The land of Friedrich Nietzsche, Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Michael Ende sees its libraries and their offerings being showcased annually to young and old alike. Though 21st century youngsters may be more likely to have cell phones in their hands instead of books, or turn to a YouTube influencer for inspiration rather than to Shakespeare, Germany is keen to preserve local reading culture.
While most of the gadgets teenagers use nowadays have been around for less than a decade, libraries go back more than 4,000 years, according to the University of California, Berkeley. Scholars have documented that the first libraries consisted of archives of the earliest form of writing — the clay tablets — in cuneiform script, existing in southern Mesopotamia around 2,600 BC.
What is Libraries Day?
German physicist Albert Einstein once said that the only thing you “absolutely have to know” is the location of your nearest library. Whether the teens of 2023 can pinpoint their local reading establishment, at least without the aid of Google Maps, remains to be seen.
On October 24, Germany celebrates its libraries, with numerous readings, library rallies, picture book cinemas, read-aloud tents, book flea markets, beanbag cinemas, e-book consultation hours, lectures, exhibitions, programming courses and media workshops. Since 1995, the day has celebrated libraries across the EU’s largest country, with Spain following suit in 1997.
The almost 10,000 libraries in Germany showcase their offerings to adults, as well as children. Events such as the “Thuringia Reads!” campaign week, the Mint Festival in Cologne, the reading festival in the Rheingau-Taunus district, and the Baden-Württemberg Literature Days in Öhringen, are among the events aiming to encourage reading across all ages. The date coincides with the inauguration of the first public library in Germany in 1828, established by a German librarian named Karl Benjamin Preusker.
Truth behind paywalls but lies are free
While books from centuries past will be a huge part of the day, this year will also see a presentation at the German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB) on the topic of online disinformation.
TIB’s Open Access Consultant, Dr. Stefan Schmeja, will conduct a short presentation showing people how research results can be made freely accessible to all through open access and what role libraries play in this process. In the promotional statement for the event on TIB’s website, it is said that it is actually very easy to access information of all kinds on the internet, but scientific publications in particular are often hidden behind a paywall.
The Goethe-Institut in Munich is inviting people to an online panel discussion entitled “Dwindling Free Spaces: Libraries under Pressure.” The discussion will focus on the increasing challenges that libraries are currently facing, such as attacks on freedom of expression or the disruption of events.
Blind dates with books?
It is not all doom and gloom, however. At the Dorte-Hilleke Library in Menden, North-Rhine Westphalia, it is possible to have a “blind date” with a book while elsewhere comedy is at the fore at the Grenzach-Wyhlen Community Library near the Swiss border, and the Fouque Library in Brandenburg an der Havel, near Berlin.
For this year’s “Day of Libraries,” the German Library Association has developed posters, social media graphics, and website banners that can be used in local libraries across the country.