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IT programming is one of the most rapidly growing professions in Ukraine and in the world. Recognizing this reality, a patron of the Hersta Central Raion Library has offered free IT lessons to schoolchildren. The initiative, led by retired IT teacher Illya Avasyloae, seeks to create an IT school at the library where children can learn PHP, HTML, and CSS program coding.

The initiative started in September 2012, when Avasyloae volunteered to start offering free basic software lessons at the library on the weekends. Since then, the classes have become one of the most popular services of the Hersta Library.

Illya recognized the potential of the library as a place to host the IT school. After discussions with Olena Myhai, the library director, he received her full support for the project. “This project gave us an opportunity to convene school kids for fun and learning during their out-of-school time,” said Olena.

The courses are offered free of charge to the community and there are no prerequisites or required readings. The course it is aimed to attract children that are interested in learning PHP programming and provide them with a solid foundation in the PHP language through theory and practice.

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“We wanted to and get the children to the library to show them that computers are not just toys, but that they can create with them. Since the computers already have all the necessary software, the only thing that you really need is someone that tells them how to use them,” said Avasyloae.

Avasyloae and Myhai have great plans for the IT school. Along with the students, they plan to create a web portal for the town of Hertsa to feature content on local history, notable residents, and art. “My plan is to reach out to local authorities to gather support for the initiative. We can provide them the website for free if they support the IT school in other ways,” he mentioned.

IT skills are becoming increasing important in the era of digitalization and technology. Initiatives such as the Hertsa IT School are one of the many ways in which libraries are helping citizens develop valuable skills for the future.

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Namibia is a unique country. It is the second least densely populated country in the world, with 2.3 million people living in a space twice the size of Germany. Namibia is a very young country, having gained independence from South Africa in 1990 after years of apartheid repression. Despite having the highest GINI Coefficient in the world (70.3), the Government of Namibia spends 7% of its GDP on education.

This landscape positions the 74 community libraries of the country as a crucial link in empowering development. Currently, as part of a partnership with the Finnish Library Association called Libraries for Development, all libraries in the country are provided with computers and IT training for library staff. Additionally, A Millennium Challenge Account – Namibia project is funding the construction of three regional study and resource centers to serve as regional library hubs. These centers will provide over 50 PCs for public access, over 10 000 titles in the print collection, and a mobile library unit. Upon completion of the three pilot centers, the Namibia Ministry of Education has committed to building centers in each of the additional 10 regions of the country.

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IREX works as a key partner on the Millennium Challenge Account project. In September of 2012, IREX surveyed over 50% of the library staff in the country as part of an annual librarian summit. The goal of the survey was to determine the importance of IT services to Namibian library patrons, and to identify the key challenges facing library staff face in bringing technology to the population. 97% of respondents confirmed that their library had at least one computer for public access, indicating that basic IT infrastructure has reached to essentially every library in the country. 75% of respondents indicated that they are happy with the technology in their library, a fairly high satisfaction rate.

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In self-assessing the IT skills of the average library patron, Namibian librarians indicate that around 85% have basic IT skills, but less than 3% reach the intermediate level. Additionally, 92% of librarians surveyed indicated that IT services such as typing, Internet, and computer classes were the most requested services at their library. The survey highlighted that the majority of Namibian library staff have regular access to a computer, and overwhelmingly are happy with it. The staff sees IT as crucial to improving the services their libraries can offer to the community.

Investment in libraries, both from foreign NGOs and by domestic spending, will see the number of library staff increase by over 50% over the next two years. The number of public access computers will increase by 600%. If this growth is coupled with a corresponding increase in library staff IT training, Namibia’s libraries will be well positioned to offer modern services.

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