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Intercultural Library Cheb

Fraulein Hurrle

Abstract (English)

Reflecting the very special situation in the Czech city of Cheb, which is known for its large Vietnamese minority, the case study informs about the activities of the local Public Library. Based on the assumption that public libraries are predestined places for inter-cultural communication, this library seeks actively to target the Vietnamese and other migrant communities. In addition to this the library seeks to improve the knowledge of the migrant communities´ cultural background among the majority population.


Abstract (italiano)

Riflettendo la particolare situazione della città ceca di Cheb, conosciuta per la presenza di una numerosa minoranza vietnamita, il caso studio si sofferma in particolare sulle attività della locale Public Library. Partendo dal presupposto che le biblioteche pubbliche sono luoghi finalizzati alla comunicazione interculturale, questa biblioteca si impegna attivamente per le comunità vietnamite e di altri migranti. La biblioteca cerca inoltre di incrementare all'interno della popolazione locale la conoscenza del background culturale delle comunità di migranti.

1 The practice

1.1 Description of the project

Project Initiator:

Městská Knihovna Cheb (Municipal Library Cheb)
Obrněné brigády 18, 350 37 Cheb, Czech Republic


Contact person: Mag. Marie Mudrova (


  • To widen the knowledge of the majority population about the cultural background of the city’s ethnic minorities. This should help to fight stereotypes.
  • To reach out to the city’s new inhabitants (ethnic minorities) 
  • To create a space for inter-cultural exchange

Activities and Results:

Aiming to make the public library become a space for intercultural exchange and communication, the library targets both the majority population and the ethnic minorities (especially Vietnamese) living in the city.

In respect to the majority population, the library 

  • organises series of public lectures about the culture of each minority living in the city 
  • organises thematic exhibitions and related events


In regard to the minorities living in the city, the library

  • has begun to include books in Vietnamese language in the library’s stock 
  • invites members of all minorities living in the city as speakers and “living exhibits” to cultural events


1.2 Place and context

Despite its relatively small size, 35,000, and a rather remote geographical location the city of Cheb is today one of the Czech Republic’s most multicultural cities. This is mainly because of the presence of a large Vietnamese community, who are mostly involved in the trade of Asian-manufactured goods. They had come to Cheb because of the city’s proximity to Germany, from where most of the visitors to the large Vietnamese markets come from.

As described in greater detail in the Interculture Map background report, the Czech majority and the Vietnamese minority do co-exist in Cheb fairly harmoniously, but with very limited social interactions. The reasons for the lack of interactions are manifold. Most Vietnamese lack the language skills that are needed for complex communication. Due to their extreme workload, they also have only a little time to engage in social and cultural events. Yet the reasons can be found not only on the side of the minority. As socialist Czechoslovakia was a culturally relatively homogenous country with hardly any migrant communities, most inhabitants of Cheb had few experiences of interaction with people from other cultures before the arrival of the first Vietnamese in the 1980s. Knowing the city’s new Asian inhabitants almost only in the position of vendors on the markets, the majority population was inclined to develop stereotypes while knowing in fact very little about the Vietnamese community’s cultural background.

1.3 Target

Vietnamese minority, majority population, other ethnic minorities living in Cheb

1.4 Methodology

The project targets both the majority population and the ethnic minorities (especially Vietnamese) living in the city.

In respect to the majority population, the project methodology contains the following elements:

  • Organisation of a series of public lectures on the culture of each group of minorities living in the city . These lectures were prepared in cooperation with professor Hofman of the Cheb branch (faculty of economics) of Plzeň Zapadočeská Univerzita. Mr Hofman is a specialist on Asia and invested much time and enthusiasm into the co-operation with the Municipal Library. In principle, the library aims to inform the public about the culture of all ethnic and national minorities that can be found in Cheb. Both because of the strong presence of Vietnamese and (to a much smaller extend) Chinese migrants and due to the personal interest of Mr Hofman, the events organized by the library focused mainly on Asian countries. However, the library also organised lectures on the culture of Roma and about Africa. Some of the lectures were hold by renowned specialists; in other cases the library invited members of the ethnic communities to present information about their culture.
  • Organisation of thematic exhibitions and related events.
    Even though the library has limited space suitable for exhibitions, the library sought to combine public presentations with other events, such as openings of smaller exhibitions and / or the presentation of food from the presented country.

In regards to minorities living in the city, the project methodology included the following elements: 

  • The inclusion of books in Vietnamese language (donated by the Vietnamese embassy) into the library’s stock. The decision to include books in minority language into the libraries stock reflects the vision of the public library as a communication sphere for all inhabitants of the city. It is also a reaction to the above-mentioned observation that many of Cheb’s Vietnamese inhabitants lack the language skills that would be required to make use of the Czech holdings. At the same time, the books are an offer towards young Vietnamese who attend Czech schools and increasingly have problems with the native tongue of their parents.
  • The invitation of members of all minorities living in the city as speakers and “living exhibits” to lectures, exhibition openings and related cultural events.
    Due to the city’s modest seize and the Czech Republic’s relatively homogenous population, the library personal will usually learn soon if a new minority “appeared” in Cheb. Depending on the profession and social environment of the foreigners living in the city, the library would use different strategies to contact the individuals. In case of foreigners studying or teaching at the university, the contact was established through the university. In case of the Vietnamese minority, Vietnamese students studying at the university or in the city’s high school helped to establish contacts.

The library informs about its activities with usual information material (flyers, posters, press announcements). They are popular among the population. A large part of the audience attends the events regularly.

1.5 Collaborations and Networks

On the local level, the library co-operated closely with professor Hofman from the of the Cheb branch (faculty of economics) of Plzeň Zapadočeská Univerzita. The persons involved in the project initiatives greatly supported the founding of Cheb branches of the Czech-Vietnamese, Czech-Chinese, etc. societies, which in many cases acted as institutions to fundraise the (modest) financial resources that were needed for the programme realisation. In addition to this, the persons involved co-operated with various Czech academic institutions, NGOs, and the embassies of the migrants’ countries of origin to find interesting lecturers and content for the exhibitions. 

2 Hints for an evaluation

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