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Posts Tagged ‘librarians’

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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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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Galina Konashko, Director of Molodaya Gvardia Library talks to her colleagues in Kyrgyzstan

In January, we blogged  about IREX’s work in  supporting library development through the US Embassy funded Digital Youth Dialogue project in Kyrgyzstan (Working with Kyrgyz Libraries). It has been less than five months since three libraries in southern Kyrgyzstan received their first IT trainings and were connected to the internet but they are already breaking new ground by using those skills. IREX is always trying new ways to connect people who could learn from each other. An example of this kind of a connection is a recent Skype call that took place on April 21 between libraries in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. For 11 librarians from Kyrgyzstan this was their first international video-conference experience. They were connected with the director of Molodaya Gvardialibrary, Galina Konashko. Her library is one of the Global Libraries program grantees and she is always excited and eager to share their knowledge and experience with others. The head of Library & Informational Consortium of Kyrgyzstan, Rosa Sultangazieva also joined this call. This call proved to be helpful as libraries in Kyrgyzstan started applying some of the new knowledge they gained in their work:

Librarians in Jalal-abad talk to Galina Konashko, Director of Molodaya Gvardiya library in Kiev

  •  Galina Konashko addressed questions from her colleagues during the conference call and spoke about methods and activities they use to partner with different organization in the area of education and youth as well as electronic catalogs that library uses. Kyzyl-Kia and Jalalabat libraries were very much interested in developing their own electronic catalog. Skype call with Konashko and learning about Molodaya Gvaridya’s electronic catalogs inspired them to intensify their work on this and currently Jalalabat Library is looking for funding to purchase a server for cataloging.
  • Also, after talking to Konashko libraries started revising their reporting system and are now trying to transfer their reports into more attractive form and make it more visual using Power Point presentations. For example, the Jalalabat library staff will make their division report presentations at their May staff meeting in Power Point form.
  • Participants from Kyrgyzstan were able to visit Molodaya Gvardiya’s website which was useful to them as they are currently developing their own website. After careful review of Molodaya Gvardiya’s website, the library now plans to include a blogging space into their website in order to be able to better facilitate two-way communicate with their patrons.

Thanks to the internet connection, librarians in Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine can now communicate with their colleagues abroad and continue exchanging information and resources that will help make library services better and more relevant to their patrons.

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“I am a librarian”

As part of our work in Ukraine and Romania we hope to create new perceptions about what it means to do library work, both among librarians and the general population. As part of that effort, we’re highlighting some librarians who don’t fit in to the usual librarian stereotype. Take a look at this video about Nataliya Miroshnychenko, a librarian and avid blogger from Kherson, Ukraine.

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In Ukraine, we’ve been working with several methodologists at oblast libraries to understand how Ukrainian librarians collect data, and use that data within their libraries.  Although librarians in Ukraine are required to collect extensive data, we have found it’s often flawed, and the data itself is collated into reports, transmitted to the National Parliamentary Library, and promptly forgotten.

In February, I met with five methodologists for a workshop facilitated by Nancy Davenport of DCPL, to discuss potential research projects they will be implementing in their libraries.  One librarian, concerned by the low rate of teachers as library users, wanted to investigate why teachers don’t come to libraries.  To conduct the study, she was proposing interviewing the teachers who are already library users, and put the results of that research into a report delivered to the pedagogical institute.

Nancy and I worked with her to refine the idea – if teachers are not using the library enough, perhaps interviewing teachers who do not yet come to the library would be a better way to examine their reasons for non-usage, and there may be some better ways to reach out to teachers who are not frequent library visitors than writing a report for the pedagogical institute.

We recently received her revised research proposal.  In the revised version, she proposes two groups of teachers to interview: teachers who are currently library users to identify why they come to the library and what changes they would like to see, and teachers who do not come to the library to see why they don’t come to libraries and what services would be useful for them.  Once the research concludes, she plans to adjust library services based on the results, hold press conferences to cover the results, attend school meetings and parent-teacher conferences to talk about new services for teachers, and develop library advertisements to place in schools and with teachers.

Next week I’ll be travelling to Aarhus with the librarians, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what changes in approach they’ll see in Danish libraries!

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Some days it’s best to hear things straight from the source. We received the following letter from a librarian in rural Constanta County in Romania that shows just how much grassroots advocacy and outreach can accomplish. Read the entire letter:

My name is Garofita Gasca, and I am the librarian of Agigea, a small rural community in Constanta County. I am 50 years old, a Leo by sign, and my whole life revolves around books.

This is the true story of a rural librarian, with many accomplishments and challenges. It all started one mellow late summer day, as there are many by the Black Sea coast where I live. I became a librarian in the fall of 1990, and I didn’t realize then it was going to change my life. I knew very little about what a librarian did, but I liked reading and being informed about what was going on in the world.

