With a strong basis in the work of the cities libraries and librarians, the recently published programme for Strasbourg as World Book Capital City from 23 April 2024 is an exciting one, offering much not just to the city’s residents, but also to others interested in promoting books and reading locally.

The World Book Capital City Programme chooses one city a year to act a as a global champion for how to promote books and reading at the level of a town or city, but also to showcase how this can improve lives and lead to wider positive change.

Each year, the title moves around the world, with over 20 cities now having held the title, together representing a rich collection of experience. Cities take on the title on World Book and Copyright Day (23 April) and hold it until handing it on to the next holder. The current holder is Accra, Ghana.

IFLA is a member of the advisory committee for the Programme, alongside the International Publishers Association, International Authors Forum, and European and International Booksellers’ Federation.

When the choice was being made for 2024, the jury received a number of high-quality applications, including that of Strasbourg, which was ultimately chosen by the UNESCO Director General given the strength and equality of its bid.

We were therefore happy to be invited to a presentation of the programme for the year, alongside a wide range of stakeholders from the city and region.

With the city’s libraries having a central role, the calendar of events and activities is as exciting as it is dense, with a very strong focus on bringing books and reading to all parts of the community.

Particular highlights include the opening of a new library even ahead of the start of Strasbourg’s mandate, as well as investment in school libraries and digital libraries.

Crucially, the plans include extensive collaboration with a wide variety of services within local authorities, from education and health to international collaboration. There is also a welcome mobilisation across different cultural actors.

IFLA’s intervention underlined these points, looking forward to the evidence the year would bring of how culture and books can be key drivers of sustainable and inclusive development across the board. It was already clear that preparation for the year was allowing new connections to be made within the city that, hopefully, will long outlast the year itself.

We highlighted the hope that throughout the year, Strasbourg would have a spirit of evaluation and through this develop good practices that could help cities and communities everywhere improve their support for books and reading, and so for communities as a whole.

We therefore wish good luck and success to Accra in the final months of its mandate, and to Strasbourg as it prepares to take on the title of World Book Capital in April.