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Posts Tagged ‘community’

Library space design has been a challenge for many Ukrainian libraries. Often hosted in old buildings with uncomfortable furniture and no heat in winter, many libraries do not come across as cozy and welcoming spaces to their users. Frequently an open layout of shelves and tables is overlooked, which contributes to the “unwelcome” look of libraries filled with stacks of books instead of  space for users to socialize, hold meetings and serve as a “third space.” These issues are key factors affecting library visitation in Ukraine.

The librarians visited the new Philological Library at the Free University in Berlin.

Fortunately, many Ukrainian librarians recognize the importance of modern library space design, and Vinnytsia Regional Scientific Library is leading an initiative to address these challenges. The Designing for Harmony and Success project  (http://bit.ly/H5TO1G) is focused on the modernization of the library’s space through researching best international and Ukrainian practices, compiling the findings into a handbook, and offering training for Ukrainian librarians. To do this, the library has already forged partnerships with local designers, as well as the city public library in Berlin, Germany.

I had an opportunity to accompany a Learning Library project team headed by library director Natalya Morozova on a study trip to Germany on March 13-15, 2012. Taking advantage of the existing partnership with the Central City and Regional Library in Berlin (also known as ZLB, http://bit.ly/HfPmKu), the Ukrainian librarians traveled to Berlin to learn more about German libraries and their design, meet with leading library interior designers and architects to collect information and gain even more inspiration to implement innovative library space design methods back home and transform Ukrainian libraries into more vibrant, welcoming spaces for users.

Over three working days the group visited nine German libraries, including eight in the city of Berlin and one outside the city, in Eastern Germany, in a small town called Luckenwalde, where the library is located on the premises of a redesigned railway station: http://bit.ly/GGdjz7

Project team in Berlin Library

The Humboldt Box, part of the Humboldt Forum project, which brings together museums, Humboldt University, and the Central and Regional Library in Berlin.

One of the many highlights of the trip was visiting the public library in Adalbertstrasse in Berlin: http://bit.ly/GLq49W, which is located in a neighborhood populated by recent immigrants who often do not yet speak the language and need substantial support accessing information and overcoming a range of social challenges. The library has been recently renovated, and the architect who was responsible for this project, Ralf Fleckenstein, accompanied the group on the tour and shared design ideas, including materials, color scheme, furniture, and layout aimed at creating a welcoming space. The library served as an example of a multicultural center open for everyone, and showed us how it effectively responds to its users’ needs by providing a print collection in different languages, offering homework assistance, and holding a variety of community events. The team found this library especially interesting not only in terms of its design, but also in the services provided to the diverse local community.

The newly equipped public library in Adalbertstrasse in Berlin.

The Learning Library project team returned to Ukraine after brainstorming and identifying ways to adapt the experience to the Ukrainian context, and materials about German libraries will be included into their handbook  and training materials. One idea was to use mats on wide windowsills on the library’s top floor to attract more users with laptops to sit there and enjoy wi-fi access. Next, the team will look into changing the library floorplan to provide more space for social activities. The library will share its expertise with their colleagues at the Libraries and Community Development Fair, which will be held by Bibliomist and its partners on May 21-22, 2012 in Kyiv: http://bit.ly/GKz1wL More photos from the study trip are available on the Bibliomist Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/GLiz4e

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Back from sunny Crimea to rainy Kyiv now, but with great impressions of the Young Library Leaders’ School.

The last day of the School was dedicated to trainings on strategic planning / advocacy and monitoring and evaluation of library work. The librarians practiced their skills creating strategies for library development in small and large groups. One important point was defining advocacy targets: being very specific and not addressing a Ministry, for instance, with a particular request if decision makers of that concrete issue are regional or local politicians.

 

Topics discussed at the monitoring training were differences between monitoring and evaluation, criteria of efficient library work (combination of qualitative and quantitate indicators), and the importance of clear understanding of an evaluation scale.

At the closing session the librarians expressed their gratitude and stated that they were full of ideas and eagerness to start designing and implementing projects upon returning to their libraries. The first step will be holding a similar training on leadership, proposal writing, strategic planning, and advocacy in their respective libraries. Yaroslava Tytarenko, Bibliomist Capacity Development Coordinator, suggested to practice proposal writing skills and apply for Bibliomist Public Access Contest and Community Development Contest (CPC) and to keep in touch with the help of social networks.

And one of the long-term strategic goals defined by this group was to meet again at the next Young Library Leaders’ School. As we know, when leaders set a goal, they never give up!

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There were nearly 60 booths exhibiting innovative services at Ukrainian libraries at the recent Innovation Fair, hosted at Ukrainsky Dim in April. All of the participants had the opportunity to vote on their favorite booths, and a jury chose winners in six categories. One of those winners was Lviv Oblast Library for Children, with their bibliotherapy project called, “Ark.” I talked to the librarians from Lviv at the fair, and was impressed by their creativity and drive to showcase their exciting new services.

