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The role of libraries in democratization of society on the example of right to free access to information


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Crnogorac, Vesna. (2016). The role of libraries in democratization of society on the example of right to free access to information. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Information Science
Department of Information Science > Chair of librarianship.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij informacijskih i komunikacijskih znanosti) [mentor Horvat, Aleksandra].

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The development of democracy and its core values in modern society has created a new environment in which public libraries receive a significant and active role, and thus a special social responsibility. This responsibility is more than ever in the long history of libraries lies in creating conditions for free access to sources of knowledge and information, regardless of the differences (ethnic, political, religious, ethical,). Library - by nature democratic institution - serves society by serving the individual -citizen that finds a place from which he/she can achieve freedom of expression and free access to information. Respect democratic values in the current information age is a historic moment in which the public library needs to redefine its role from traditional to contemporary. Simultaneously, a public library is a democratic place in the broadest meaning of the word, which implies the trust it has to gain with the people, like an institution with integrity. The citizens must trust their library in the context of privacy protection, too, which becomes the imperative of the digital era. The misuse of personal data, as well as of other data on the users of the library is a threat which has never before happened in the history. The importance of a well and in-good-time informed citizen as a key factor of a democratic society (only a well-informed citizen can make responsible decisions in his personal and the life of the whole community) makes a starting point of the idea of a modern library as "an approaching point for local services". In such a way the library creates its own identity in the 21st century as a socially responsible institution in which social justice is implemented. There are few immediate institutions in our history which serve a man as a place of knowledge, rest, curiosity, solace and sanctuary such is a public library. Is not the fact that people go to many American libraries in order to get a shelter from the cold, solitude or helplessness, and not just to get knowledge and read – the proof of its openness and the articulation of its responsible social role. A public library exists because of the citizens and just an attitude like that contributes the creation of responsible and effective library politics. In the first chapters of this paper a short account of the concept and the term of a public library, human rights, as well as the place of public libraries in the legal library systems of the Republic of Serbia are given. From the legal aspect, the institute of "free access to the information of public importance" is shown in detail, its short history and a momentary situation of the so called "FOI legislation" (Freedom of information laws) in the world and in the Republic of Serbia, and the connection between the civil rights in regulations and public libraries. The central part of this paper deals with the results of a survey carried out in coordinating public libraries in Serbia. It examines the readiness of these libraries to meet the new demands of their communities in domain of rights of the citizens to have free access to information, how high the level of transparency of particular information in the very libraries is and also the readiness of the librarians to meet the new role of the libraries in keeping with the systematic solutions on the state level. It also examines the level of being well-informed among the very librarians on the rights and obligations, as well as the capabilities of public libraries as public institutions which come out of current regulations and which refer to civil rights to free access to information of public interest, that is, to public documents. Starting with European Charter of Local Self-Government which recommends immediate participation of citizens in public life on the local level – like a way of implementing their right to take part in the process of governing and with the goal of creating a better life for common wealth – the public library grows into the place in which citizens can ask for most different pieces of information. On the other hand, the right to free access to information like the claims of a democratic society for active and responsible co-operation of a citizen in governing the local community – represents a specific chance for a public library to find and preserve its place in a society in which the libraries should not be necessarily present, since they finance themselves from public revenues. The following conclusion is drawn that the public libraries should not ignore the difficult social reality which is caused by transitional processes, nor the reform of the whole society which is marked as "painful" by both politicians and citizens. Accepting their new role that is offered in this paper, public libraries become transparent institutions so their place will be more visible and their support to democracy unambiguous. The importance of the principles of free access to information is for a long time recognized by worldwide library public gathered round IFLA, which accepted the fact that the library workers are responsible for giving and securing the flow of information in a society. In this paper the strong consciousness of international association IFLA is emphasized, as well as its permanent paying attention to a new information era, new digital laws, privacy, a transparency at work, multiculturalism and also respect of human rights in the libraries. Through a large number of comprehensive IFLA documents, the libraries and governments are called on the local and the state level to respect the values for which the international librarianship is standing for and which are democratic values, too. On the other hand, in the context of those societies in which the government still does not respect the principles of openness at work it is pointed to the corruption which appears as a very harmful phenomenon just in such societies. The results of this survey confirm the thesis of this paper that a public library can be transformed into the approaching station for the citizens for gaining advice, inquiries, instructions and other help in the process of realizing their right to free information as well and make much easier their right to be justly and in due time informed. Systematic elaboration of models that public libraries can apply to the responsible and relevant engagements in the everyday life of their community - is the topic of this paper. The main hypothesis is that the fast development of Information and Communication Technologies in the new digital era considerably influences the changes in the way the libraries work so that their classic services are not enough any more to satisfy all the needs of the 21st century citizens. The libraries in Serbia currently cannot play a committed role in democratization of the society, but if they accept the fact that their role should be restructured, i.e. redefined – they could. By changing their tasks and their social function, so the libraries in a modern democratic society become strong local community centres for which they were founded with an aim to improve the quality of informing the citizens and to help with their immediate participation in ruling their community – which presents the purpose of this survey. At the same time the importance of the new roles of librarians as an active representative of the broad range of citizens. Public Library as a ''access point'' for citizens in the area of freedom of information helps to achieve transparency and implicitly could affect the exercise of that right of free access to information of public importance. Finally, the corruption in the libraries, as well as the risks which lead to it in some segments of the library work, are mentioned here.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: public library, democratization, right to free access to information of public importance, transparency, public authority, corruption
Subjects: Information sciences > Librarianship
Departments: Department of Information Science
Department of Information Science > Chair of librarianship
Supervisor: Horvat, Aleksandra
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij informacijskih i komunikacijskih znanosti
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2017 13:36
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2017 13:36

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