15 December 2021

Prof. Dr. Renaldas Gudauskas: “Libraries Are the Leaders of Social Change”

The participation of the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania at Expo 2020 currently hosted by Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, has become one of the highlights of this global exhibition event. For the first time in the history of Lithuania, national written culture is being represented by a memory institution. The National Library, together with the project partners, is presenting an interactive story about Kristijonas Donelaitis (1714–1780), pioneer of Lithuanian fiction, and his most famous work The Seasons (Metai) at Expo 2020. The interactive story presented in a number of languages has been specially created for this exhibition.

The main unifying topic and motto of Expo 2020 is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”. For this reason, the intense world expo programme includes knowledge forums, thematic weeks, and meetings with internationally renowned experts of different fields. The organisers of the exhibition have set themselves an ambitious goal of presenting Expo 2020 Dubai’s Programme for People and Planet with a focus on the future.

Among the speakers at the discussion forum titled “Rethinking Education for a World of Change” held as part of the Knowledge and Learning Week taking place from 12 to 18 December was also Prof. Dr. Renaldas Gudauskas, Director General of the National Library of Lithuania.

During the discussion, seven guest speakers – well-known and recognised experts of their respective fields – shared their thoughts and ideas on how to provide young people with more opportunities to grow and thrive. The event included discussions on the current situation in education, challenges that have been brought about or exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, and the need to turn to smart technology in a modern world characterised by continuous change. The event participants also discussed the definitions of high-quality and inclusive education, the need to expand the limits of education, to improve professional training and qualification of education specialists as well as to ensure high-quality education. Other topics discussed include the issues concerning the status of teachers and the importance of and opportunities for lifelong learning.

The discussion forum saw the participation of the following speakers: J. E. Aymen Tawfeeq Almoayed, Minister of Youth and Sports Affairs of Bahrain; Denise Amyotte, President of Colleges and Institutes Canada; Prof. Dr. Renaldas Gudauskas, Director General of the National Library of Lithuania, member of the Executive Committee of UNESCO’s International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences (CIPSH) (2021–2024), and expert of the European Science Foundation; Dr. Colin Kennedy, Head of School of Innovation at Creative HQ in Wellington, New Zealand; Wendy Kopp, co-founder and CEO of Teach For All (US), a global foundation cultivating future leaders of the world; Adam Pensotti, co-creator of a large-scale social investment strategy based on sustainable development goals and supporting young people and co-creator of the Canon EMEA programme; Sir Anthony Seldon, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham (UK), one of Britain’s leading contemporary historians, educationalists and commentators and the author of 40 books.

During the forum, Prof. Dr. Renaldas Gudauskas shared the National Library’s experience concerning its transformation, discussed projects carried out and those in progress aimed at cultural education and bridging the digital divide. When discussing the need for the synergy between education and culture, he emphasised the importance of strategic knowledge management. He also pointed out that libraries, which are capable of creating a wide network of partners and which have all the required technological resources and human expertise at their disposal, should become the leaders of social change and ensure opportunities for lifelong education.

While discussing the National Library’s strategy aimed at becoming an integral part of the country’s progress in information policy, culture, education, science and economy, the Director General of the National Library also emphasised the library’s commitment to support UNESCO’s efforts in implementing the United Nations’ Agenda for Sustainable Development not only in the fields of culture, education and improvement of education, but also in dealing with global challenges in the protection of human rights, increasing social awareness or dilemmas concerning digital society. 

The Director General expressed his belief that the participation at Expo 2020 allowed the library to acquire invaluable experience of international cooperation. “The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions also touches upon the social value of the international dimension of cultural policies. Besides social value, the international dimension of culture offers both economic and diplomatic benefits. International cooperation creates conditions for presenting the country’s creative products and cultural services to new foreign audiences. The introduction of foreign projects or those created together with foreign partners helps to increase their audience domestically as well,” Prof. Dr. Renaldas Gudauskas said emphasizing the importance of inter-cultural capital when participating in international events.

During his stay at the United Arab Emirates, the Director General of the National Library will use this occasion to strengthen international cooperation and cultural diplomacy: he will pay an exclusive visit to the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates, and will also visit Qasr Al Watan Library, Sharjah Public Library (Abu Dhabi) and children’s library. A meeting will be held to discuss the opportunities of cooperation between the National Library of Lithuania and Dubai Library. On 18 December, an event will be held at Openarium, Lithuanian pavilion at Expo 2020, which will present strategic trajectories and activities of the National Library of Lithuania. Prof. Dr. R. Gudauskas will present the National Library as a modern and unique space open to creativity, sustainability, communal participation and innovation. All this will help to further increase the international audience’s awareness and understanding of our country’s scientific and cultural innovations and the potential of their application, as well as to ensure opportunities for international and cross-organisational cooperation.

The organisers of the Lithuanian pavilion at Expo 2020 and related events: the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania and Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania to the United Arab Emirates. The exhibition will take place until 31 March 2022.