5 questions answered: reinventing the role of libraries in Holocaust education

Even though many public institutions currently remain closed, new ideas and platforms are being launched in anticipation of libraries reopening. The International Library Platform is a new IHRA-supported project by Terraforming, intended to engage libraries and archives in Holocaust education. Read on to learn more about their novel approach and how you can get involved.


1) So, what is the role of this platform, and what's new about it?

The International Library Platform is all about reinventing the role of libraries when it comes to education about the Holocaust.

Libraries have the infrastructure, collections, and knowledgeable staff already in place. All these resources are ideal for identifying and safeguarding local Holocaust records and narratives and including them in educational efforts. Libraries are also great for exploring news way of using literature as a starting point for education about the Holocaust.

But librarians need the knowledge and training to be able to do this. That’s why this platform is designed to help create programs that empower librarians to become guides in the field of teaching and learning about the Holocaust. It’s high time that librarians and archivists had the opportunities for professional training in this field like teachers do!  

The key to do this is to connect existing library infrastructure with networks of specialists in Holocaust education. Both the infrastructure and expertise are already there, so the new idea is to put these two in contact with each other and to develop the necessary methodologies and tools.

2) Why do we need this International Library Platform?

Good question! Librarians have fantastic networks and resources at their disposal. They are experts in making information available. But there was no framework to help them engage in commemoration and teaching and learning about the Holocaust – until now.

In an age of digital transformation, libraries can play a huge role in shaping the future of education, remembrance, and research. And with post-truth narratives spreading in all countries, Holocaust denial and distortion are becoming a threat that libraries are ideally suited to combat.

Sadly, we must also prepare for a world without Holocaust survivors. That's why we need to collect and identify all the stories and resources we can before it is too late.

3) I’m a librarian/an archivist/a teacher trainer! How do I get involved?

You can get involved in three steps: First, read the project publication to learn more. Second, look for Holocaust-related literature, documents, and materials in your collections – and make sure to focus on local history. Finally, get in touch with the project team!

And remember: This platform is not just for big, regional or national libraries! Small libraries in local communities or schools have an equally important role to play by utilizing their specialist knowledge and resources about local narratives and experiences.

4) What are the next steps for the platform? Are events being planned to somehow bring people together in these extraordinary times?

They sure are! The next event that will focus on the International Library Platform will be the kickoff for the project “The Holocaust, European Values and Local History,” when a small group of experts will discuss how the project will move forward. This event will be part of a wider digital kickoff that you can follow on YouTube and Facebook from the comfort – and safety – of your home.

5) How is the IHRA involved in all this?

The International Library Platform for Education about the Holocaust was developed by the Serbia-based Terraforming in cooperation with several international organizations and experts. The IHRA contributed a good part of the funding for the platform and the publication, and in fact, the project was awarded the prestigious Yehuda Bauer Grant!

So make sure you apply for funding from the IHRA Grants if you have a great idea for a project that aims to either 1) safeguard the record of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma, 2) encourage international exchange of good practices to promote historically-informed policymaking, or 3) develop educational approaches.

The next round of applications will open on 15 September 2020.   


International Library Platform publication spread open on table top.
You can learn much more about the International Library Platform for Education about the Holocaust, and the people behind it, in the richly illustrated publication freely available for download on terraforming.org. Credit: Terraforming.


Top photo: Misko Stanisic (right) of Terraforming discusses the possibilities of the platform with a group of international experts. Credit: Terraforming.