I’ve just arrived to Romania. Today, I had the chance to meet with nearly all the teams on the Biblionet staff. We’re 2 ½ years through the program – exactly half way – and after a long period spent setting up and refining systems, the program has really picked up momentum over the last year. There are currently more than 900 libraries in the Biblionet program, and we’ll hit 1000 towards the end of this year.
With such a critical mass of libraries with freshly trained librarians and providing internet access, there’s traction in the country to draw on these new resources at a national level. The Ministry of Agriculture is rolling out plans to train librarians in assisting farmers with signing up for farm subsidies through their online registration system (http://www.apia.org.ro/). Already this year, more than 17,000 farmers have used library internet facilities to access this benefit. The Ministry of Health is also starting to see libraries as partners for its health education efforts, including a series of roundtable discussions as part of their reproductive health campaign. A series of public discussions on underage drinking at libraries are being sponsored by the Ministry of Health and the Ursus brewery.
When we started planning Biblionet four years ago, one of our long-term indicators of success was for libraries to be seen more broadly as institutions for community development – not just depositories of books. It was difficult to get organizations beyond the library and education sphere to listen to us and to librarians. Now, halfway through the program, it’s become a reality. It’s no longer only the Ministry of Culture who’s concerned with libraries, they’re starting to become a nationally-recognized resource for development.