Libro Futuro

The future of our libraries. Mario Coffa interviews Ioannis Trohopoulos

Intervista in Italiano

Ioannis Trohopoulos, was born in Veria, Northern Greece. Worked as Director of  Veria Central Public library from 1988 till May 2012. In August 2010 during the IFLA Conference at Goteborg, Sweden received on behalf of Veria Library the annual “Access to Learning” 1 million dollars award nominated by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. From June 2010 till April 2016 he served as CEO at Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. He is founding member and director of Future library, an NGO which supports the development of public libraries at national and international level. He was (March 2017 – April 2019) Head of the “Athens2018-World Book Capital”, an important distinction which the city of Athens received by UNESCO. From June 2019 till October 2021 was director of Greek Operations of Heritage Management Organization. He currently works as library consultant.

Ioannis, to start can you tell us briefly what you do in your work?

I have worked in Libraries from various positions for the last thirty years. During that time I had the honor and pleasure to receive on behalf of the Library of Veria the “access to Learning” award of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was somehow an award for all small libraries around the world. I also participated in the design of the premises of the National Library of Greece with the team of the famous architect Renzo Piano, at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. Today, on one hand, I support Public Libraries through the Future Library, NGO and on the other hand, professionally, I work with other experts to find private funding for Libraries to develop new services and organize networks that will unite the most active cultural and educational organizations at local level.

What does it mean to be a librarian in Greece? What training path do you need to follow to work in the library?

Public Libraries in Greece are progressing without being, most of them, an integral part of the social fabric of the community they serve. It is therefore necessary for librarians to have the courage, perseverance and enthusiasm to serve the community through the services offered by the Library. In Greece there are three higher schools that train young people in the Science of Libraries and Archives. Nowadays, a university diploma is just a basic requirement for a successful career. In addition, there is a need for ongoing training in skills related to human resource management, resource development, technical skills and audience attraction skills. But we need also to be more creative than ever. Ready to take risks and work with the most active community groups we serve.

The pandemic has affected everyone and even libraries. How did the Greek libraries react to this situation?

More Libraries than I expected, honestly, responded successfully to the pandemic crisis. Some, such as the Library of Veria, organized home book delivery with the support of local businesses and enabled their members to continue borrowing books. Several others have organized seminars and lectures online and offered useful services to an audience that transcended the boundaries of the area they serve. It is certain that the new era requires greater collaborations at the local level and development of a variety of electronic services. Emphasis should also be placed on the exploitation of outdoor spaces to create open reading rooms.

You are director and founding member of Future Library. What is the mission of this project and in your opinion, what could be the future of libraries, especially after these epochal changes?

Future Library is a non-profit organization that aims to enhance the role and value of Public Libraries as institutions of knowledge, creativity and the promotion of innovation and networking. It is placed at Veria library premises and for the last ten years, through private sponsorships, it has enriched many public Libraries with new publications. I believe that Libraries will emerge stronger from this crisis. It will be important for them, as part of an action plan, to be able to contribute more to the strengthening of the local identity of each region, to the consolidation of democratic values ​​and to the elimination of social inequalities.

This project, the Library World Tour, has among its objectives that of sharing, of creating a network between libraries and librarians of each country. What do you think about it?

I have devoted almost my entire career for developing partnerships and networks. From 1990 when I took over the management of the Library of Veria until 2012 when I left, we participated in 16 programs with Libraries from abroad. The success of Veria and of all great Libraries around the world lies in the wider collaborations, exchange of know-how and experience that develop between them. So, you can realize how much joy I felt reading about your own initiative. I carefully read most of the interviews of people from different countries. I believe that the initiative is a really unique source. Librarians across the world and important stakeholders have the opportunity to read about top trends related to the role and value of the Library today. I insist on the wealth and dynamics that the United Europe has with its different languages ​​and nations. So I’m glad that in this action you can read an interview in three different languages. As I mentioned earlier, I am very keen on the idea of local identity and localization and public libraries play an important role working on that direction. Your initiative reflects the need to strengthen those values and principles.

Finally, what would you recommend to a young student who one day wishes to work as a librarian?

Do not change your mind!! Libraries are at the center of the community no matter how small or big they are. Arm yourself with strength, enthusiasm and perseverance. Be patient but curious as well. It is important to have a spirit of cooperation. Yes, indeed, you can change the world and your life by working in a Library.

L'autore

Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa
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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