On 30 October 2012, the “Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria: a Point to e-Inclusion” National Forum took place in Sofia.
The forum brought together more than 150 participants: representatives of public administration, NGOs, library and academic communities, business, media. The event was broadcast live online and was accessible to all 960 GLB target libraries and the interested public. A two-part video – part 1 and part 2 – is available on the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria web portal (only in Bulgarian language for now but it will be translated into English later).
The forum was conducted by Georgi Tenev, writer and public activist who took part in a number of well-known initiatives like “The Big Reading” and “The Library” on Bulgarian National TV.
Welcome addresses to forum participants were given by Arch. Georgi Stoev, Deputy Minister of Culture, Anna-Mari Vilamovska, Secretary of Health, Education and Culture at the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, and Snezhana Yaneva, Chair of the Bulgarian Library and Information Association Board. A welcome address was also sent by Daniela Petrova, Chair of the Parliamentary Culture, Civil Society and Media Committee.
A presentation of the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program’s results and social effect was delivered by Trendafil Meretev, GLB Program Manager. Main highlights included the partnership with various institutions targeted at changing first and foremost mindsets and attitudes toward libraries and the services they can provide to citizens. Trendafil Meretev pointed out that the free access to information is a power that makes people free and improves the quality of life in communities. Statistical data show that internet access is already the third most sought-after library service following a three-time increase as compared to 2010: 16% of Bulgarians use library internet. Library users’ interest in e-government services has grown: 27% look for services related to their social and health status, 15% are interested in filling in electronic tax returns and other e-documents, 14% search jobs online.
The forum hosted a discussion on the topic “Public Libraries: Partners of Public Institutions and the Third Sector”. Discussion participants included Maria Dimitrova, Director of the Information and EU Funds Management Systems Directorate at the Council of Ministers, Hristo Hristov, Director of Information Technology Directorate at the Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and Communications, Katya Ivkova, State Expert at the Ministry of Health, Dora Ganeva, General Director of Employment Services General Directorate of the Employment Agency, Rosen Simeonov, State Expert at the Employment Agency, Emilia Voynova, Department Head at Living Standards, Demographic Development, Policies and Strategies Directorate of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, and Emilia Milkova, Deputy Chair of the Bulgarian Library and Information Association Board.
Discussion participants shared the common view that Bulgaria’s institutions already acknowledge public libraries as partners and agents in the implementation of policies and the provision of e-government services. Public libraries and the free internet access make the information about public institutions’ initiatives and projects accessible to people in small settlements. The discussion also highlighted that digital inclusion is an element of the more large-scale process of social integration of various groups.
The participants shared good practices and partnerships at the local level: with the Regional Employment Agencies and the Employment Office Directorates – in the provision of information about job vacancies, training and retraining courses, employers, open calls under the Human Resources Development Operational Program; with the Regional Public Health Inspectorates – in the implementation of health related information campaigns; with the Regional Information Centers – in the provision of information about open calls for European funding, etc.
The second part of the forum was dedicated to the award of the prizes to the “Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria: a Point to e-Inclusion” competition finalists. The list of award winning libraries is available on the GLB Program web portal. Following the award giving ceremony, the forum was closed by Maria Zlatareva, Head of Office, UNDP Bulgaria, who congratulated forum participants on their committed work with local communities and on the upcoming Day of National Revival Leaders.