By Shelley Quezada, Consultant to the Underserved at the MBLC
Dateline: Wroclaw, Poland. The historic city on the banks of the Oder (Odra) river crisscrossed by 120 bridges has served as home to people from Lithuania, Germany, and Austria for many centuries. After World War II, Wroclaw was designated to be part of Poland. This past August the city served as site for the International Federation of Library Associations and Affiliates (IFLA) World Conference. Approximately 3000 librarians came to Wroclaw to share, deliberate and affirm the important role of libraries as a cornerstone of democracies around the world. IFLA is currently crafting a World Vision for library service and is actively seeking input from librarians around the world.
Among the largest delegation were approximately 338 librarians from the United States including the recently formed Polish American Librarians Association whose president, former long-time American Libraries editor Leonard Kimmel is one of its most famous sons. Representation among Polish librarians was substantial, many of whom served as amazing volunteers and hosts for the week- long conference and provided multiple occasions to tour the country’s substantial libraries.
Among the many highlights of the IFLA conference was an opening ceremony that featured aerial performances with amazing acrobats (think Cirque du Soleil) and a cultural night that overwhelmed participants with a sound and light show held on the grounds of Centennial Hall, a hundred year old engineering marvel that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site last year. In addition to opportunities to work on global initiatives, many conference goers were afforded the chance to visit historic universities and archives in the cities of Cracow and Warsaw.
Among the most charming new libraries in Poland is the recently opened library in the city’s main train station, the Wrocław Główny. From outside the station the invitation to the “Biblioteka” is clearly visible.
Inside on the platform where thousands of people pass every day, an enormous arch of books directs the traveler towards the upper floor where the city’s newest branch library recently opened its doors.
The giant clock over the Reference and Circulation area reminiscent of the modern children’s classic The Invention of Hugo Cabret reminds commuters that books are great companions at any time to read, ride and return.
The modern library boasts an array of computer terminals, an art gallery, collections for browsing and comfortable furniture that welcomes parents and their children.
Even as we professional librarians immerse ourselves daily in the work of libraries, the Wrocław Główny like so many others in Poland reminds us of the importance of libraries to people around the world. Poland’s libraries are a testament to the city’s strong commitment to its communities making books and access to information accessible to readers of all backgrounds and interests wherever they may find themselves- even in a train station. The library’s website is www.biblioteka.wroc.pl