Libraries organize week–long series of events to attract new readers

Photo: Gabriela Hauptvogelová

Thousands of libraries around the country are celebrating National Library Week with events aimed at drawing more people to these public institutions and highlighting what they have to offer. Some are inviting people to come and tango, others have selected readings by popular children’s authors while library staff in Ostrava have taken to the streets to reward anyone seen reading a book.

Reading is a popular pastime in the Czech Republic and while the Czech eBook market grew ten-fold in 2012, the printed book is still holding its own. At a time when books are fairly expensive the country’s network of libraries – altogether 5,500 of them – is heavily frequented. One in six Czechs has a library card and most of them pick up books on a regular basis.

While most libraries have extended their services to providing internet use and the National Library in Prague now offers the eBooks on Demand service, lending printed books remains their pivotal operation. National Library week is aimed at attracting new readers –particularly children who are likely to spend more time on the Internet than reading a book.

The Municipal Library in Ostrava has invited well-known artists to take part in a marathon reading – with each choosing their favourite book and reading out a selected passage. The library in Karvina is organizing a series of events for children, including readings from one of the most popular Czech children’s books of all time Ferda Mravenec - Ferda the Ant. The Mahenová Library in Brno has organized a dance class on its premises – inviting young people to come and learn to tango, meet others and pick up a book while many libraries in Prague have gone for themed exhibitions or book readings such as books related to the First World War or a selected author. In Ostrava librarians have taken to the streets to reward anyone seen reading a book with a gift.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
As many other public service institutions, libraries are struggling with a lack of funds and nowhere is this more visible than in their foreign language books sections. Most libraries offer a restricted selection and many are dependent on public donations. This is a problem that needs to be addressed especially in view of heightened interest on the part of young people and students to borrow books in English or German. Barbora Buchtová of the Moravian Library in Brno says this has become a big priority.

“We get a lot of foreign students coming to us these days and asking for foreign language literature. And our own readers increasingly need to work with foreign publications. We have now acquired a new collection of foreign language books and I am happy to say that some are the only copy you would find in Czech libraries around the country. ”

Photo: Gabriela Hauptvogelová
The library was able to acquire the two and a half thousand foreign language books – which cost six million crowns - thanks to a recent sale of real estate. Not all libraries have that much to offer. For instance the small-town library in Hoštěrádky has just one book in English – The Little Big Book of Animals – but offers readers the chance to acquire others through its cooperation with other libraries in the region.

Libraries are now investing a lot of hope in a bill which should put books in a lower 10 percent VAT bracket as of next year – which would enable them to buy hundreds of extra books and improve their services.