Some days it’s best to hear things straight from the source. We received the following letter from a librarian in rural Constanta County in Romania that shows just how much grassroots advocacy and outreach can accomplish. Read the entire letter:
My name is Garofita Gasca, and I am the librarian of Agigea, a small rural community in Constanta County. I am 50 years old, a Leo by sign, and my whole life revolves around books.
This is the true story of a rural librarian, with many accomplishments and challenges. It all started one mellow late summer day, as there are many by the Black Sea coast where I live. I became a librarian in the fall of 1990, and I didn’t realize then it was going to change my life. I knew very little about what a librarian did, but I liked reading and being informed about what was going on in the world.
My “library” was a 6′ x 6′ room in a basement. No heating, no toilet. But I had my ambition, so I bought gravel and cement and I asked my friends to help me, we poured concrete and made a floor for the library. At first, I had one shelf and one small table; then, books started to come from other libraries, so I had to learn how to organize them. I designed posters and ads to tell the people they had a new library in their village.
But I had my ambition, so I bought gravel and cement and I asked my friends to help me, we poured concrete and made a floor for the library.
It all came to life because people wanted to borrow books. The county library also helped, they brought me more and more books. Then, I started telling the mayor that the library was an important resource for his citizens and that I needed more books and new shelves. As we say, if a mayor pushes me out the door, I just go in back through the window, and always get what I know my readers want. So I got my new shelves, eight of them, but the room was too small. And there was no heat.
Nobody seemed to care about giving me a better room, but I decided I had to take one for the library, nonetheless. I brought rugs and curtains from home and turned the ugly room into a cozy and friendly space.
As luck would have it, the mayor changed, and the new one had no interest for the library. He wanted a pub instead. I went and told him my library was started from one book and I would fight him till kingdom come if he shuts it down. I would not let go. And I also took library science courses, got myself a certificate and came back to work with even more enthusiasm.
In 1996 I started a political career, because I felt that was the only way to achieve my goals. I had happy times and bad times as a local councilor. It took a while until I managed to get my position, but I did, eventually. As politics can be a tricky business, eventually I gave up my position.
In 1996 I started a political career, because I felt that was the only way to achieve my goals.
But I didn’t give up explaining to the local council why the library is important for the community. When another mayor was elected, I continued to fight for the library. Fortunately, he was a former teacher, so he understood the importance of books and gave me funds to buy them. I also got a new stove, but I had to chop wood for it and do the cleaning. The county library appreciated my work and asked me for information in various domains and the library became my life. I set up partnerships with the local schools and daycare centers and attracted school children to take part in cultural and historical contests.
When the local council would not approve the new library organizational chart, I went to the local council meeting, I listened to them all and then started talking. The county library had appreciated my work as “excellent” during the past 10 years, and I used that as support for my speech. I showed them library records and what users said about the library, that no community can survive without its culture. When I finished, all 15 councilors voted for the organizational chart. I continued to do my work with many books and users from all walks of life.
The new mayor moved the library in the same building with the city hall. After 19 years as a librarian, I finally have a toilet.
When the county library told me that I could be part of Biblionet and get free access to Internet for the public, I jumped at the opportunity. I talked to the mayor and he was in favor of the project, and so was the local council.
I was a bit scared that I would not be able to handle four computers, but I couldn’t let anyone be better at this than me! I knew this was the future for my library. I was selected for Biblionet in the first round and went to the training courses.
I was a bit scared that I would not be able to handle four computers, but I couldn’t let anyone be better at this than me! I knew this was the future for my library.
I loved the training environment. I learned so many new things … I still can’t believe I’m using a computer, because I had no clue before. But I wrote this letter on my own!
Biblionet gives anybody who comes to the library the chance to access information for free, using the internet provided by the library. Once again, change came my way and I embraced it. I got the new computers on November 30.
Dear librarians! You need to show everybody how strong we are. Go to council meetings, say what you need to say and explain the importance of a good library for your community!
My only fear is that I will have to retire someday and no longer have my books. I know where each of them is, on what shelf, with my eyes closed. And I can’t stop thinking that you should never forget to smile when users come to the library, that you should keep some candy at hand, for little children, and have the feeling that this is what you did for them, that you left something behind. What I leave behind is a library I started from one book and grew to 8,000 books, and a street named after me in Agigea, as a token of appreciation for my work in the community.
No bragging, just me, my library, my life …
Garofita Gasca, Librarian
Agigea Commune Library