The Best Public Library in Greece



isogeio-bibliothiki-veroiaThe Veria Public Library in northern Greece is a model library that serves 61% of the city’s population and shows what can be done when the staff love their jobs.

Aspasia Tasiopoulou, the library’s public relations manager, says the Veria Public Library employs 21 people, has 30,000 members, lends 200,000 items per year, is part of Europeana and participates in all related EU programs. It adds continuously into its digital archives – now at 700,000 digital pages – while at the same time continuously tries to attract sponsors and donors. And this is extremely important since, as Tasiopoulou said, state funding barely covers the electricity bills alone.

What makes this library so successful is that it operates in order to serve people and cater to their 21st century needs. On a typical day, it is filled with people of all ages: Children playing with educational toys, others reading stories on computer screens, unemployed people creating their CVs or looking for job openings, young entrepreneurs learning how to use the internet to sell their products online, migrants looking for books in their language or chatting with their relatives online, pensioners trying to set up blogs, university students working on research projects.

The Veria Public Library lends more things than books and DVDs. Veria citizens can also borrow Kindle, music instruments, video camera, portable recording studio, 3D printer, Maker Space and more.

The current state of the Veria Public Library is the result of 25 years of work by previous director Yiannis Trochopoulos, who is now director of the National Library. The current director, Antonis Galitsios, continues in his steps.

Funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation “Future Library” program, the Veria library was modernized and expanded. Four years ago, it won the Bill and Melinda Gates Access to Learning Award (ATLA). The one-million-dollar award went to a new, 180 square-meter section on the first floor.

The “Future Library” project representative, Dimitris Protopsaltou, noted that very few young people were visiting the library in the past. It was a challenge, he said, but now the library attracts youngsters who in the past frequented internet cafes and bars.