Text of the Report
Additions and Discussion
Download: Report of the expert group (English text as PDF file)
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No one denies today that there is a considerable wealth of literary texts available. But wealth does not necessarily mean the same as literary variety. Rather, the question arises: How can one determine a qualitative diversity in this quantity of literature? A meaningful answer must differentiate the many forms of literature and consider the entire book or literature chain and the use of the literature.
A group of experts has discussed the situation with respect to the diversity of literary forms of expression, and has identified four areas of action for the current literature policy:
1. Differentiation of literary forms: the promotion of diversity must differentiate literary expression into genres, the target reader and translations. The literary forms may also mutually intermingle.
2. Literature chain: Measures taken to protect the diversity of cultural expression should be examined throughout the entire literature chain. This applies to: writers and their work(s), the conditions of production in various media (books and digital media), the dissemination, the interpretation (for example by artists and performers of literature) as well as the appreciation and reception of literature. It should be noted in this context that in the domestic book market less than twenty percent comes from Swiss production.
3. Orientation in appreciation and reception: literature needs public appreciation and reception. In order to support a differentiated perception in the mass of publications, to ensure access (through libraries, promotion of oral literature, dissemination of literature by different sensory channels and to facilitate new discoveries (pro specie rara), reviewing, selecting and disseminating mechanisms are needed, whereby the fundamental questions with respect to quality have to be addressed: what kind of diversity is or should be created?
4. Literary text in the digital world: literature is still primarily disseminated today through the media of the book. However, the production of books and the bulk of the work with respect to the text, the manipulation of the text, the communication about and making available the text, distributing and archiving it, mainly take place in digital form. Moreover, non-book forms of literary texts are increasingly changing the way we deal with literature and reading promotion. It is an open question as to where the digital evolution of literature will take us.
1. Problem areas
There are many players involved in the production and use of literature. These include: literature authors and their publics, publishers, booksellers, support groups (including the tertiary sector), literary criticism in the media, organizers, cultural institutions and schools, further education and institutions promoting reading, libraries, teaching institutions (clubs, agents, etc.), in addition to political and administrative bodies and the collecting societies.
The following problem areas were identified for players in the literary field with respect to the diversity of cultural expression:
- Lack of continuity for authors with respect to their economic security, the publisher and the supportive environment (for example, author coverage in the media);
- Inadequate acceptance of the author’s voice in society, low status of literature in schools and gaps in the promotion of reading;
- Lack of social relevance of the artistic quality in literature;
- Unforeseen new avenues of writing, as well as in reader response and behaviour as a result of the development of digital technologies and new text forms (SMS, chat, net literature, etc.);
- With respect to the digitalisation of texts, unpredictable consequences for their accessibility, marketing and archiving;
- Uncertain development regarding copyright in the electronic media;
- Changes in the publishing industry;
- The lack of a comprehensive literature policy in Switzerland;
- Importance of the Swiss-benchmark (“Swissness”).
2. We need a comprehensive Swiss literature policy!
Continuous development of a Swiss literature policy is required in order to promote the diversity of literature effectively. From this, the strategic objectives and framework for the sustainable development of literature can be formulated. This literature policy must be comprehensive, because it also relates to themes concerning social or financial issues, domestic and foreign policies, updating and development of history and reflection on the present. A review of cultural compatibility is indispensable in almost all policy areas.
In a territorial sense, ‘Swiss’ is understood to mean everything that is created within Swiss borders. Therefore, the fostering of the national languages belongs to the same diversity as the intercultural dialogue between different population groups, including those from immigrant backgrounds. In addition, it is important to have direct dialogue with neighbouring countries and the European Union. Literature can significantly contribute to mutual understanding within the country and abroad.
The components of a literature policy include, inter alia, equitable and efficient promotion of all players involved in the literature chain (authors, publishers, booksellers, literature projects in the digital domain as well as literary institutions and events). Suitable promotion of the digital literary world is also one of these components. Moreover, the support of institutions housing literary events and libraries is an essential component in a concise literature policy.
