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Archive for the ‘Romania’ Category

The Cross-European Survey to Measure Users’ Perceptions of the Benefits of ICT in Public Libraries report presents data and analysis from 17 EU countries on the benefits of free access to ICTs in public libraries. The report also examines key similarities and differences in public perception of ICTs in public libraries across different EU member states.

Public Library in Tigveni, Argeş County, Romania

Public Library in Tigveni, Argeş County, Romania

The study examines how access to ICT through public libraries directly contributes to the objectives of the Europe 2020 growth strategy for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth, such as  improving access to information for employment, innovation, education opportunities, and social inclusion. EU member states are expected to show actionable steps towards meeting these objectives. This study shows how public libraries within the EU play a key role in meeting specific EU 2020 policy objectives.

From the report:

Public libraries across the European Union (EU) have long played an important role in communities by providing free access to information, guidance from trained librarians, and public meeting space. As meaningful participation in society increasingly requires access to digital information and resources, many public libraries in the EU have expanded their offerings to include access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) like computers and the Internet.

Romania was selected as one of the 17 countries in the study and produced a number of notable results. Biblionet staff in Romania played a key role in collecting and presenting the data for this report. In many areas, Romania produced promising results in public perception of ICT in public libraries, including:

  • Up to 70% of public libraries in Romania offer public access to computers and the internet

  • Over 75% of Romanian citizens (both users and non-users of public libraries) felt that libraries were either very effective, effective, or fairly effective at meeting the needs of their local community. The EU average is 64%

  • 64% of Romanian citizens felt that public libraries merit additional financial support

  • Nearly 40% of public access computing (PAC) users in Romanian public libraries had used library computers in the last 12 months to support some employment-related activity

  • 43% of PAC users in Romania had used library computers for civic engagement activities in the last 3 months, higher than the EU-wide average (24%)

For more findings on public libraries and ICT in Romania, check out the final country report. Complete datasets and country reports for the other participating countries are available online as well.

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In January 2011, Biblionet and the Romania’s Payment and Intervention Agency in Agriculture (APIA) started a partnership to facilitate access to agricultural subsidies through public libraries in the country. Biblionet affiliated libraries are equipped with modern computers that allow farmers to use the internet to access the forms.

How the program works?

Interested librarians consulted with the APIA and local mayors before implementing the service in the library. The support of local governments was essential for the success of the initiative because libraries needed to meet specific infrastructure requirements.

Mayors and the librarians agreed that providing this service to farmers would translate into cost-savings in terms of money and time since farmers wouldn’t need to travel to the capital to submit their paperwork. Librarian Markos Maria Imola explains: “Coming to the library they save time and money, everything is faster, more operative, people come when they can, if there are many people waiting, then they go to solve other issues and return afterwards.”

Each library tailored their program according to the needs of the local farmers. For example, in some cases, librarians had minimal interaction with the farmers that was limited to the promotion of the new services and scheduling the visits with APIA experts. In other cases, librarians were involved in every step of the process such as providing assistance for parcel digitization and classification of crops.

Image

Librarian assisting farmer with the online application

Goals and Benefits

The collaboration between APIA and Biblionet achieved a diverse set of goals by working with partners from the local community and the government. Among these were:

  • Facilitating the process of completing APIA applications
  • Providing the local public administration with the opportunity to help the farmers
  • Positioning the library as a strong community ally

In 2011, more than 58,500 farmers benefited from the program. Through the partnership with APIA, 1,041 librarians and 151 City Hall employees from 30 Romanian counties received training from APIA specialists in 2012. It is estimated that 83 million euros in funding were accessed by farmers with the help of librarians. Due to the successful pilot project, Biblionet decided to upgrade the “subsidies assistance program” into a standard service in all Biblionet-affiliated libraries in 2012. This extension of the program reached an additional 41,500 farmers and granted access to 63 million euros in subsidies.

The new service also had unexpected impacts at the library. For example, Librarian Gabriela Ticoiu of Halchiu from the Brasov County Library explains: “The APIA initiative also attracted new patrons to the library. Thanks to the communication efforts for APIA, other people came to the library and discovered other services such as computer training and free Internet access.”

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While it’s winter here in DC, reading about one of our favorite summer events is a happy reminder of the warmer months. Biblionet’s Anca Rapeanu and Cristina Vaileanu wrote this piece for the Latvian Librarian Association’s Youth Librarian blog explaining how the Summer School came about, what happens there, and what the librarians have accomplished so far. Thanks to LBB JSS for allowing us to excerpt it below.


Library Grows with me! Summer School for Young Romanian Librarians

The Summer School for Young Librarians is a joint initiative of the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) and the National Association of Librarians and Public Libraries in Romania (ANBPR), funded within the Biblionet Program. It started in 2010 and this year we organized the second edition.

