Conclusions - 13th Round Table on Mobile Libraries in the Republic of Croatia and the 7th Festival of Croatian Mobile Libraries (18.07.2017)
National professional conference with international participation 13th Round Table on Mobile Libraries in the Republic of Croatia and the 7th Festival of Croatian Mobile Libraries named „LET'S START A BIBLIOBUS! How to initiate and maintain a mobile library service?“, was held in Pula, on May 12th 2017, and was organised by the Commission for Mobile Libraries and the Commission for Public Libraries of the Croatian Library Association, City Library and Reading Room Pula as the host and Association of Istria librarians.
Croatia has 9 mobile library services with 13 bibliobuses, which in 2016 have provided mobile library services on the territory of 148 local government units with the total of 496 mobile library stops. In 2016, there were 14.693 active users (69% of them children), 365.433 units of library materials were loaned and 388 various programmes were held.
Mobile libraries ensure the citizens' right to equal access to information and lifelong education; they represent the only opportunity for achieving availability of knowledge, culture and information for the population of rural and outlying areas, especially those without local libraries. This is mostly the case with smaller settlements that are located far away from bigger centres, and which are often poorly connected with cities that have a library.
It is important to highlight the role of mobile libraries in providing library services to the youngest users. Of total number of mobile library stops, 59% of them are located next to a school, which is crucial for the availability of library services to children and pupils, considering the inadequacy of library collections in school libraries. It is also important because smaller rural schools, which are the most common destination for mobile libraries, usually don't have a library and neither do the municipalities in which those schools are located in.
The main topic of the 13th round table on mobile libraries in Croatia concerned the issues of starting and organising new mobile library services in the Republic of Croatia, which also emphasized the importance of expanding the network of mobile library services on the entire territory of Croatia. Selecting the main topic and the venue of the Conference was inspired by the campaign Let's start a bibliobus! Make books available to everyone, started by the City library and Reading Room Pula. This campaign was organised within the sphere of activities of the Central Commission for Public and School Libraries, with the goal of establishing a mobile library service in the Istria County, in order to cover the entire area of the County with library services. The campaign, which was implemented with the financial support of the Croatian Ministry of Culture, is a good example for other counties that still lack a mobile library service. It is also an example of a systematic approach to the advocacy of mobile libraries with activities aimed at informing the public, namely all the groups of potential users, about their right to a library service in their immediate area, and the institutions that provide financial support are informed about their obligation to provide this service to the citizens.
The Conference gathered 105 registered participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia, and it consisted of a mobile library festival opened to the public and a workshop dedicated to the education and professional training of librarians, stimulating the cooperation and the exchange of good practice in promotion and development of mobile library activities. The workshop consisted of about a dozen professional presentations and the exhibition of twelve poster presentations from all Croatian mobile library services, as well as those from Novo Mesto, Maribor and Kladovo. The presentations and posters are available on the following link: http://bit.ly/2wjXJUw.
The most important part of the Conference was the Festival of mobile libraries, which was especially interesting to the public and a good way to promote mobile libraries, gathered 11 bibliobuses, 9 Croatian mobile libraries from Bjelovar, Karlovac, Koprivnica, Križevci, Rijeka (both city and county service), Vinkovci and Zagreb and also 3 foreign bibliobuses from Maribor, Novo Mesto and Pécs.
The Conference was opened with a screening of a promotional video called Mobile libraries in Croatia: a lifelong adventure through the richness of friendship and knowledge, that was made as a part of the campaign for establishing of a mobile library service in Istria County. The video depicts the importance of availability of library services from the perspective of mobile library users from all across Croatia, and it ends with the message from children of Pula: „We have a right to a bibliobus too.“