Jorge Moisés Kroll do Prado is the current President of FEBAB (Brazilian Federation of Librarians’ Associations). He has a PhD in Information Sciences from the Federal University of Santa Catarina, a Masters in Information Management and a Bachelor’s Degree in Librarianship (both from the Santa Catarina State University, UDESC). He works as a researcher at SENAC SC and as a professor at the UDESC.
Jorge, as a first question and as the President of FEBAB, I would like to know the current state of libraries in Brazil. Libraries, the digital issue and the role of librarians as a profession. Can you tell us briefly?
FEBAB has been working for 62 years in favor of the protection and continuous training of professionals and libraries, given that the dynamics of these spaces suffer continuous changes permeated by countless challenges. Very briefly, the panorama of our libraries needs to be broken down by typology: a) that of universities is the best organized, thanks to the fact that they are always in the management system and enjoy the support infrastructure of the universities; b) that of schools, despite very timid progress due to the fact that a federal law that obliges the presence of libraries in schools is still very weak (from what is meant by library, which is often a mere reading room, up to the absence of professionals in these spaces); c) that of public libraries is a delicate panorama, since our National System of Public Libraries has suffered great involution and no progress has been perceived with the government in recent years: d) that of community libraries counts on a network of libraries, although there are only 115 participants, which does not represent a significant parcel; e) that of prison libraries, which has received some national attention and has recently been able to count on legislative progress on the redemption of the reading sentence.
Faced with these panoramas, some points are common to all: the pandemic has brought new perceptions of action from our libraries, new challenges have been implemented and it will be essential to have professionals attentive more and more to social demands. Financial means are increasingly scarce, even before the pandemic, even for university libraries. We also have a big problem with regard to data on all types of libraries, which are disorganized, obsolete and yet necessary for planned action.
The digital agenda was one of the paths used for libraries to reach communities, but it was nowhere near the solution, as most of the population does not have a good connection or a device. Our country has returned to the hunger report, the circulation of information is now highly influenced by fake news and disinformation, social inequality has widened. Libraries with products and services that minimize this reality, with critical, skilled and strategic professionals are urgently needed.
How much has COVID 19 affected the culture sector and therefore libraries in Brazil? Taking a more general overview, there has been a significant increase in the use of digital platforms, primarily for reasons of professional and educational needs and beyond. In your opinion, could this be the right occasion, this sad historical moment, to consolidate the “digital revolution” that has been going on for several years?
Even before the pandemic, the culture and library sector in our country was already weakened. The public policies that see them involved, as well as those for the promotion of reading and the book, are increasingly weakened and go through arduous battles to be really put into practice. During the pandemic, these spaces were obviously closed, with a slow return to activities and, for this, they had to intervene digitally, migrating most of the activities. This has led to a considerable increase in the digital presence of libraries, many have also remodeled most of the products and services offered to their communities.
We have a profound inequality in access to these technologies and for this reason I believe that this “digital revolution” is still far from consolidating, but it is undeniable that the pandemic has reduced this distance a bit. There are new points to work on in order for a de facto revolution to succeed, such as copyright issues regarding digital content, new work and communication relationships, the liquidity of time and space, the (even discriminatory) effect algorithms and others that are older, such as investment in technological infrastructure in libraries, the digital skills of professionals and the quality of internet access itself.
For many years now, as an internal member, you have offered your contribution with your work at IFLA. What do you think are the prospects for libraries in the near future, albeit considering the many nuances and differences of a geographical nature?
Since 2015 I have been a member of the IFLA Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean. When it was possible to travel to the annual presidential meetings, conversing with professionals from different countries, we saw that in some places Brazil was ahead, while in others far behind. On the region as a whole, libraries of the near future (even in the present itself) will need to strengthen their communities, be closer to their demands. We are the most unequal area on the planet and libraries can carry out fundamental activities to minimize this context, providing quality information to a better informed society, which can demand its rights in democratic spaces. For this to happen, we need to rethink the way we act in our spaces and also the training of future professionals.
I have noticed that you are a very good user of social media. What is your opinion about their use for libraries? Can they really be new and effective tools for conveying information together with the traditional tools we already know?
Social networks have been the subject of my studies during my university career. For 10 years, a lot of my research has to do with them, as I believe we need to strengthen our presence in these spaces, in a strategic way, since that’s where most people spend their time (studying, getting information, working , communicating). Brazil holds important positions in social media access time rankings, making it an excellent space for libraries to get active too. The pandemic has caused many of them to create their own Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other pages, just ensure the continuity of this presence, which is not easy. Beyond this, starting from their pages, libraries can exercise the important role of disseminating true information, without manipulation.
On the cover of one of your social pages you presented a cover that reads, about Agenda 2030, “Bibliotecas por um mundo melhor”. What does it mean to you?
“Bibliotecas por um mundo melhor” is the management motto of the current Executive Management of FEBAB and that cover was published as soon as we took office, in August 2020. Until 2023, this motto aims to really work for libraries for a world that needs to be better, accompanying the efforts of the 2030 Agenda with which we have been working since 2017. The pandemic has created new challenges and enlarged others that already exist, which justified the choice of this significant motto. We hope that at the end of the management we will have minimized some of these inconveniences and advanced with the schemes we have set ourselves.
Mario Coffa archivista e bibliotecario, laureato in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali presso l’Università degli Studi di Perugia (2005) e diplomato in Archivistica e Paleografia presso la Scuola di Archivistica dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2010). Dal 2010 Lavora per CAeB (Cooperativa Archivistica e Bibliotecaria) presso le biblioteche dell’Università di Perugia come bibliotecario e come archivista presso l'Archivio Storico del Comune di Gubbio. Si occupa di Biblioteche Digitali e formazione in ambito di biblioteconomia digitale. Nel 2014 membro del Comitato Esecutivo Regionale dell’Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB) sezione Umbria, membro del gruppo AIB sul portfolio professionale e nel triennio 2017-2020 Presidente eletto di AIB Umbria. Dal 2020 membro dell'Osservatorio Formazione dell'Associazione Italiana Biblioteche. Autore di diversi articoli e interviste per Insula Europea sul tema degli archivi, delle biblioteche e del digital lending.
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