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Reflections of Dornbirn

Hello,

One more time big thanks to our Austrian hosts for a really interesting Library.I Love It! Meeting! Here is the link to the photo album of pictures, which I took during our visit in Dornbirn:

https://flic.kr/s/aHsk8LCeLn

They can be shared and used freely as long as the use complies with the CC license. I also promised to write to few words to this blog about my thoughts of what we saw in Austria. So, let’s sum everything up real quickly.

Of all countries participating Library.I Love It! project, Austria is most similar to Finland. This has shown pretty much in every meeting and therefore I was very anxious to know how this translates into everyday library work. Dornbirn was also the final official meeting of this project, which too made things more special. After Iisalmi meeting I have been involving Library.I Love It! activities only occasionally, so this was a great way to see what has been achieved and refresh the pleasant memories of Rome and Iisalmi meetings.

My initial expectations were that we would see something very much like Finnish libraries. I was aware that there would be some differences, but on the larger scale I expected that the Austrians run their libraries with the same principles as we Finns do it. To some extent this proved to be the case. We saw efficient and nicely managed libraries which served as attractive communal living rooms. The collections (minus the Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek) were a bit smaller than in typical Finnish libraries. The other statistical figures also showed less frequent use of their services, but you have to remember that the Finns are the most avid library users in the world. As a whole, Austria – or at least the Dornbirn region – has a very advanced library system. We also had something to learn as Austrian libraries clearly put more emphasis on marketing and promoting their services.

However, the lack of national legislation guiding municipal public libraries was some kind of shock to me. We got to hear the background of this development but there was not even a mention that this situation would change in a foreseeable future. The local level can take care of things to some extent, but this sure to cause great variation in library services between municipalities in different parts of the country. Many things also depended on volunteers devoting their time to the library services. As a trained library professional, I didn’t like this too much. It is good to involve people in the activities of the libraries, but this isn’t the way to go. It was still interesting to see the big difference between the Austrian and Finnish ethos. In a similar situation, The Finnish libraries would have to close their doors very soon. Fortunately thins are different in Austria and as a customer I would still use (and pay) quite happily for the Austrian library services.

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About tuomolindfors

Librarian at the City Library of Iisalmi.

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