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European Congress "Digitial Europe in Public Libraries": Debate on the Role of Public Libraries in Digital Europe is Needed

A European congress under the headline "Digital Europe in Public Libraries" was held on 21 and 22 September 2010 in the Flemish Parliament in Brussels. The congress was organized by the Belgian chair of the European Union and is a continuation of last year's congress which was dedicated to the implementation of technology in public libraries.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is among the congress organizers extended an invitation for participation to representatives of the Glob@l Libraries - Bulgaria Program. The Bulgarian participation in the congress was by Natalia Georgieva, PR Specialist in the Programme Management Unit and Petya Trifonchovska, advisor in the political office of the minister of management of European funds Tomislav Donchev.

The congress extended a clear message on the need for European and national debate regarding the role of public libraries in digital Europe; on the opportunity for libraries to be an important factor in overcoming the digital divide; on the new services and information which they can provide to patrons; on the new services and information which they can provide to visitors; on their meaning in the development of programs for digital literacy.

The focus of reports and talks was the need for a clear and concise policy on public libraries on behalf of European institutions. It was also stressed that in order to be effective, the development policy of public libraries must seek wide consensus between politicians, public figures, library communities.

The subjects discussed during the congress included partnerships between libraries and other community and cultural institutions; working with local communities and creation of social networks; challenges that libraries face on a competitive market; new approaches towards e-inclusion, technological renovation, creation of digital content.

Special attention was paid to the need for a sustainable policy on a local level for the role and place of public libraries in the digital world.

As part of the conference, to the representatives of the European countries where the Global Libraries funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is implemented, a presentation was made of the project "Libraries and journalists keep vigil on the rule of law, civil rights and social inclusion" developed jointly by the Center for Independent Journalism and the Glob@l Libraries - Bulgaria Program. The project provoked a discussion on the new type of services which libraries can offer and their active role in the dialogue between media and local communities regarding hot social topics.