The group of experts recommends that the Confederation, cantons and municipalities should:
- Create a Swiss literature policy with instruments for the promotion of all elements in the literature chain.
- Have Switzerland join the European Cultural Programme, which among other aspects in the field of literature, would allow Swiss participation in the European Literature Prize.
- Encourage literary translations both between the national languages on the one hand, as well as from or to other languages.
- Encourage reading tours by Swiss authors abroad and foreign authors in Switzerland.
- Give authors opportunities to use studios in Switzerland and abroad.
- Work out a complete Swiss Memopolicy that includes the preservation and transmission of literary heritage.
- Monitor activities and projects with municipalities, cantons and – through the Federal Office of Culture – the Confederation in all policy areas for their cultural compatibility.
- Have the Federal Office of Statistics produce statistics annually to monitor the literary sector.
- Monitor digital development with respect to literature and have the Confederation adapt legal structures and principles in a timely and proactive manner in cooperation with specialized bodies.
- Promote oral literature (pre-school language and reading activities) as well as dissemination of literature through the various senses (visual, auditory and oral).
3. Priority areas for action
3.1. Diversity in the mass
The discussion of relevancy and quality in literature should be strengthened and tools developed to provide orientation in the mass of publications and in order to make diversity perceptible.
It is here that professionals can help, firstly, by advising the policy and promotional institutions in public and private hands on cultural issues and by assessing literature projects; the members of such bodies should be changed periodically.
Secondly, literary criticism provides orientation. This must be strengthened in all media, in print as in online, audio or visual media.
Finally, labelling systems could also be used to promote the awareness of diversity. Labels indicating quality can easily be developed, especially in the age of a global digital network.
Thematic pools can be created on the Internet to allow access to literature in a structured manner (in the style of the readme.cc project) and, in this way, provide a stimulating mix of editorial content, and expert and public opinions.
The group of experts recommends that:
- The Confederation should establish a permanent interdisciplinary Cultural Council as a consultative body for cultural policy issues.
- The cantons and municipalities should have an institutionalized interdisciplinary advisory board for cultural issues.
- The Confederation, cantons and municipalities should call on qualified working groups from the cultural sector with respect to specific questions and projects.
- The Confederation should strengthen the activities of the Schweizer Feuilleton-Dienst (SFD, a Swiss culture supplement agency) so that it can work more effectively throughout Switzerland, bypassing language barriers and providing the media with culturally critical articles..
- In cooperation with the regions, the Confederation should produce a cultural supplement with translations into the other national languages, and disseminate it to the media.
- The Confederation should support the development, commissioning and marketing of a broad network Internet platform covering the Swiss literary scene.
3.2 Literary education
Literature should be an integral part of school education. The educational mission should be so adjusted that literature is seen as valuable in itself and not only as a means to promote reading. Thus literature must necessarily be a component of universities teacher training and other educational training institutions.
Reading and literature must be given greater importance outside the classroom. There should be a campaign to raise awareness, educate parents with respect to reading promotion and thus accustom children to books before school age. Special projects should be supported to take literature and reading out of the classroom and into leisure.
The following measures should be implemented:
- The Federal Office for Culture should initiate literature campaigns for the general public, including poster campaigns, T-shirts with catchy slogans, labelling of hotels as «Bibliotels»(Book Hotels), and Book-Crossing-libraries in the waiting areas of railway stations and airports.
- The Confederation should buy a certain number of books from the publishers as a promotional measure and distribute them to the population in accordance with a concept to be developed.
- The Confederation should recognize literary education as an integral part of teaching at Universities of applied sciences and arts (e.g. ECTS points); the Cantons should work towards the recognition of literary education in universities of teacher training and other educational teacher training institutions.
- In addition to supporting school projects the Confederation, Cantons and municipalities should encourage extracurricular projects with respect to literature and reading education including parental education, such as the project «Buchstart» (first book) of Bibliomedia and the The Swiss Institute for Children’s and Youth Media SIKJM.
