Cycling for Libraries – what it is

Established in 2011, Cycling for libraries is an international cycling conference for librarians and library enthusiasts. It aims to promote libraries and to raise awareness of the services and resources that libraries offer to their audiences. In France and in French-speaking countries, this project is called Cyclo-biblio.

Cycling for libraries work in collaboration with local library associations and international organizations such as IFLA and EBLIDA. Cycling for libraries is proud to collaborate with major actors in the field of European libraries.

Cycling for libraries is both a politically and economically independent conference and a bicycle tour. It contributes to the physical and mental well-being of library professionals, promotes networking at both local and international levels, and above all, emphasizes the crucial role of libraries for society and for intellectual and scientific education in general. Cycling for libraries also supports environmental values and a green lifestyle. Cycling for libraries is directly inspired by the many values of librarianship. These values include openness, freedom of access to information, lifelong learning and innovation. Librarianship is also by its very nature humanistic, internationalist, cross-border and practical.

Cycling for libraries a pioneer in modern networking for professionals

Cycling, especially long-distance cycling, surpasses golf as the preferred means of networking for today’s professionals according to The Economist in its April 26, 2013 issue. There are several reasons for this. First, cycling as a group fosters team spirit while golf is more competitive. Long-distance riding also relieves stress while focusing on the essentials. By riding in a group, cyclists work as a team, taking turns to ride, which requires more work but benefits everyone, according to The Economist.


Cycling for libraries is a professional event for everyone who works for libraries – as well as all library enthusiasts, of course. So, naturally, the content is about libraries, librarianship, and everything in between. As a traveling conference, Cycling for libraries offers visits to local libraries and meetings with colleagues who work there. Large and small libraries alike are on the tour program.
Cycling for libraries is an “unconference”, which means that PowerPoint presentations are not on the agenda, nor are lectures in a lecture hall. Instead, there will be workshops, debates, and demonstrations to see, touch, hear, and engage in a more meaningful way. The program is not dictated by the organizers, the content is determined by the participants themselves. Through the bike ride, it’s a discovery of the real environment in which libraries and librarians operate. And, yes… there will be biking.
How did this all start?
It all started more than 10 years ago with a dream, to cycle around continental Europe and discuss, informally and in good company, issues related to libraries and their future. At the EBLIDA conference in Helsinki in 2010, a group of enthusiastic Finnish librarians became interested in the idea and decided to get involved in this adventure. The goal was to organize an unconference while exploring how librarians can cope with a 650 km challenge. They wanted to believe that a collective journey over such a long distance was a kind of metaphor for the situation and challenges facing libraries today. How the participating librarians would survive would demonstrate their ability to deal with challenges, not just professional ones. The organizers consider that digital technology is certainly a challenge to the survival of libraries and their services. Libraries will not be able to survive without major changes. But who will take up the challenge of change? That’s what they wanted to know. And that’s what they continue to look for, as the challenges become more and more concrete…
The first real kick-off for the Cycling for libraries group came during the 2010 IFLA Congress in Gothenburg, Sweden. The rough idea of a cycling unconference of librarians was quickly put into motion, which had been a dream until then. They organized a 70 km test ride from Borås to Gothenburg and the next few days they presented the idea without posters, booths or PowerPoint, just talking to people and handing out 800 cataloging card-like cards to IFLA visitors. It was fun to do and, in fact, the method proved to be a great way to get inside the international IFLA congress community.
A few months later they did their first bike route reconnaissance in Denmark and Germany. They rented cars in Copenhagen and Rostock to be able to assess the bike paths and options in case they needed to change the route. They flew to meet with people from the libraries and library organizations to present the project. They needed to know each other well to complete the project. They were happy – and they are always happy when they meet their library colleagues – to discover that the professional and political aspects of Cycling for libraries as well as its potential in terms of communication were important to all of them. The warm welcome from their partners is always a real boost and one of the main reasons they organize these Cycling for libraries events.

From the beginning, Cycling for libraries wanted to take advantage of the new social media and communication tools for the organization of the event. Every year the organizing group is composed of Finnish librarians on the one hand and organizers from the countries where the congress is located on the other. They are really in the field of cooperation and they gladly accept the fact that most of their partners are abroad. Although Cycling for libraries is much more about face-to-face interaction and interesting meetings, especially in terms of participants, the web plays a key role in organizing and communicating the event worldwide for all those who want to keep libraries alive and functioning.

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