“Meeting friendly and dedicated colleagues” – visit from German Library Association in Czech Libraries

Interview with Lisa Rohwedder from the German Library Association. She works in Communication Department and during November 2022 she spent 5 days in the Czech Republic, exploring Czech libraries and library network. By the end of that time, we met in Prague for an interview about her experience.

What was your motivation to come here? How did you decide to go to the Czech Republic?

I am working as an editor for the web page bibliotheksportal.de, which provides information on German libraries and for librarians in Germany. Since Germany and the Czech Republic are partner countries since May 2022, I thought it would be interesting to write something about Czech libraries for this web page. I hope this can help to promote the exchange between the library landscapes of Germany and Czech Republic and maybe make German librarians curious to come here and discover Czech libraries. And of course, for me personally, it was a great opportunity to travel and meet people in the libraries and learn a lot about the country and its libraries.

You work in the communication department – you communicate about libraries, promote libraries… In general, what brings you to the library field? What do you like and enjoy about libraries?

I like about libraries that they are accessible to everyone. They have low boundaries. Everyone can just go there, even if they don’t have a membership card. You can still go to the room and be there and learn things. Or even just be there and relax. Maybe meet people. Maybe just sit and read a newspaper and you don’t have to buy anything. What I also like is that there are so many possibilities in the library world. So many activities that can be done and you can exchange thoughts and knowledge. Also, I think the library scene is very open, friendly, and sharing knowledge, that is very nice.

Visiting Masaryk’s Public Library in Vsetín, November 2022

What’s your impression from your stay here? You’re already here for a few days. What do you like? What is different from your point of view?

I see a lot of similarities, at least in the libraries I’ve seen here. They are dealing with the same topics, like sustainability, the question of how they can become more open, how they can be third spaces and reach out to the people and cooperate even better with communities and schools.

What is very special here is that the net of libraries is so dense. That’s a big difference to Germany. In the Czech Republic you have a library even in a small village, even if those libraries are not open all the time.

Visiting The North Bohemian Library, November 2022

Was there anything that surprised you?

Yes, I was in Vsetín, and I think it was quite a small town. It was really surprising how active they were and how many people came to the library. It’s really a broad range of activities they have, and they offer so much for both really small children, but also for seniors. And many people are working there as well. I don’t think you would have that in a town in Germany of the same size, so that’s really interesting to see.

Another surprise was yesterday when I went to DOK16 that was a really cool place, I think. I saw both children coming there with their parents, but also seniors. And it also seems like an open place for all kinds of people. There was a workshop with a lecturer going on there, showing how to cut spoons. I think half of the people who attended this workshop were women and I also think that is really good to see. In a room where they work with wood, which is maybe a traditionally male subject, this workshop seems to also attract women. So, it’s a really open place, which is nice.

Lisa Rohwedder in DOK16 (Municipal Library of Prague), November 2022

Is your stay here bringing you some ideas for cooperation? Do you see some opportunities, areas for cooperation?

I think there are a lot of opportunities for cooperation. For example, one subject is the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), which have been a focus for Czech libraries for the last two years and will continue to be relevant both here and in Germany. Also, the new focus topic for Czech libraries from 2023 on, media literacy, is really important for German libraries and also the German Library Association is working on a project on that.

And there are more topics where a cooperation could be fruitful, I think. For example, the question how libraries can acquire funding for special projects, how they can reach out to their communities and much more!

Is there anything else what you found out during your stay here, anything else you would like to share?

I learned a lot about the Czech library system which was very interesting. How it works with the regional libraries, that they provide information and support for the smaller ones.

Also, I found it great to meet so many very friendly and dedicated colleagues in the libraries and at the association SDRUK and I am very grateful they all took their time to show me around and tell me about their projects. Czech libraries are definitely worth a visit!

Thank you very much.

Interview by Kateřina Tumová