Public Libraries 2030: “Democracy gym at the public library - Getting ready for engagement!”

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Submitted by n0089qyy on Thu, 10/11/2022 - 15:47

Public Libraries 2030: “Democracy gym at the public library - Getting ready for engagement!”

Public Libraries (PL2030) held a special participatory workshop during the 2022 Public Participation and Deliberative Democracy Festival in Brussels on 20th October, based on the ‘Democracy Fitness’ training concept, which challenges the traditional concept of democracy.

The PL2030 session aimed to increase the awareness of the potential for public libraries to be dynamic and versatile partners for programmes and activities regarding democracy and participation. The best way to demonstrate this was to let the participants experience a technique used in the pioneering democracy work of Aarhus Public Libraries: the democracy fitness training! We invited two of the Danish democracy workers, Asmund Bertelsen and Sara Bindeballe, to run a short training on site. This is a method that helps to train our capacities to undertake democratic practices. During the session, we trained how to disagree: The 35 participants were invited to move through the room according to yes and no questions and to engage in listening and augmenting exercises. Our moderators gave further explanations on how to listen to each other and to accept different opinions.

In a non formal and open atmosphere, Susana Silvestre, in charge of participation projects at the Lisbon municipality and former head of the Lisbon Libraries network, gave a presentation on a best practice example of a participative process from the Lisbon public libraries network. This allowed a deeper approach to methods and tools that public libraries can successfully use to engage with different citizen groups and organisations.

We concluded with an exchange with the audience agreeing that "Public libraries are neutral spaces where you can think and debate critically - our society needs spaces to explore thoughts and exchange with others", to quote our speaker Susana from Lisbon.