My “library” was a 6′ x 6′ room in a basement. No heating, no toilet. But I had my ambition, so I bought gravel and cement and I asked my friends to help me, we poured concrete and made a floor for the library. At first, I had one shelf and one small table; then, books started to come from other libraries, so I had to learn how to organize them. I designed posters and ads to tell the people they had a new library in their village.

But I had my ambition, so I bought gravel and cement and I asked my friends to help me, we poured concrete and made a floor for the library.

It all came to life because people wanted to borrow books. The county library also helped, they brought me more and more books. Then, I started telling the mayor that the library was an important resource for his citizens and that I needed more books and new shelves. As we say, if a mayor pushes me out the door, I just go in back through the window, and always get what I know my readers want. So I got my new shelves, eight of them, but the room was too small. And there was no heat.

Nobody seemed to care about giving me a better room, but I decided I had to take one for the library, nonetheless. I brought rugs and curtains from home and turned the ugly room into a cozy and friendly space.

As luck would have it, the mayor changed, and the new one had no interest for the library. He wanted a pub instead. I went and told him my library was started from one book and I would fight him till kingdom come if he shuts it down. I would not let go. And I also took library science courses, got myself a certificate and came back to work with even more enthusiasm.

In 1996 I started a political career, because I felt that was the only way to achieve my goals. I had happy times and bad times as a local councilor. It took a while until I managed to get my position, but I did, eventually. As politics can be a tricky business, eventually I gave up my position.

In 1996 I started a political career, because I felt that was the only way to achieve my goals.

But I didn’t give up explaining to the local council why the library is important for the community. When another mayor was elected, I continued to fight for the library. Fortunately, he was a former teacher, so he understood the importance of books and gave me funds to buy them. I also got a new stove, but I had to chop wood for it and do the cleaning. The county library appreciated my work and asked me for information in various domains and the library became my life. I set up partnerships with the local schools and daycare centers and attracted school children to take part in cultural and historical contests.

When the local council would not approve the new library organizational chart, I went to the local council meeting, I listened to them all and then started talking. The county library had appreciated my work as “excellent” during the past 10 years, and I used that as support for my speech. I showed them library records and what users said about the library, that no community can survive without its culture. When I finished, all 15 councilors voted for the organizational chart. I continued to do my work with many books and users from all walks of life.

The new mayor moved the library in the same building with the city hall. After 19 years as a librarian, I finally have a toilet.

When the county library told me that I could be part of Biblionet and get free access to Internet for the public, I jumped at the opportunity. I talked to the mayor and he was in favor of the project, and so was the local council.

I was a bit scared that I would not be able to handle four computers, but I couldn’t let anyone be better at this than me! I knew this was the future for my library. I was selected for Biblionet in the first round and went to the training courses.

I was a bit scared that I would not be able to handle four computers, but I couldn’t let anyone be better at this than me! I knew this was the future for my library.

I loved the training environment. I learned so many new things … I still can’t believe I’m using a computer, because I had no clue before. But I wrote this letter on my own!

Biblionet gives anybody who comes to the library the chance to access information for free, using the internet provided by the library. Once again, change came my way and I embraced it. I got the new computers on November 30.

Dear librarians! You need to show everybody how strong we are. Go to council meetings, say what you need to say and explain the importance of a good library for your community!

My only fear is that I will have to retire someday and no longer have my books. I know where each of them is, on what shelf, with my eyes closed. And I can’t stop thinking that you should never forget to smile when users come to the library, that you should keep some candy at hand, for little children, and have the feeling that this is what you did for them, that you left something behind. What I leave behind is a library I started from one book and grew to 8,000 books, and a street named after me in Agigea, as a token of appreciation for my work in the community.

No bragging, just me, my library, my life …

Garofita Gasca, Librarian
Agigea Commune Library
Constanta County

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The US Embassy in Bucharest is currently sponsoring a US librarian, Susan Pieper, for a lecture circuit in Romania. Susan specializes in small and rural libraries, and is blogging about her experiences in Romania.

An excerpt:

We made it back just in time for me to begin the afternoon digital videoconference. The session was the same as the morning – but with different audiences. The afternoon groups were truly from rural and isolated small libraries. They were a wonderful audience. I brought “cat in the hat” hats and gave them away as door prizes. They had no clue as to what a “door prize” was. What fun! I taught them how to use the hat as a story time hat – that when the hat was on, they had license to be crazy and silly. It was great!

Lots of laughter, lots of photo ops, even some autographs… tons of fun. I learned so much from them. That although the funding does not exist, for many, the passion does. Some libraries are vibrant community centers with strong children’s programs – but it is the result of volunteers and the library staff painting and spending their own funds. Many libraries are providing bare minimum services. One even has the books behind glass – to keep them from getting dusty. There is a great amount of work to be done in Romania’s small public libraries – but great potential. The seeds are planted and visionary programs are being implemented. I have great confidence that the Romania people will enjoy a strong public library system in a matter of a few years.

Three cheers for the Department of  State for marshaling resources for Romania’s libraries. (Also, thanks to Susan for the very kind comments she made about the Biblionet staff she was gracious enough to meet with.)

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