Library policy in Flanders II

Situation in near future

Two different important changes:

  • In Flanders, we basically have three different policy levels: the municipalities, the provinces and the Flemish government. But there will be a change in the relations between the three policy levels.The basic idea is that in every aspect of policy making only two levels can define the decisions. This principle has the intention to advance the autonomy of local governments in their policymaking.
    In case of the libraries, there will be an exception mainly because of the library catalogue systems which are supported by the provinces. So, we maintain three policy levels.
  • Flemish government wants to reduce the fact that local governments need to justify their funding and wants to reduce the bureaucratic system. One important aspect is the introduction of one strategic policy plan for every municipality instead of policy plans for every sector.
    Another aspect is the new strategy of policy priorities instead of the current ways of funding. In the future, we cannot longer determine the type of subsidies or the organizational structure of the local government. We can only subsidize the municipalities for activities, achievements or effects. For example: we cannot longer give subsidies for library staff, but we can give subsidies for reducing the digital divide (of course libraries need staff to achieve this mission). How exactly libraries accomplish this mission is no longer the responsibility for the Flemish government, but will completely be in the hands of local governments.

The Flemish government is going to determine various policy priorities for a period of 3 or 6 years. In this way the government can still give impulses in the policy making, but local governments are no longer obliged to follow this impulses. Municipalities can subscribe themselves for these priorities and will receive financial input for every policy priority in which they’re involved.

This way of subsidizing is going to be introduced not only in the cultural area, but also for infrastructure, environment, social policy, youth policy, etc.This decision, again, has the intention to advance the autonomy of local governments in their policy making.

Deadline: the priorities are going to be published in 2012. Municipalities will have one year time to describe their intentions in one strategic policy plan. From January 2014 onwards the new system will officially start.

These changes will surely have a big impact on public libraries. For local governments, it’s no longer an obligation to have one. That’s why librarians should be able to proof they are necessary. They have to be able to “sell” the public library as a needed product in the local community.

The most important part and most difficult one is creating these policy priorities. Any creative idea is very welcome.

Maarten Vandekerckhove

One response to “Library policy in Flanders II

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