Public libraries of the 21st century are more than places where people can read and borrow books. In contemporary urban societies, they have become central places of encounter where residents of varying interests and origins can come together and interact. In times of digital transformation and increasing diversity, libraries can teach important media skills and serve as vibrant centres of social debate – on par with theatres, museums, concert halls and art galleries. Compared with these institutions, public libraries offer free or low-priced services to all visitors regardless of social background. Consequently, libraries play a crucial role in civil society as they promote cultural, social and digital participation in a community-based and cross-generational environment. Innovative educational and cultural concepts and fascinating collaborative projects already exist at numerous libraries, but they require ongoing support to ensure their implementation and idea transfer.
With its new programme, "hochdrei – Changing City Libraries", the Federal Cultural Foundation aims to strengthen their role as cooperation-friendly and participation-oriented cultural locations. The programme encourages the development of unconventional ideas and creative formats which enable city libraries to establish themselves as open spaces of encounter in the long term. The programme consists of five modules:
The fund provides funding for exemplary projects of municipal and community libraries, which are developed and implemented together with partners from the municipal society. The projects must be suitable for the future-oriented development of the library as a place of encounter, cultural exchange and social debate through creative event formats.
In spring 2019, the Federal Cultural Foundation organised four tandem excursions as part of the programme, which led to exemplary libraries in Denmark and the Netherlands. This format, offered for the first time nationwide, invited 36 local politicians and their respective library directors on site to a three-day study trip. Together the tandem pairs experienced how libraries can have an impact on local society and thus become central platforms for integrated urban development processes.
With this series of workshops, the Federal Cultural Foundation promoted the debate on the new role of libraries as "third places" in urban society: the green "hochdrei table" for one-day workshops was set up at various locations in Germany from summer 2019 to early 2020. Library staff and anyone interested in libraries were able to take a seat at this table to think outside the box on topics such as communication, cooperation and participation and gain a fresh perspective on current issues and challenges facing the library system. In addition to experts from the world of libraries, experts from other cultural fields also provided impulses.
A suitable format for knowledge transfer will be developed to accompany the programme, which will continue to exist beyond the programme period and can be flexibly expanded with new content. The aim is to develop a modern online tool that bundles the expertise from the workshops and accompanying meetings and makes it permanently accessible together with examples of best practice.