Public libraries can be spaces for public participation! The PL2030 session aimed to increase the awareness of the potential of public libraries being dynamic and versatile partners for programmes and activities around democracy and participation.

The best way to show an example of how this can happen was to let the participants experience a technique that is used in the pioneering democracy work of Aarhus Public Libraries: the democracy fitness training! We invited two of the Danish democracy workers, Asmund Bertelsen and Sara Bindeballe, to run a short training on site. This is a method that helps to train our capacities to undertake democratic practices. During the session we trained how to disagree! The 35 participants were invited to move through the room according to yes and no questions and to engage in listening and augmenting exercises. Our moderators gave further explanations.

In a relaxed and open atmosphere, Susana Silvestre, in charge of participation projects at the Lisbon municipality and former head of the Lisbon Libraries network, gave a presentation on a best practice example of a participative process from the Lisbon public libraries network. This allowed a deeper approach to methods and tools that public libraries can successfully use to engage with different citizen groups and organisations.

We wrapped up the session with an exchange with the audience concluding that “Public libraries are neutral spaces where you can think and debate critically – our society needs spaces to explore thoughts and exchange with others”, to quote our speaker Susana from Lisbon.