Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Leopards on the Move: School Libraries in Europe

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Leopards on the Move: School Libraries in Europe

Article excerpt

The purpose of this paper is to give a general and up-to-date overview of the situation of school libraries and the school librarianship in Europe, focussing particularly but not exclusively, on those countries currently forming the European Union. The report is based mainly on existing literature, but also on information gathered from library organisation and association representatives and from their websites. Some case histories, best practices and projects are reported, organized according to the school library elements presented in the IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto.

Introduction

Countries in Europe are looking to gain better positions in the international framework of the labour market, trying to become more attractive and competitive places for working and doing business successfully. The European Union has been trying to encourage this change, especially since the Lisbon Summit in 2000, setting up inclusive and active policies (Commission of the European Communities, 2008) in order to compete in a globalised world (ISTAG, 2006). The European Union comprises 27 countries, while the Council of Europe includes 47 countries (see map at http://www.coe.int/T/I/Com/A_proposito_Coe/Stati-membri/). An increasing number of Europeans move within Europe; as well, people from many countries, mainly from North Africa, Middle and Far East, move to Europe to search for better conditions of living and working.

The purpose of this paper is to give a general and up-to-date overview of the situation of school libraries and the school librarianship in Europe, mainly based both on existing literature, and on information personally gathered from school library organisation and association representatives or, when that was not possible, through their websites. Some case histories, best practices and projects will be reported later in this paper, organized according to the school library elements presented in the IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto. This paper is a revised and updated version of a report published earlier on E-LIS (Marquardt, 2008).

The leopard, an animal found over a great number of countries, from Northern Africa to Eastern Asia that "varies greatly in size and markings" ("Leopard," 2010), is a metaphor for the school libraries in Europe. There are libraries in most schools in Europe, but there is a wide range of quality in services and activities, a wide range of problems such as the lack of funding and of formal recognition, and a wide range of interesting strengths and practices. However, like the leopard, the school library situation in Europe is on the move, definitely faster than ever, and it is changing in many different ways. Like getting a photo of a leopard, getting a picture of school libraries in Europe is difficult. One of the reasons for this difficulty is the challenge of defining Europe: apart from being a geographical continent, it may also be defined as the countries currently forming the European Union which does not, however, represent all European countries.

Schools and School Libraries in Europe

Education is a key human right. School instruction should provide all individuals with a good preparation for their personal, cultural and professional development, and the school library should implement the curriculum and foster students' individual learning processes. Diversity is characteristic of European countries: along with substantially common roots is found a variety of languages, cultures, history, and traditions (for a detailed treatment of the new idea of Europe, see Chabod, 1965). School legislation also varies from country to country in Europe.

UNESCO has recently underlined how important information literacy is as the basis of knowledge societies "where the power of information and communication helps people access the knowledge they need to improve their daily lives and achieve their full potential" (UNESCO, 2008). The school library has an important role to play in the field of information literacy and media education, as the UNESCO/IFLA School Library Manifesto and Guidelines state and as research consistently shows (see, for example, http://www. …

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