Lviv Children's Library Booth

Exhibit Booth for Lviv Chidren's Library

Bibliotherapy is based on using books and poetry to address issues in individual’s lives. In Lviv, the library wanted to make the library a welcoming place for children experiencing problems like anxiety, family issues or illness, or misunderstandings with friends. The library works closely with a local group home for children and Caritas, a charitable organization, to support these children through books, training on internet safety, and creating a place where they can feel safe and comforted.

The library holds weekly activities: children come for computer training, group discussions with a psychologist, and individual consulting. Seven kids come at a time, and while there they have the chance to write in a diary, which is read and commented on by a psychologist who volunteers his time so they get individual feedback. Librarians have worked with professor Bronislava Paruzel, a leading expert in the field, to learn about bibliotherapy. Now, a publishing house has become a partner for the project and is publishing a series of bibliotheraputic fairytales for children.

I was inspired by my conversations with these librarians and think this is a great example of how libraries can combine traditional services like reader’s advisory with modern needs for digital literacy while helping a vulnerable population. The motto of the project sums up their philosophy: The book will protect, the computer will help, the library will comfort.

Check out the Lviv Children’s Library at http://lodb.org.ua/

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Travelling internationally and running the gamut of visa regulations and officialdom is luckily something I’m quite used to, so I’m happy to report that I, the final IREX International Librarianship Fellow, have arrived safe and sound, albeit a week later than my US-based colleagues. Hitting the ground running is additionally something I regularly partake in, so within 24 hours of arrival I’d become a member of D.C. Public Libraries and also discovered the benefits of Dupont Circle Farmers Market – free leftover spinach pastries – thus, to coin an appropriate Americanism: Awesome!

Alongside my fellow Fellows (so to speak) Margaret and Meghan -and their individual research topics- I will be spending this summer investigating Romanian public libraries and the role of the public librarian, with the additional aim of unifying our respective research projects to negotiate this fascinating terrain of bordering territories: Ukraine and Romania, through the lens of public library development.

My personal public librarianship ethos is founded on a very simple principle: I see public libraries as the bedrock of world citizenship, and I’d like to posit that by nurturing and appropriately tending this organic mind-seed that we thereby nurture and tend ourselves. I’m inspired by the work of IREX in its many incarnations, and am very much looking forward to participating in evolving the work of the Global Libraries programme, which, at its end-user point, aims to “help all people lead healthy, productive lives.”[1] In particular, my research focuses around unfurling such aims in the context of public libraries and public librarians.

Arguably, at the core of what we mean when we cite social capital as part and parcel of civil society are the intangibles which make up a healthy, productive citizenry: trust, respect, sharing and reciprocity… All these, and more, are values which are fundamental to the library science domain and which we’ve been encouraged to accommodate via traditional forms of measures and analysis. How we tangibly assess and quantify such intangibles, is, of course, still part of an ongoing debate, and my research here at IREX will negotiate this metrical landscape. The work of the librarian scholar, S. R. Ranganathan, particularly informs my research and philosophies, and so Library Science Law #5, ‘The Library is a Growing Organism’ has influenced me to concentrate on investigating how the growth of a public library system in Romania may affect the development of professional networks, skill-sharing and community engagement initiatives by, between and among Romanian public librarians. I’m interested to see how growth-lines and growth-factors can be mapped in this process, and how this may help us understand the development of the public library system through the theory of organisms as living systems, with their own subsystems and processes which may be interdependent, in flux, and adaptive.

Library as cell-life: a cycle

Library as cell-life: a cycle by @librarian


[1] ‘Planning for impact, assessing for sustainability’, S. Fried, M. Kochanowicz, M. Chiranov, Performance Measurement and Metrics, Vol. 11 No. 1, 2010, pp. 56-74

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Libraries across the world are undergoing major transitions, and information professionals have been called upon to use strategies new and old to prove their relevance to their communities. The American Library Association will meet in Washington, D.C. next week, with the need for advocacy at the forefront of many discussions. On the eve of that conference, I’ve been thinking about the ways that partnerships can bolster both the position of the library and its ability to provide services to its community.

Sign "Open to Partnership"

flickr user @cquarles

Partnerships have been an integral part of the Community Participation Contest. Applicants are encouraged to find partners to work with, and new relationships have been forged at all stages of the process. Some projects, like “The 0 Kilometer of the Community” in Filiasi, collaborated with schools and cultural institutions. Others worked with NGOs, or founded their own organizations after the program was over. Both Infopitici in Simian and CLIO in Jurilovca (pdf) have generated new NGOs seeking to address the needs of their communities. How have these partnerships transformed the way that librarians think about their role, and their ability to reach out to a broader audience? What are the challenges and benefits of using this strategy in Romania?

