Literacy in Europe

In societies dominated by the written word, literacy is a fundamental requirement for all adult residents in modern Europe. Literacy skills are crucial to full participation in society. It is needed in parenting, finding and keeping a job, managing one´s health, and to be able to take advantage of digital developments. Yet a high number of adult Europeans do not have sufficient literacy skills. According to the EU High Level Group of Experts on Literacy an estimated 20% of all adults in Europe is probable to lack the literacy skills needed to function fully in modern society. This means that an estimated 73 million European adults lack functional literacy. In their report from September 2012 [PDF], the expert group claims that Europe today faces a “literacy crisis”, and conclude with a call for collaborative action.

Towards a public library collaboration in Europe

Literacy is a foundation for most library activities, and the legitimacy and identity of the public library institutions in Europe are closely connected to the work European societies do for democratic development. Due to the fact that literacy is a question of democracy and democratization, it is obvious that the public libraries of Europe has a role to play in reducing functional illiteracy. It is stated in UNESCO Public Library Manifesto that one key mission for any public library is “supporting and participating in literacy activities and programmed for all age groups, and initiating such activities if necessary”.

Work to reduce illiteracy is already taking place in libraries across Europe. In a Europe facing a “literacy crisis” it is crucial to gather forces and intensify the work, with improved cooperation. To raise awareness and put functional illiteracy among adults more clearly on the agenda of European public libraries, it is an important step to create an European network of libraries and librarians on the topic.

Workshop in June 2014

With the purpose to create a network of public libraries and librarians on functional illiteracy among adults, a workshop is held in Botkyrka, Sweden, in June 2014. The workshop is called Adult illiteracy and second language perspectives: Toward a public library collaboration in Europe. The Workshop will combine theoretical seminars, presentations of literacy projects, and creative workshops on public library work and librarians roles and competencies regarding functional illiteracy among adults.