The future Belgian government accused of forgetting about libraries
Sunday, 11 August 2019
The Royal Library of Belgium in Brussels. Credit: The European Library
The PS, Ecolo and MR are preparing to begin the negotiations to form the new government.
However, public libraries are not mentioned in any of the agendas or working notes for these negotiations. This is despite the fact libraries have been struggling financially for the last five years, Le Soir reported on Saturday.
“Libraries have been really struggling since 2015 and continued to do so in 2018. The suspension on certificating new libraries has been extended, as has the block on subventions to help cover operating costs for those already certified,” claims a report the Library Council submitted back in July.
Politicians reformed all the legislation on financing libraries ten years ago, when it was an important political issue. But public libraries had a lot of their financing frozen back in 2014 and the main parties don’t seem concerned about it. The word “library” does not appear in the agendas drawn up by the MR, PS or Ecolo parties at all. The three main parties are currently in negotiations to form the new Walloon and communal governments. The PS and Ecolo had promised to provide libraries with 100% of the financing they need.
“It’s a real paradox,” said Jean-François Füeg, the deputy director general of the Action territorial group which runs Belgium’s libraries. “We have seen a big increase in the number of people borrowing books and a big increase in the number of people taking part in activities held in public libraries, but still no-one is interested.”