The Austria Libraries, established since 1989 at currently 60 locations in 28 countries in Central and Eastern Europe, represent an innovative and flexible instrument of Austria’s international cultural policy. The libraries, which are operated in partnership with local institutions in the individual host countries (libraries and universities), are set up in cities with no other Austrian representation and provide information about Austrian culture (books, videos, newspapers, periodicals, access to online media) adapted to the respective location. The local partners bear most of the fixed costs. The Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs acts as “content provider” (basic stock of books, procurement budgets for annual updating, promoting familiarisation of local staff and Germanists with Austria by granting scholarships for stays in Austria and organising education and training seminars). All additional resources can hence be spent on realising various operative goals (events).
Professional consulting and servicing on the Austrian side is attended to by Austrian institutions with activities in this field, the Austrian Institute of East and Southeast European Studies (OSI) and the Österreichische Gesellschaft für Literatur (Austrian Literary Society), which implies that no separate parallel structures need to be built up by the Austrian Foreign Ministry. Thriving on a relatively low annual budget per library, this part of Austria’s international cultural activities can serve as an example of how a restricted volume of funds can be spent efficiently and purposefully by exploiting synergies and devising an appropriate approach to addressing people’s interest in Austria.
A medium-term development concept is being drawn up, which, besides evaluating their current activities, is to serve as a basis for the future enhancement of the libraries as well as the further expansion of the network.