The event was hosted by the Honorary chair of the Reading & Writing Foundation, H.R.H. Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands and focused on revealing the many ways the 65,000 European public libraries can be engaged to support the EU communities. Themes like digital inclusion, lifelong learning and social inclusion were approached during the discussions and presentations delivered throughout the event.
Powerful speakers with brilliant ideas were at the center of the Libraries Change Lives launch event:
H.R.H. Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands
Mr Herman Van Rompuy, President Emeritus of the European Council
Ms Francine Houben, Architect of the Birmingham Public Library
Mr Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport
A video address from Ms Neelie Kroes, former vice president of the European Commission in charge of the EU's digital agenda and currently Special Envoy for StartupDelta, was featured at the beginning of the programme.
In her speech, H.R.H. Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands acknowledged the merits of the public libraries while drawing attention to the challenges they face. In this context, she launched a call for the policy makers to include them on their agenda:
“There is no place more inclusive than libraries. (…) Libraries are the glue within communities but too often underestimated and overlooked. (…) Policy is about people. Do not forget to give people a place where they can connect!”
Francine Houben, architect of the Birmingham Public Library shared her vision of libraries, being as central to society as cathedrals once were:
“Libraries are people's palaces”,
places where “people can meet, discover, learn.”
They “must connect the past with the future.”
Haiku ambassador and President Emeritus of the European Council, Mr Herman Van Rompuy used the simplicity and clarity of Haiku to transmit his message on the importance of books and libraries:
"Books are borrowed " A mountain of books
Their wisdom can be possessed On our old and new wisdoms
Libraries change lives" Libraries change lives"
-Haikus by Herman van Rompuy
When asked about the relevance of libraries in her work, MEP Iskra Mihaylova spontaneously answered:
“Libraries are like small parliaments all around Europe”
Commissioner Tibor Navracsics made a rousing speech around the importance of libraries for the communities they serve:
“Communities are valuable and necessary. (...) More than anything we need to make sure our libraries keep their soul. (…) Libraries are bastions of community life!"
One of the highlights of the event was the official launch of the “Libraries Change Lives” (e-)publication.
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