In the European Union there are tens of thousands of public libraries. Together they constitute an important resource for democracy, freedom of expression, education, research and culture. Europe´s around 65 000 public libraries play an important role in providing social and digital access as well as lifelong learning to everybody. Extensive work is currently being made in order to develop public libraries to a higher standard. This applies to rural areas as well as larger cities across Europe. In this work there is also a strong emphasis on creating public libraries that especially target the young generation. The importance of a reading European population is generally accepted. One might however argue that more needs to be done to stimulate reading and writing and to ensure that libraries do their best to provide a platform where this is possible.
In order to measure the quality and the standard of a public library from a citizen and customer perspective a common tool that could be used as a guideline for future improvement and development is needed. This should be based on the concrete services that the measured library offers.
With the pilot project Library Ranking Europe (LRE) we want to introduce a brand new tool to stimulate benchmarking and the development of quality among European public libraries. The European Union could be an important agent in the work to enhance cooperation and development in this sector too.
We regard LRE as a project that can illustrate the possibilities connected to ranking. During the next couple of years our ambition is to evaluate and to rank a selection of public libraries in a limited number of countries within the EU. We want to test the tool and the method that we have developed and strengthen the possibilities for a vivid European library discussion over national borders and together with European institutions and politicians.
The ideas behind LRE have been informally tested on a few library directors in European countries. Their feedback has been positive and constructive. Many of them agree with us and have the opinion that ranking can be a valuable tool for benchmarking and quality development from a citizen and customer perspective. This tool is developed in order to benefit the customers and visitors at public libraries in Europe.
Public libraries are of great importance for integration, social coherence, digital equality and lifelong studies. Public libraries are – and can be – one of the basic institutions in a democratic society. We hope that politicians in European countries and within the European Union – the parliament and the commission – will act for strengthening of the important resource for the development that the public libraries are and can be. Library Ranking Europe has the ambition to contribute.