Romanian new librarians, foto TIBRO (Tineri bibliotecari din România)

Creative Commons License

The aim of the Summer School is to identify young librarians from public libraries across Romania who are able and committed to the profession, and to encourage their involvement in the development of a modern public library system in Romania. We had 3 main objectives:

  • to encourage proactive and innovative initiatives of young professionals in public libraries;
  • to encourage young professionals to be active in professional associations;
  • to create a proper framework for networking and sharing, innovation and collaboration among young professionals.
But, before describing in more details why and how it was organized, we want to provide some context. While libraries around the world are reinventing themselves, in Romania many libraries are only now beginning this journey. Also, cooperation and collaboration among library professionals is an aim not yet achieved. The new professionals, after being exposed to obsolete LIS curricula, armed with very few practical applications, enter into hierarchical and rather conservative organizational cultures, where experimentation is rare and promotion very difficult. This debut can result in loosing motivation and changing professions.

It’s not easy being a librarian in Romania. Especially if you work in a public library! And especially if you are young – in spirit or body! Public libraries in Romania are facing a lot of challenges: lack of proper buildings, legal framework is sometimes a burden, resistance towards new technologies and innovative approaches among librarians and the list can goes on and on. But the most relevant in this context are related to hierarchical and conservative organizational cultures and resistance to change. Given all these challenges, you can imagine it’s quite difficult for young librarians (and not only for them!) to accommodate the profession. For a young professional being librarian is a difficult job, with many challenges related primarily to one’s own mentality, but also to the collective perception. One must overcome the fears about her/his professional abilities, then attempt, through continuous professional training and consistency to evolve.

To find out how the summer school addresses these issues, read the full post on the LBB JSS blog. 

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Green Library in Romania – Update!

Last summer, Ari wrote about the green library project currently underway in Romania, an initiative of Biblionet and the Romania Green Building Council. Here’s a lovely new video that documents the progress made on the building. The library isn’t quite finished – it’s slated to reopen in May 2012 – but it’s getting there!

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We’re excited that both our Romania and Ukraine teams will be presenting their work as part of the Library 2.011 Conference.

  • Cristina & Anca, with our partner Monica from the library association, will be presenting their work on supporting young librarian leaders in Romania.  (This will take place at 2AM in Romania – I hope those brave folks have plenty of coffee on hand.)
    UPDATE: the time of the session on library leaders has changed to 7PM Romania time.
  • Anna will be presenting on developing an online network of librarians in Ukraine.
I’m looking forward to sitting in on those sessions, as well as many of the other Library 2.011 events. Check the Library 2.011 website for details on how to join.

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Project manager Bogdan Draganescu shows us progress so far on the green library in Cacica.

A year ago, with Biblionet rolling through its first round of selection and enthusiasm steadily growing about libraries in Romania, we brainstormed about new partnerships we could seek out. The idea was to tie libraries into as many different networks as possible during the program, so that when it finished, libraries were seen throughout the country, from many different angles, as the indispensible resources they should be.

One of the ideas that came out of that session was tapping into the growing European emphasis on environmental sustainability and efficiency. We thought about trying to partner with builders on cheaply renovating a library into a “green library” – creating a replicable model for the field. Luckily, one of our staff – training manager Camelia Crisan – is active in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) community in Romania. At one event, she began talking with the head of Romania’s Green Building Council. From that discussion, emerged a competition for Romania’s first green library, which was conducted last year. The Council agreed to mobilize its members – contractors, construction material vendors, project managers – to donate the labor and supplies to renovate a library. Around 50 communities submitted applications to a contest which IREX facilitated, and the selection panel chose Cacica in Suceava county.

It took some time to get all of the plans and permits in order, but construction began this week. We visited the site, tucked away in a picturesque valley, where Bogdan Draganescu was overseeing local builders in carefully dismantling the 100-year-old library. Care was being taken to preserve all of the pieces –either for reuse, recycling, or processing according to strict environmental standards. For example, the library’s old hardwood floor was going to be removed and placed in the village’s school next door. The contractors were preparing the roof to install solar panels, as well as locally-sourced wooden shingles consistent with the building’s design. Drilling for a geothermal heating system was to begin soon. Much more complicated was removing the asbestos and finding a company who would dispose of it suitably – but Mr. Draganescu had recently identified such a company.

All old materials stripped from the building are being carefully sorted and reused or recycled.

The entire process will be documented in a video by Biblionet partner GMP, making the experience available as a model to the whole country. When completed, the building will be carbon neutral, and produce enough renewable energy to meet its demand. Mr. Draganescu thought that the building would be usable by the end of August, and construction completely finished by October.

It’s exciting for Biblionet to be a part of this initiative. We think it will play a part in transforming the image of libraries in the country into an institution that leads in innovation, and one that’s concerned with the next generation not only from an educational angle, but from a sustainability angle as well.

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The Hope orphanage in Suceava, a partner of Suceava county library.

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.

Suceava librarian Nicoleta Tipa with one of the children from 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.

Children from the Hope orphanage discuss their project with the Suceava library.

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