Helle Lauridsen reports from the tenth NEXT LIBRARY event, held in Aarhus, Denmark.

This year, the tenth year of NEXT LIBRARY, brought the event back to its home in Aarhus, Denmark. 400 delegates from over 40 countries were comfortably housed in the beautiful harbour front Library DOKK1.

The conference is a mixture of keynotes, short 'ignite' talks and workshops and was built on "the Next Library Concept", meaning a 'patchwork' of co-learning, co-creative, participatory, engaging, pluralistic and interactive meetings, lots of parallel sessions and great (at times off-beat and surprising) keynote speakers. 

Learning from Burning Man

The most 'unexpected' (from an information specialist perspective) keynote came from Christopher Breedlove from the Burning Man Project. As so often happens, talks when you really don’t know what to expect can turn out to be the best and it was the case with this presentation. The auditorium was full to capacity to hear about 'happy accidents' of design-thinking in a harsh (desert) climate that help make Burning Man an example of meticulous city planning and how the participants are encouraged to go beyond the safe zone and fail. Things have to be fun to be sustainable.

Smart solutions

Other keynotes covered IoT and smart cities, and the dilemma in covering the entire city with smart solutions. Will it really bring flexibility, precision and productivity and for whom? Nobody sees or uses a city in the same way, so who are we building for? Will it make the city and its inhabitants more resilient or more vulnerable? And is it really democratic and letting the citizens voice heard or is it just noise? Are lamps depicting the time it takes before Aarhus Municipality answers an inquiry from a citizen, on the city hall tower useful at all (yes they were, the waiting time miraculously shortened).

Glòria Pérez-Salmerón the present IFLA president gave the final keynote – a warm and funny discussion on wine, collaboration and libraries and an excellent lead into the lovely conference dinner at the International sailing center on the bay of Aarhus.
Conversations, participation, hugs

Other topics discussed included library gardens and how data literacy can promote civic participation among women. It quickly turned out that the participants from Scandinavia, the US, Costa Rica and Romania had such different understanding of womens rights that it led to heated discussions on the role that libraries play in women’s access to reproductive health. Alameda County talked about Library Hugs and wore the T-shirts to promote it.

A datalab session on Fake news led to the interesting discovery that only one person in a group of maybe 40 participants felt confident that she could always distinguish truth from fake, the rest were in-between.

Unfortunately, I could only be in one place at the time and had to choose between many great sessions.
Helle Lauridsen is the Product Owner for IMMS at Lynsgoe Systems in Denmark.