It’s often the computers and internet that Biblionet brings to libraries that gets the most attention. But these are only one component of the program. One of the things I’ve discovered on this trip is that it’s the program’s training that’s arguably had more of an impact than the internet. I witnessed several times on this trip how librarians – newly inspired by the modern library services training that accompanies entry to the program – have conceived both innovative and valuable projects and services upon returning to their libraries. And it’s these new projects that are changing community perceptions and expectations of libraries.
On Thursday, I was fortunate to have a chance to travel with Suceava county librarian Nicoleta Tipa to a local orphanage with which she’s been working. Nicoleta participated in Biblionet’s “Fundamentals of New Libraries Services” course, in which librarians are exposed to innovative services librarians around the world are introducing, and asked to conceive their own. Nicoleta returned with the idea to partner with the Hope Orphanage.
This local state-run orphanage hosts 47 children. As is often the case, children in such conditions suffer academically without the guidance and discipline a parent provides. Nicoleta organized a tutoring initiative for the children, who range from 7 to 19 years old, bringing them into the library to meet with local volunteer teachers matched according to needs. She communicated tirelessly over instant messenger to arrange schedules and find appropriate tutors. After a semester of the project, nearly all of the children showed academic improvement this past semester. When we visited yesterday to meet with the kids, we asked how many of them liked school more now after participating in the project – more than half raised their hands.
Nicoleta had identified a need and used her library’s position in the community and resources to meet it – this is exactly what Biblionet is about. Two things blew me away about this story – first, the teachers participating in the project are all full-time teachers – and yet they volunteer. Underpaid, underappreciated teachers were so inspired by Nicoleta that they give their time and energy freely. Second – all of the teachers, 50 of them in total – have renewed their commitment to participate when school starts up again in the fall. That in itself says volumes about the value and impact of this initiative.