“Renaissance of the libraries as a place of learning and meeting”

View of a Catholic public library © Harald Oppitz (KNA)

Bishop Overbeck of Essen welcomes the state's increase in funding for church libraries. Especially in the countryside, they would often be the only ones who made media accessible.

The state of North Rhine-Westphalia increases its funding for church libraries. The three-year sponsorship program, launched in 2018, will begin at 500.000 euros to 2 million euros increased, as culture Minister Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen (parteilos) announced yesterday (Monday) in Essen. So far, 619 applications from around 450 church libraries in NRW to update their media stocks have been approved, he said. On average, 3.000 euros were pledged.

Church libraries: an important addition

"The church libraries are an important addition to the city libraries, where 25 million people meet each year, because they are close to their homes," the minister explained. "We want to give a boost to the stocks and appreciate the fantastic commitment of the women and men engaged in the church libraries."

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen expressed gratitude for the state's support. In rural areas in particular, church institutions are often the only providers of books, magazines and modern electronic media. "Our volunteer librarians are a great treasure on which we can build and which unfolds charisma when, for example, it is a matter of promoting school and professional biographies."

Two Protestant and five Catholic library offices in NRW advise and support the work of the more than 1.200 church libraries, as it said. In the institutions there are about 13.500 volunteers active.

3.6 million visitors annually

According to the head of the media forum of the Essen diocese, Vera Steinkamp, church libraries in North Rhine-Westphalia are visited by around 3.6 million people a year. The state funding is perceived by the staff as appreciative, said the head of the library department of the Protestant Church in the Rhineland, Helga Schwarze.

For 2020, the state government has 193 applications for funding, explained Pfeiffer-Poensgen. The state government's cultural budget is to increase from 200 to 300 million euros by the end of the legislative period. This would also take into account a "renaissance of libraries as a place of learning and encounter".

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