Joanne Goebbels is pictured speaking at a Delano Live event in April 2019 when she was an LSAP candidate at the EP elections. Her appointment as the new director of the national library has sparked debate and accusations of nepotism.
Photo: Jan Hanrion/Maison Moderne
The director of the Athénée’s International Baccalaureate section will take over the national library on 3 July. But some commentators have accused the government of nepotism.
The government announced last Friday 24 April that Joanne Goebbels had been nominated to replace Monique Kieffer as the director of the Bibliothèque nationale du Luxembourg. Kieffer, who is retiring, has been the head of the library since 1999 and oversaw its move last year to its impressive purpose-built headquarters in Kirchberg.
Goebbels, who holds a master’s degree in modern literature and a diploma in comparative literature specializing in French literature from the Sorbonne-Paris IV, is currently vice principal of the Athénée high school and coordinator of its International Baccalaureate programme. She will be in charge of a team of 133 staff at the library, which houses some 1.8 million documents as well as an extensive and rapidly growing digital collection.
Goebbels has also stood as a candidate for the LSAP socialist party at 2018 parliamentary elections and at last year’s European Parliament elections. She is the daughter of former LSAP cabinet minister and MEP Robert Goebbels, who is currently president of the Freeport.
The problem, says journalist Luc Caregari in weekly newspaper Woxx (in French), is that Joanne Goebbels does not seem to fulfil many of the criteria set out in a public call for candidates when the position of BnL director was advertised. In particular, the newspaper points out that the successful candidate should have “previous experience in information sciences and document management” as well as “the professional experience required to integrate the potential of digital technologies into your action.” Woxx has suggested in the past that the BnL is “sorely lacking in digital know-how.” Caregari calls the nomination of Goebbels “scandalous”.
Luxemburger Wort journalist Diego Velazquez also launched a thread on Twitter (in Luxembourgish) in which he pointed out various reasons why the appointment is “problematic”. He suggests nepotism must have been at play because no other French teacher would have had a chance of landing the position. He also says that there is a general lack of expertise, headstrong and credibility at the head of Luxembourg’s cultural institutions. “Open criticism of ministers is rare. But an open society demands it,” Velazquez tweeted.
On the other hand, the Jonk BAD association of young librarians, archivists and documentalists on its Facebook page wished Goebbels a good start in her new post and hoped for “good cooperation”.
Culture minister Sam Tanson (Déi Gréng) said on RTL radio on Saturday that Goebbels had applied for the position in the appropriate manner and had been one of three candidates the ministry originally short-listed for interview. Tanson defended Goebbels’ leadership qualities, saying she was currently in charge of more people at the Athénée than she would be at the BnL. “She has a literary background, a love of books and good knowledge of the Luxembourg cultural scene. I am not worried.” Tanson said the library was very important and she would not risk appointing someone in whom she did not believe had the necessary competence. “So, I don’t comprehend the prattle that I saw on social media.”