Friday 21 February 2020

Public libraries under threat, Dutch reading skills in decline

Amsterdam’s main public library

Spending on public libraries has gone down some 10% since 2010 and 21 of the 355 Dutch local councils are not providing a complete service accessible to all, despite being required to do so by law, a report by the Culture Council shows.

The 2015 library law states that all local councils should have a public library which offers not only books but stimulates development and education and promotes reading and debate. A library bus, or a collection point for books is not in accordance with that law, the government advisory body said.

The Culture Council said the lack of libraries and services was particularly worrying because of declining reading skills among Dutch youngsters. It warns more cutbacks will further undermine the network of public libraries in the country.

‘Public libraries are of the greatest importance for society. They are beacons of democracy and contribute to social cohesion (..)  They are a basic amenity for the development of  language skills, digital skills and reading skills in young and old. These are also important for the future position of the Netherlands as a knowledge society,’ the council said.

The advisory body said all local authorities must be made to guarantee accessibility to a library, if necessary by cooperating with a nearby local municipality. Funding for reading promotion programmes involving libraries must also be increased, it said. It also calls for new library staff to be trained.

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