The village of Nova Cherna is situated in northeast Bulgaria, on the Danube River, 40 km from Ruse in the direction of Silistra. Its population is 1,745 people. There is a school and a kindergarten in the village. The library at Vasil Yordanov Public Chitalishte was established in 1942 and in 1972 it moved to a new building which has been housing it to date. It joined the Glob@l family during the first stage of the program. The library is equipped with 6 workstations, a laptop, a multifunctional device and a projector with a screen. This is what Radka Ivanova, who dedicated more than 36 years of her life to the library, told me:
“My goal, as a library worker, is to attract more adult readers. I was trying to answer the questions “What will they find in the library to read? How can we make the library more attractive, more interesting, more friendly, how shall we use the volunteers’ skills and contribution to make people aware of what we have in our library?
Therefore, I started working with volunteers on specific issues and on specific occasions. The opportunities here are endless – from cleaning the space around the chitalishte where the library is located to engaging readers in participation in library initiatives. I also wanted to involve people who had never visited the library, these were people from ethnic groups, disabled people, pensioners and young people – all those who were not frequent library users.
We created the conditions for the voluntary activities to achieve our goals through voluntary participation in library work.
On a cold frosty day in January, the local writer Stoyanka Pavlova, who is also a teacher, entered the library. She came to collect information from the relatives of people perished in the wars in order to write a book about them and my role was to attract them as readers. Through this activity, I wanted to gather in the library people who tend to stay at home.
We shared the idea of visiting the elderly people. I had prepared a flyer including information about the books written by the local authors Stoyanka Pavlova and Penyo Vladimirov. It was a complex activity – the writer became a volunteer in the library. This gave both of us a great opportunity to talk to the elderly people and implement field work. We started visiting the homes of the residents of Nova Cherna. Walking along the streets and meeting the people, we gave them flyers. We interviewed some of them on the spot, because they were too old, and invited others to the library. Our meetings were personal and incredible and even more so were their stories.
To our surprise, readers who had never come to the library before started visiting it; there were also people who had not come for years. We also visited places where people gathered, such as the pensioner’s club. This was particularly important because in the streets and in the club we met people from different ethnic groups, elderly professionals and others who would not have come to the library on their own.
Our volunteers included a mother and a daughter of Roma origin who took part in the cleaning of the library. One of them has been working as a cleaning lady under a program in the chitalishte for several months now. They were among those who visited the library for the first time and now one of them is a regular reader and user.
Fortunately, children from different parts of the country come to our library while they spend their vacations with their grandparents. Children were also involved as volunteers. They were given the task to visit the homes of their grannies and their neighbors to read them short stories written by our local writers living in our village and our municipality. They brought them books which they had to return within a specified period. The young volunteers informed their friends and acquaintances and invited everyone they knew to visit the library and gave them the lists of books assigned for reading during the summer. This helped the librarian’s work since many new children came to the library. Their friends came to visit in order to be able to also take part in the library’s work. They were able to compile lists of books they had to read and we printed them out with our multifunctional device. Here they felt like proofreaders and compilers of the advisable lists. During our meetings with the volunteers, I told a good story about the work of the library. This had a very good effect on the young volunteers.
Another group of volunteers were the university students who helped elderly users find the online information they needed. They also had some ideas on how to help design a website of the library which is currently under construction.
The construction workers helped a lot for the improvement of the library’s image. The window frames in the reading rooms were replaced and terracotta tile flooring was installed in the reading room and in part in the book collection room.
There were also various cultural and educational events like literary readings, readings of nursery rhymes, dramatizations of fairy tales; the multimedia movies projection became a weekly event. At the end of the summer vacation, we organized a literary performance “A Summer in the Library” for our readers with the participation of the volunteers and their relatives. For their work, the chitalishte board awarded the volunteers with certificates designed with the ICT equipment. The collected funds enabled the young participants to visit the children’s department of the library in Tutrakan where they learned about its activities and the town’s landmarks.
Volunteers’ activities were covered by the municipal newspaper “Tutrakanski Glas” and on the Facebook page of the chitalishte.
Maintaining contact with volunteers is crucial. We provide an opportunity for those who live in other settlements and cannot continue working for us to take part in celebrations within the community: village celebrations, fairy tale balls, etc.
Volunteers create a positive public environment for library development and make the library the only attractive information spot in our village.
Thus, as a result of the numerous home visits, our library was visited by readers aged 60 – 80 years. They keep coming to the library today.
Following a total of 82 home visits, the library was visited by 52 people. 17 of them became our readers (all of them aged 60+). In the library, they were pleasantly surprised by the new equipment and the internet access. As a result of their interest, a training course was organized. Now, almost every day, they are in front of the computers reading the news in the world-wide web.
My “door-to-door” work is a tested method which I have been applying for a long time and which has always been effective.
The support of the volunteers for the library is a key to improved library performance. They can facilitate the establishment of contacts among people. Most importantly, volunteers can create a positive environment for the development of the library as a unique information center, thus transforming it into the most attractive place in the community.”