On 3-4 September 2013, Albena Resort Complex hosted a local development forum on the topic “Innovative Public Library Services: in Support of Local Communities” organized by the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program, Dora Gabe District Library in Dobrich, Pencho Slaveykov District Library in Varna and Prof. Boyan Penev District Library in Razgrad. Forum participants included 100 library specialists from target libraries from the districts of Dobrich, Varna and Razgrad, representatives of the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program Management Unit (PMU), local authorities, partners. The meeting was opened by Nikolay Markov, Regional Manager at the PMU, and Natalia Georgieva, PR and Advocacy Manager at the PMU. A welcome address to participants was delivered by Dr. Emilia Milkova, Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program District Coordinator for Varna district, who wished them successful and fruitful work.
The library forum discussed topics prompted by the challenges facing modern libraries, the adoption of innovative e-services focusing on the needs of the various target groups of users. This debate was necessary for the successful adoption and provision of new library e-services both for the library community and for our partners and supporters. The meeting also presented good library practices in the provision of e-services – in the areas of labor marker, health, culture and education.
The meeting agenda included presentations of Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program target libraries from the districts of Varna, Dobrich and Razgrad on topics corresponding to the priorities of libraries from the three districts, presenting their information capacities and their most effective implementation in modern library service provision.
The first forum session started with a presentation by Natalia Georgieva from the PMU on the topic “Library e-Services: in Support of Local Community Development”. She provided statistical data on Bulgaria’s place in electronic inclusion and focused librarians’ and local authority representatives’ attention on libraries’ place and role in the building of information society.
Rositsa Pirinlieva, Head of the Humanitarian Activities Department of Provadia Municipality, delivered a welcome address to participants. She shared her satisfaction with the activities in favor of local communities implemented by the GLB target libraries in the municipality. Anelia Ninova, Senior Expert at the Labor Office in Varna, presented to participants the opportunities for cooperation between libraries and Labor Offices in the search of optimal opportunities for work on local communities’ employment and free services that can be provided to job seekers by both institutions. She also presented the EURES portal for job mobility offering up-to-date information about job vacancies and training opportunities across Europe.
The first session included the presentation “Informed and Healthy” by Nadya Tsaneva and Galya Raleva from Prof. Boyan Penev District Library in Razgrad. The library specialists shared information about the e-health information campaigns they organize, e.g. the consultation office at the library where, for an hour, a doctor conducts preventive health checkups for citizens. The presentation “Health Information at the Library” was delivered by Deria Hasanova from the library at Svetlina Public Chitalishte in the village of Belogradets, Varna district. She talked about the innovative services provided by the library to the community – free checkups by a cardiologist, lectures by a dentist, etc.
The second library forum session started with the presentation “The Modern Library: New Opportunities through New Technology” by Zhivka Karagyulieva, Chief Librarian at the library at Saglasie 1890 Public Chitalishte in the town of Kavarna, Dobrich district. She talked about the development of the library through the years and the impact of new technology on the different generations taking advantage of library services. The presentation “School at the Library” was delivered by Emine Hyuseinova, Librarian at Hristo Botev Public Chitalishte in the village of Sadovo, Varna district. She elaborated on how they attract children to the library and create reading habits among adolescents. The activities including reading, writing and dictation, retelling, grammar games stimulate reading, help eliminate illiteracy in the region and provoke thinking and information search skills. A model for successful partnership was presented by Svetlana Varbanova, Senior Teacher at Vasil Levski High School of Finance and Business in Dobrich. Her presentation “The Library in Favor of Education and Lifelong Learning” focused on the joint initiatives under national and international projects implemented by the high school and the library throughout the years, the research activities implemented by school goers using library resources. Violeta Dimitrova from Svetlina 1941 Public Chitalishte talked about the library in the town of General Toshevo, Dobrich district. She defined the library as a significant factor for the creation of an informed society and presented the activities implemented by the library to improve the local community’s life. She also highlighted the positive change in library services following the inclusion in the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program – an opinion expressed by forum participants from the three districts – Dobrich, Varna and Razgrad. The opportunities for accessing EU funding under the new Operational Programs for the period 2014–2020 were presented by Mihail Ivanov, Logistics and Information Expert at the District Info Point in Varna. The work meeting also provided an opportunity for library specialists to get familiar with the Bulgaria 2020 National Program and programs and projects funded by the Human Resources Development Operational Program whose promotion could be supported by libraries as key partners.
The third library forum session continued with the presentation “In the World of Fairy Tales” delivered by Minka Georgieva from Ilia Dobrev Public Chitalishte in the village of Manastir, Provadia municipality. She talked about the methods for early age inclusion of children into the world of books and developing their interest in reading.
The agenda of the two-day forum included group work activities for preparation of concept proposals on the adoption of new library e-services in support of local communities. The joint activities provoked ideas and opinions on the adoption of innovations in search of the successful library model and the strengthening of libraries as institutions that could change people’s lives in local communities, facilitate target libraries’ capacity for conducting advocacy campaigns and improve created and maintained partnerships with local authorities, educational, cultural institutions, business, regional structures of public administration: the Regional Employment Service Directorates, the Labor Offices, the Regional Health Inspectorates, etc.
Concept proposals were presented as follows: a sustainable e-employment service for provision of information, consultations and presentations by experts for unemployed young people; e-culture for presenting a specific ethnographic group, settlements’ living culture, promotion of crafts, increasing the number of tourists; development of the virtual reference service; e-education service “From School to Employment”, the library as an agent between education and business, creation of a virtual job intermediary service; teen culture – a package service for filling in gaps like the illiteracy caused by the communication with the computer mouse, creating musical and general culture among adolescents, prevention of unhealthy diets, etc.
The local development forum was closed by Natalia Georgieva and Nikolay Markov from the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program who wished participants success in their future work on meeting local communities’ information needs with the support of local authorities and library partners.
The analysis of participants’ feedback forms shows that the meeting was helpful to them. All of them think that the forum topic is current, timely and corresponding to the delivered presentations. Most participants evaluate positively the forum organization and conditions. Librarians comment that the good library practices included in the presentations and group work activities will help the adoption of new library e-services. They put a special focus on the usefulness of the presentations on the activities of their partners from the Labor Office Directorate in Varna, the District Info Point in Varna, Vasil Levski High School of Finance and Business in Dobrich. Our colleagues also express their satisfaction with the pleasant atmosphere of solidarity and cooperation, the forms of communication, work group activities enabling the exchange of ideas and sharing of success stories and problems in their work on provision of innovative services to local communities.