Joint Europe – Logo for public libraries

Public libraries in Europe constitute an extensive and impressive network. But this network is more invisible than necessary. With simple – and inexpensive – means Europe’s nearly 40,000 public libraries could draw more attention to themselves and proclaim their significant role.
All Europe’s public library units deserve a joint symbol, a logotype. To not have a shared trademark for libraries within the EU is both short-sighted and defensive. We have everything to gain if we stick together and demonstrate that we really collaborate in an effective network.
Europe’s public libraries already exist with their staff, media, facilities and excellent service. But their existence is still too little known in many places. Too many Europeans are still unaware of them, of their mission, of all their functions, resources and versatile services and of their co-operation in the international network.
Simply to decide on, and introduce, a joint symbol for Europe’s public libraries would make them dramatically more visible. Take for example the international I-symbol within tourism, or the € sign created for the new European currency. In the future, from Malaga in the south to Kiruna in the north and from Galway in the west to Joensuu in the east, people visiting libraries should be able to look out for one and the same logotype and sign. A common symbol, a trademark for public libraries in the European Union, would get massive exposure and be of great benefit for marketing.
Furthermore, the library logo could be complemented with an authorised European quality mark. To receive the right to use the library symbol certain criteria would have to be met, and these could be graded along the lines of international hotel standards. In future, therefore, we could visit public libraries within the EU with one or more “stars”, the number depending on the level of service as measured by, for example, numbers of staff and their qualifications, hours open, media collections, access to the Internet, and so on.
In the USA the American Library Association, ALA, has introduced a similar initiative, though limited in time and coverage. It takes the form of a national marketing campaign under a common slogan and logo: “@ your library”.
It seems reasonable to us that this question of a logo should be considered as part of the ongoing European co-operation for library development. We are thinking mainly of EBLIDA (European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations) and the EU project PULMAN (Public Libraries Mobilising Advanced Networks). Our suggestion is also well in line with The Public Library Service – Guidelines for Development, recently published by IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) and Unesco. These guidelines can be further developed with regard to authorisation and common marketing, and be adapted particularly to the conditions and prospects of European public libraries.
Neither the EU nor the respective nation should be responsible for the authorisation. That should be the task for each country’s library association, within united European action. Merely introducing European principles for authorisation will strengthen quality work, stimulate benchmarking and contribute to the development of public libraries.
Tomorrow’s library shall have an obvious role also for the travelling European. Through this system of symbols, library users abroad will know not only that they have come to a library “sanctioned by Europe”, but also what service level it offers. The public library sign is a welcoming greeting as much for the Dane visiting Barcelona as for the Italian in Bremen. It says: “Here you can get to know your present abode, or communicate with you home town or anywhere else on earth. The entire local public library is at your disposal.”
Developing and introducing this European symbol for public libraries and its system for authorisation will require some money. Not a lot, but not wholly insignificant either. Here the EU has a clear role as financier.
Public libraries throughout Europe make up a very important resource for information provision, education, culture and democracy. In some respects cities and regions of the EU are leaders in the public library world. Through a common symbol, Europe’s public libraries can effectively assert their existence and importance, while the system of authorisation will stimulate them to yet further development.
Adopting a logo, as proposed here, is something all European public libraries and their users would benefit from. “No logo” is not an option.