- The Confederation should support the Swiss Foundation of Publications for Young People SJW so that new editions can be produced in all national languages with literary content by contemporary authors.
- Cantons should encourage readings in schools by authors in their region.
- Cantons should actively support institutions engaged in educational or extracurricular reading promotion such as the organization Children’s and Youth Media KJM.
- Cantons should promote the Swiss reading forum with the online Internet platform
- www.literalitaet.ch that so far has the backing of ten Cantons and serves as an interface between reading research and reading promotion.
- Pupils should practice discussion using literary texts and write their own literary criticism of a text they have read and publish it on a website.
- Support should be given to lists of recommendations for orientation in the mass of published works that are created by professionals but also by pupils, and published on the Internet.
- Schools should also endeavour to participate in projects such as “school novels” specifically to promote literary writing.
- Students are invited to award a literary prize of their own.
Continuity is central to the creation and visualization of literature. Therefore all the elements of the literature chain need to be promoted, including translations. It plays an important role in the diversity of languages (including other common languages in Switzerland) in addition to the national languages.
With the Internet, new opportunities arise for the permeability of various languages so that Swiss literature may more easily penetrate into other cultures and languages.
The following actions are recommended:
- The Confederation should provide an optimal legal framework for comprehensive literature promotion including, inter alia, the fixed book prices law, lending right and library law.
- The Confederation should support nation-wide the UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day by, for example, declaring it a free reading day in Swiss schools.
- The Confederation should support the creation of a list of literary works worth translating, both for translations of Swiss literature into other languages as well as important world literature into the Swiss national languages.
- The Confederation should support initiatives for new forms of distribution for literature (e-books or print-on-demand) and help to make the literary heritage of Switzerland accessible while respecting the copyright.
- For their libraries, Cantons and municipalities should systematically acquire Swiss literature in all national languages, as well as in the so-called “fifth national language” (the languages of the immigrant populations), which can be done for example by automatic delivery of a certain percentage of new books to the libraries.
- Librarians should receive a literary education to enable them to be discerning in the mass of literary works published.
3.4. Framework conditions for writers
Most important of all, writers should have a favourable environment to create literature. This would cover all the issues related to a professional understanding of the work of writers and translators, for example, copyright law, social security or education and training.
The group of experts recommends that:
- The Confederation should create a favourable legal environment for the professional group of authors (professionals practising literary writing or translating), especially with respect to social security, taxation and intellectual property rights.
- The Confederation should provide tools that better coordinate the promotion of authors throughout Switzerland and make it more transparent and accessible, such as via a literary portal on the Internet.
- The Confederation should recognize qualified education and training institutes for authors, such as the Swiss Institute of Literature in Biel.
- In collaboration with the professional association (AdS Authors of Switzerland), the Confederation should develop guidelines intended for social services so that professionally practising authors are recognized as self-employed and their income classified accordingly.
- The Confederation, cantons and municipalities should train the employees of administrative departments so that they can develop an (expert) understanding of the specific occupational image of the author.
- The collecting society ProLitteris and other cultural organizations should proactively work for future regulations concerning digital rights and offer comprehensive information to authors.
Original text: German
Peter Gyr. Library agent, PHZ Lucerne, Media Education Centre (main activities: library counselling and reading promotion). firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles Lombard. Author. Vice-President of the Swiss Society of Authors, SSA. email@example.com
Beat Mazenauer. Independent writer and networker. firstname.lastname@example.org
Francesco Micieli. Author. President of Authors of Switzerland, AdS. email@example.com
Nicole Pfister Fetz (Commissioner). Managing director Authors of Switzerland AdS. firstname.lastname@example.org
Philippe Rahmy. Writer. email@example.com
Jacques Scherrer. Bookseller and publisher. Secretary General of the Swiss Association of Distributors, Publishers and Libraries. firstname.lastname@example.org
Ruth Schweikert. Writer. President of Suisseculture. email@example.com