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Benefits and Prospects for the Population of Tundzha Municipality through the Implementation of the Glob@L Libraries – Bulgaria Program 2009 – 2011

Tundzha municipality is situated in the southeast part of the Thracian valley and is centrally located in Yambol District. Its vast area (1,218.9 sq. km) makes it the largest municipality in the district and one of the biggest territories in the country. It borders on the municipalities of Yambol, Sliven, Straldzha, Nova Zagora, Topolovgrad, Elhovo, and Bolyarovo.
 
The municipality is unique in its administrative and territorial structure. Its administrative center is located in the town of Yambol (special statute) and serves 44 settlements with a total population of 25,088 people (2012) situated around the town. The longest distance from a settlement to the center is 45 km. Of the 109 municipalities in the district, Tundzha municipality includes the biggest number of towns and villages.
 
One of the main characteristics of the policies in Tundzha municipality is the continued pursuit of: improved living environment for its citizens through new investments in renovation and construction activities; enhanced social commitment by expanding the range of social services; implementation of new and beneficial policies for employment promotion and development of education, culture, sports, healthcare, municipal property management.
 
These commitments made before the municipality’s citizens to provide an improved, modernized and higher-quality educational and social environment, to ensure active and intensive public life are implemented due to the persistent and targeted work on mobilizing additional financial resources under the EU programs. The efforts of the municipality leadership in this direction focus on selection of qualified experts in project proposal design and implementation under different EU operational programs. This is proved by the fact that Tundzha municipality is included in the prestigious ranking of municipalities excelling in EU funds absorption – it ranks 8th of a total of 264 municipalities across the country.
 
EU funding under the Regional Development Operational Program and municipal budget funds were used to renovate more than half of the municipal chitalishte facilities. A total of 40 chitalishte organizations and 38 public libraries are active on the territory of the municipality. We can take responsibility in saying that Tundzha municipality is an outstanding example in the number of approved project proposals for opening information centers under the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program implemented with the financial support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Nine information centers in the chitalishte across the municipality were funded and equipped with modern computers and software under the three program stages. They provide free-of-charge access to its services and the internet.
 
The application procedure and the creation of the information centers took place with the direct involvement of Tundzha municipality. Municipal funds were used to renovate the premises, provide air conditioning, desks and chairs, security systems, internet connectivity as per the memoranda signed by the Ministry of Culture, the United Nations Development Program, the chitalishte and the municipality.
 
The information centers created under the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program fit in the context of the 2007 – 2013 Municipal Development Plan. With the support of the program, Tundzha municipality has managed to implement one of its key commitments to the local communities, i.e. to ensure improved and more adequate access to information and communication technology and resources.
 
The first information center under the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program was officially opened on 13 June 2011 in Svetlina Chitalishte in the village of Skalitsa. The information centers in the villages of Boyadzhik, Tenevo, Roza, Bezmer, Kabile, General Inzovo, Drazhevo and Chargan are also active in their work.
 
These new and innovative acquisitions open “another window to the world” for the inhabitants of the villages in Tundzha municipality which gives new meaning to the work of the library in conformity with the requirements of the dynamic times we live in. They have a new chance to find the shorter cut to new knowledge in “libraries without walls”. Opening these centers and providing modern computer equipment enables an easy and equal access to information, knowledge, communication, training and e-services for the public within the municipality through free access to the internet. This will also help improve the library services and enhance the awareness and quality of life of people living in the small settlements.
 
The leadership of Tundzha municipality extends its gratitude for the efforts, support and professionalism to the Program Management Unit which has helped in all the stages of implementation of this large-scale project in the field of culture. The provided computer equipment, the trained library and chitalishte staff, the created computer centers at the chitalishte libraries, the local community’s interest and support are all conditions for the sustainability of the program, adoption of new information services, closer interaction in the implementation of the e-government idea, actual provision of numerous administrative services to the public in smaller towns and villages with the help of the computer equipment and the qualified library staff. The newly opened staff positions which provide actual support to the chitalishte institutions and the municipal administration are of no less significance.