a daily basis: reduced budgets, personnel not replaced, or replaced with employees from another sector without relevant or specific skills, politicians, web (friend or foe?), loyalty, etc. – The library as a third place (Ray Oldenbourg), this is our aim!

A Graduate of the University of Pisa, Devid Panattoni has been working at the public library “A. Carrara” at Altopascio (in the Province of Lucca) since 1st July 1996. He began his career as a cataloguer of modern material, he then expanded his sphere of interests and specialisms by training and updating himself both in the University and professional sectors and today he deals with adult training, technological innovation, reference, etc. as well as endeavouring to make the library a place of connection for the community especially in times of crisis.
When he can travel abroad he always visits libraries to “learn (by seeing and) doing things” (D. Lankes) and then brings new ideas into his own experience and always tries to keep up with the times … not an easy task but a possible one!

Spanish Speaker 🇪🇸 | For What Kinds of Crises are Libraries Useful? by Lluis Anglada – Director of Open Science in the Consortium of Services for the Universities of Catalonia

We will examine the measures taken by Spanish libraries in the recent Covid-19 crisis and also those taken in the 2008 economic crisis. In these cases, but also in environmental catastrophes, libraries can help, but this is not their role.
What does crisis mean? There are different kinds of crises; these can be big or small, short-term or long-term and often they will not affect all people in the same way.
In confusing and troubling times, libraries have to re-examine why they were created; as spaces where the public could access information. Meanwhile, this necessity for libraries is disappearing given the accelerated change of society where information can be distributed rapidly across the globe.
Globalisation and sustainability are new challenges (or crises) that people have to cope with. Are these challenges related in some way to the function of a library?
In the talk, we will try to characterise what kind of crises libraries are facing and how libraries and librarians have to react in order to continue being useful and relevant.

Lluís Anglada, currently is Director of Open Science in the CSUC (Consortium of Services for the Universities of Catalonia); Previously, he was the director of the CBUC (Consortium of Catalan Academic Libraries) and director of the Catalonia Technical University Libraries.  He has been a member of several professional boards at the national and international level (SPARC Europe, LIBER, OCLC’s Global Council) and also of publisher advisory councils (ProQuest, Wiley, Nature…) He has published about 40 articles and book chapters. Founder of the blogs BDig y Blok de Bid. 

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SESSION 3| Wednesday 28th Octobre | 4.00pm (GMT)

Polish Speaker 🇵🇱 | Exploring New Spaces Through Shared Reading by Anna Gruszecka – Director of the Raczyński Library

Creating libraries without borders in a paradoxical way has been achieved in recent times during the pandemic when communities were forced for months into lockdown, social isolation and social distancing. Technology provided an opportunity to open new spaces to communicate and engage with our readers directly through the Internet. Thanks to this, libraries have become especially present in readers’ lives and not only as institutions where books can be borrowed. During these challenging times, the support provided by libraries proved crucial especially in the case of young children. This talk will discuss the Raczynski Library’s projects launched during the height of the covid-19 pandemic aimed to particulately at engaging with our youngest readers and providing a shared reading experience.

Anna Gruszecka is director of the Raczyński Library (est. 1829) in Poznan. She studied history at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań and later pursued a post-graduate degree in management and administration at the WSB University in Poznań and library and information studies at the University of Warsaw. She was appointed director of the Raczyński Library in 2014, prior to that worked as journalist 

Portuguese Speaker 🇵🇹 | The E(lective)-Readers and the Use of Inner Listening and Reading in Struggling Readers by Margarida Fonseca Santos – Author

The speaker will present an overview of two of the main projects in
The E(lective)-Readers was born during the pandemic lockout as a children liaison through reading. Being a sharing and motivational channel, bringing the enthusiasm in reading, this club promotes the pleasure of choosing and talking about the books they are currently reading. It has 10 members, from age 9 to 12, and in just two months, this group has read more than 30 books. This experience will be shared with the audience.
Borrowed from the author’s experience in music pedagogy, the Inner Listening and Reading (audiation) of sentences, words and texts read or heard takes its place in working with struggling readers, where the comprehension is deficient and reading out loud a dreadful task. Promoting this technique when working with small groups makes a big difference in the way children and adults memorize vocabulary, improve their spelling and comprehension, giving them the opportunity to flourish as better readers.

Margarida published her first children’s book twenty-five years ago. Since then, she has never stopped writing for this audience and for adults, a real challenge that has become a great passion.
Recognized author and much loved by the public, a large part of her books are included in the National Reading Plan. She is the author of AltamenteRua do Silêncio and Bicicleta à Chuva and of collections such as Razões para Ler. Her novel De Zero a Dez, on chronic pain, is translated into Spanish and English. In addition to writing for children, adults and the theatre, she works in the area of ​​creative writing and mental training, something that remained from the time she dedicated herself to Pedagogy and Musical Education. The Re-Word-ItProject ( is the reflection of this entire journey, where writing, reading, audiation in texts and metacognition challenge the teaching-learning process.

This third and last session will be concluded by a plenary session chaired by Isobel Hunter

📅 Choose your slot(s) & register for free

▶️ Watch the previous sessions