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Posts Tagged ‘Biblionet’

Financial literacy is becoming increasingly important not only for local business, but for average individuals and families that are deciding how to spend their income and manage their finances. However, lack of financial literacy is a latent social problem in Romania. The financial literacy score of the Romanian population is relatively low in comparison with other European countries. According to a study by the World Bank, the average financial literacy index (FLI) of Romanian citizens is 31 (on a scale between 0 and 100), which indicates a low level of financial literacy in the general population.

Furthermore, almost 65% of population struggle to manage day-to-day needs and commitments with an average household income per capita lower than 150 euro, and 61% live paycheck to paycheck. To improve this situation, it is necessary to provide the population with the necessary tools to increase their financial capacity to meet end meets.  To this end, Biblionet partnered with VISA Europe in 2012 to deliver financial literacy workshops through the MoneyIQ initiative at selected libraries in Romania.

The implementation of the project has been successful and has seen 111 librarians from 9 counties trained as trainers as of April 2013. Overall, since the start of the program 2,313 citizens have been trained in financial management through the MoneyIQ initiative. In the upcoming year, 10,000 citizens from all backgrounds, ages, and professions are expected to be trained through the initiative at local libraries.

The Mures County Library was one of the first libraries implementing the pilot project. During the first stages of the project, seven librarians were trained in financial literacy. After the training, librarians returned to their communities and partnered with banks and high schools to deliver the trainings. The training was not only targeted adult patrons, but also teenagers from local private and public schools.

Given the success of the first wave of trainings, 10 local librarians were selected to participate in the trainings. Some of these local librarians recognized the need to provide the financial training to citizens from rural areas that do not have access to library services and decided to offer these trainings to communities in the peripheries of Mures.

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Librarian shows patron some online resources on financial literacy

Money IQ:The MoneyIQ project is run by Visa Europe and the member banks from Romania, being implemented by Junior Achievement, with support from the Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Sports, the United Nations Development Program and the National Authority for Consumers’ Protection.

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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.

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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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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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Librarian Florina Barbu

Florina Barbu called the Tech Camp, "an eye opener."

The second day of Tech Camp Bucharest demonstrated the power of NGOs, librarians and technologists working together to help disadvantaged groups. Fourteen groups gathered together to find solutions to the issues selected the day before and created action plans to be implemented as soon as possible. Among the most debated topics were data collection about Roma (see here an interesting article by Eric Gundersen, one of the international trainers), solutions for reaching remote communities using a combination of mobile and radio technology, and the various tiers of involvement for teachers, librarians and NGOs in preventing students from dropping out of school.

The librarians’ experiences with Tech Camp are best described in the message below, sent by Florina Barbu of the Ciocanesti, Dambovita County library: “Because I took part in the Tech Camp, I discussed important issues with trainers, other librarians and NGOs dealing with the Roma and other disadvantaged groups. We shared our experiences working with the various groups in our communities, identified problems and tried to find solutions. We made friends and exchanged contacts to stay in touch and implement our plans. This was an eye-opener for me.”

IREX was happy to take part in the camp and looks forward to seeing the action plans come to life in the new year.

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TechCamp Bucharest (see Agenda here), started today at the Central University Library of Bucharest, focusing on connecting technologies with the Roma and other socio-economically disadvantaged communities across Romania to address social inclusion and civic engagement issues. The two-day event was initiated by the US State Department and the Romanian Embassy in Washington, DC, and gathered more than 100 participants from civil society groups to interact with local and international technology specialists, librarians, tech trainers working in the Biblionet program, American Corners staff, and a number of private sector and foundation representatives within Romania. Participants will receive hands-on training in a variety of areas ranging from online organizing, mapping, and social media use to effective use of mobile applications. As a result of TechCamp Bucharest, these civil society groups will be poised to use connective technologies to grow their networks, communicate more efficiently and be able to keep pace with the changing world.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Teodor Baconschi recognized the importance of social networks that, throughout the past couple of years, were used to organize protests and helped marginalized groups express their views. “Two billion people have Internet access,” Mr. Baconschi emphasized, “but this is still too little for the 7 billion people living on earth. The digital divide creates a duty for the more developed countries to help the less favored. This is why the European Union has a digital agenda.” The minister saluted the idea of organizing a Tech Camp for marginalized groups, and added that some Roma communities in Romania are closed and isolated, with the digital divide adding to their separation and experiences with discrimination.

US Ambassador Mark Gitenstein mentioned the projects supported by the embassy, especially Restart Romania, which was financed by TechSoup. “You have the talent,” the ambassador encouraged participants, “you have the demographics and problems to be solved. You have computers in libraries, so the Roma community will have access to information and a space to meet. And do work together offline as well as online.”

“My personal challenge is to have only one Romania, a digital Romania,” Minister of Communications Valerian Vreme told the audience, explaining that there are communities where access is poor, although Romania ranks among the first in the world in terms of Internet speed. “But we are on the way to covering the last ‘blank spots’ on the internet map. The ministry has an e-learning program, for the least technologically trained, to help e-inclusion and we allocated 55% more funds for research and development next year.”

The day continued with participants working in small groups with tech trainers, discussing the use of social networks, library resources and various applications to help build communities. We will be back tomorrow with solutions to some of the issues identified today and follow-up activities. Apart from providing trainers and inviting librarians to talk about their experience in working with Roma communities, IREX is organizing a competition for three grants of up to $2,000 to be given to partnerships between libraries and NGOs working to develop communities.

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