Oblige Dutch municipalities to maintain a fully equipped library: Council for Culture

In 16 of the 355 municipalities in the Netherlands, the public library does not function properly. Five municipalities no longer have a library at all, according to the Council for Culture, which called this a very worrying development. The Council advised the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science to oblige municipalities to make a fully equipped library available to its residents, NOS reports.

"Public libraries are important for knowledge transfer and must provide room for people to meet and discuss matters with each other," Council for Culture chairman Marijke van Hees said to the broadcaster. She called it terrible that 16 municipalities don't offer this opportunity to their residents. 

In its advice to the Ministry, the Council for Culture referred to a recent PISA study that showed that the reading skills of Dutch high school students are rapidly declining, and are currently worse than in neighboring countries. "Children have been shown to read better if they are encouraged to do so," Van Hees said to NOS. "Libraries play a major role in this."

Since the introduction of the Library Act in 2015, municipalities can decide for themselves how much money to push into libraries. "With austerity measures, cultural facilities such as libraries are the first to be considered," Van Hees said. And that is reflected in the figures. Compared to 2010, the subsidies to libraries decreased by 19 percent.

The Council for Culture advised the Ministry to put down in law that every municipality must have its own public library. "If that is practically not feasible, they need to work with a neighboring municipality so that all library functions remain publicly accessible at a reasonable distance."