These questions are part of what I’ll be researching this summer. Beth Hovius’ 2006 article, “Public Library Partnerships which Add Value to the Community: The Hamilton Public Library experience” has offered valuable insight into the many ways that partnerships can affect a library. Hovius reviews several projects that her Canadian library has done in collaboration with others, and points out lessons from each. Some of the points that stood out to me:

  • Librarians should recognize the value that they bring to the table. One of the benefits of working with others is that each person has different expertise. Highlighting the unique skills that the library can offer shows the natural role that the library can play in many community initiatives.
  • Communication is critical. The beginning of any partnership will come with a great deal of conversation about what each stakeholder can offer and expects. Ensuring that there is trust and a common language will prepare the partners for the hard work ahead.
  • Use the strengths in your community. There are many ideas that are too big to be taken on by one institution or person. Hamilton worked with the school board and local immigrant groups to complete a family literacy project that required the knowledge and skills of each group to succeed.

A successful partnership can bring new patrons, new ideas, and new visibility to a library. It can be an opportunity to showcase the many ways that libraries support literacy, learning, and access to information. It can also be an avenue for seeking funding and sustaining or re-imagining a project. The creativity that these collaborations generate, in both the participants and organizers, is inspirational. The DC Public Libraries project “Your Story has a Home Here” is an excellent example of the types of innovations that are possible, and reminds me of several of the CPC projects. I look forward to learning more about how this opportunity for outreach and cooperation has been realized in Romania.

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After a week of introductory meetings and the successful domestication of the copier, it is my pleasure to write my first blog entry and introduce my research.  I came to IREX as a International Librarianship Research Fellow intending to study the interaction of civil society development and public libraries in Ukraine in the Bibliomist program.  I originally conceptualized my research as an exploration of how individuals and groups in disparate places could use public access computers in libraries to connect, communicate, and mobilize in answer to shared needs.  In becoming better acquainted with the Bibliomist program and performing some preliminary research, I have become far more interested in the interaction between physical and virtual space in increasing communication within communities.

Toronto Reference Library, looking down at tables

Toronto Reference Library, looking down at tables (flickr user @granth)

For the past twenty years or so academic libraries in the United States have been responding to the increased presence of shared points of internet access with facilities known as Information Commons, Knowledge Commons, or Learning Commons.  Though the names vary, they all represent a pooling of information resources for shared access either in an entirely digital environment or in a physical facility.  Since my research will be focused on the physical Information Commons, this is what I will intend when I use this phrase.  But even the tangible Information Commons is a difficult concept to define.  Amongst other aspects, an Information Commons would include access to digital resources, access to print resources, availability of reference help, collaborative space, and amenity to a collaborative atmosphere.

Why would this concept from academic libraries be applicable to public libraries, let alone public libraries in Ukraine?  For one, I believe that the Information Commons as a place for academic research alone is thinking too narrowly.  Since the institution of public libraries in the United States, they have been seen as a protector of democracy through open access to information.  Adding elements of collaboration and quick availability of research instruction seem easy enough and equally in line with the vision of a public library.  Indeed, many public libraries have aspects of the Information Commons already in place, but would never think of drawing the connection to academic libraries. Despite this, very little has been written about introducing the concept to public libraries, including two interesting blog posts from the past three years.

I want to know if the principles behind the academic Information Commons can be brought to public libraries just beginning to integrate public technology access into the physical space of their libraries.  Is it reasonable or helpful to encourage the use of a portion of these public libraries as a gathering point for patrons to enter discussions with each other in their use of library resources?  What is the potential for moving from the one-way librarian-to-patron traditional exchange of information to a more dynamic patron-to-patron exchange of information?

While I am terribly excited about my project, I also recognize that it will likely undergo a number of changes throughout the summer.  I am excited about the unknown changes too.  For an interesting overview of the Information Commons I would highly suggest Donald Beagle’s work: “Conceptualizing an Information Commons.” Journal of Academic Librarianship. 25.2 (1999): 82-89. Additionally, I have found that the Toronto Public Library has an information commons, though, like most extant examples, it is on a far larger scale than anything that may be applicable to Ukrainian public libraries.

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I’m thinking about how MobileActive’s post Interactive Texts Involve You in Public Spaces applies to libraryland.

The post highlights three projects that invite observers and passers-by to stop and engage with the physical world by responding to a prompt via SMS. I particularly like the first highlighted project, Txtual Healing, which “is about contextualizing user generated story telling, whether in public space or as an indoor installation.” Speech bubbles are projected on a wall (or ceiling, or whatever), and people can send a text message that will be projected in a bubble. This was actually done in Romania back in 2007.

Think of this in a library – you could project it outside or inside the building, and you could come up with a different prompt every day or every week. “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for: _______.” “I wish everyone knew about _______.” “What’s your favorite book?” OK, the last one is cliched and obvious. But you get the idea – boundless possibilities.

There are so many reasons I love this – the library and patrons are having a conversation, patrons and other patrons are having conversations, and it draws the physical and virtual spaces closer together. This could easily be tied into the library’s twitter feed. Talk about hyper-local.

Anyone know of libraries working on projects that tie in the virtual and the actual? I know DOK has the AGORA project. What else is out there?

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