21st November 2020

Network Group: Books & Audiences webinars

Books and Audiences Network Group (BANG!)

On 22 and 29 October the CENL (Conference of European National Libraries) Network group, Books and Audiences, organized two webinars for professionals working with book and literature exhibitions and collections. The webinars gathered together 125 participants from 15 countries, keen to discover some of the brightest book exhibitions projects in recent years and to share and discuss the current challenges in the sector caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both webinars were facilitated by Dr Diana Walters, an experienced consultant and project manager in the fields of museology and cultural heritage.


Webinar:  What to tell and how to tell it in a contemporary book exhibition? (22/10/20)

The first webinar addressed two questions pertinent to contemporary museums and exhibition practice; exhibition themes relevant to modern society and modern methods of exhibition project management.
Four national libraries shared their recent project experiences:

The British Library – Harry Potter: A History of Magic – an exhibition of real-world magical and historical artefacts presented alongside objects from the development of J. K. Rowling’s fictional Harry Potter series.

Royal Library of the Netherlands (KB) – (Under)exposed: slavery, colonialism and resistance – an experimental exhibition that includes an anthology of different voices, stories and personal perspectives on the themes of slavery, colonialism, suppression and resistance from the collections of the KB.

National Library of Scotland – Her Story: Exhibiting the female experience – This presentation drew on The National Library of Scotland’s recent exhibitions on the themes of menstruation, working women and female pioneers.

National Library of Latvia – Invisible Libraries – The National Library’s centenary exhibition dedicated to 14 of the NLL’s historical collections, which comprise the foundation of the Library’s collection and reflect on the multifaceted relations between the Latvian national collection and the heritage of the Baltic German community.

Each of the speakers explored themes that have particularly resonance in the current social and cultural climate. Each presentation demonstrated how book exhibitions can address topical questions and help the visitors get more informed and comfortable with them. Experimental approaches of exhibition project management, such as interdisciplinary collaborations and participatory community engagement, were explored as well.

The presentations were followed by a facilitated discussion between contributors and the audience. It raised such complex questions as change management in strong, traditional institutions, addressing silences and biases in the collections, and reaching out to new audiences.

The four keynote talks are now available on the YouTube channel of the network group.


Webinar:  The future for book exhibitions and their audiences (29/10/20)

During this webinar some of the findings of the survey, Book exhibitions and their audiences during COVID-19, (organized by Books and Audiences from 26 June to 15 August), were presented and discussed. The survey showed that book museums and exhibitions felt strongly that it was vital to  ensure that they were relevant to their audiences, particularly during the ‘lockdown’.  Greater provision of online content and stronger connections with the audiences via social media emerged as a key means of achieving this connection. But, probably the most important conclusion gained from the continued experience of pandemic is the importance of culture and heritage in addressing the questions of health and well-being and their therapeutic potency.

Book exhibition curators from the Royal Danish Library and the British Library gave talks on the experiences of their institutions during the Covid-19 confinement. Alexandra Kavanagh gave a detailed insight into the changes and measures taken in the exhibitions of the British Library during Covid-19, in order to ensure as safe and smooth visitors’ experience as possible.

Christina Back shared the very different approach of the National Library of Denmark, which, in The Nick Cave co-curated exhibition, ‘Stranger than Kindness’, chose to leave responsibility in the hands of visitors, for example, by providing extra hand sanitizers. Next to that, the creators of the exhibition explored the ways of offering an immersive experience to the visitors with the help of sound and scenography and thus activating other human senses.

An important feature of the webinar was discussions in the break-out rooms, where book exhibition professionals and practitioners shared some of the challenges, worries, successes and findings that emerged in striving to stay relevant, meaningful and accessible for their audiences in the pandemic climate.

Video recording of the three presentations are now available on the YouTube channel of the network group.

The CENL network group Books and Audiences thanks all the participants of the webinars for their attention and engagement, and especially for acknowledging the necessity and value of this kind of professional exchange. Similar meetings are planned to take place next year. The Network has already grown after the webinars. The Books and Audiences Network Group (BANG!) invites colleagues from across the world to share innovative book exhibition projects, research on literary exhibitions or themes for further discussions.

Contact information:
Inga Surgunte
National Library of Latvia
Permanent exhibition Book in Latvia
CENL network group Books and Audiences
+371 29953235




The Books and Audiences Network Group

The network consists of libraries with permanent exhibitions dedicated to book publishing, including the National Library of Latvia, the Royal Library of Belgium (KBR), the National Library of Germany (Museum of Books and Writing), the British Library, the Royal Library of the Netherlands, the National Library of Estonia, Marsh`s Library (Ireland), independent publisher Lodret Vandret (Denmark) and the University of Leicester, as well as a community of practice, including book artists, librarians, archivists and heritage professionals.

The task of the “Books and Audiences” network is to provide a platform to ensure regular exchanges of experiences within the book exhibition sector, to maintain interdisciplinary exchanges, and to explore and develop the capacity of book exhibitions to form long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with a diverse breath and range of audiences. The origins of this cooperation can be traced back to the seminar, “Book Exhibitions and Their Audiences” organized by the National Library of Latvia in 2018, which brought together book exhibition professionals from 13 countries for the first time. A review of the 2018 seminar can be found here:



Watch the “Book Exhibitions and Their Audiences” International Seminar Video. 

Contact information:

Inga Surgunte

National Library of Latvia

Permanent exhibition Book in Latvia

CENL network group Books and Audiences


+371 29953235


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