On 3 May 2012, in Montana, the fourth regional thematic meeting for this year took place – a joint initiative of the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program and Geo Milev District Library in Montana.
The topic of the meeting “New Library Services” brought together representatives of libraries from Montana district participating in the program, local authorities, the Regional Public Health Inspectorate, the Regional Information Center, the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program.
Anelia Ivanova, Director of Geo Milev District Library, opened the meeting. She expressed her confidence in libraries’ potential to provide new services to the citizens. A congratulatory address by the Mayor of Montana, Mr. Zlatko Zhivkov, was delivered to the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program and Ms. Natalia Georgieva, Advocacy and PR Manager, in particular for their support for the promotion of the “Songs and Dances of My People” international contest.
The meeting highlighted libraries’ expanded opportunities for providing new services to the public. The ICT equipment and the training provided under the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program open new doors to the libraries and the public. Ms. Krasimira Kaneva, Regional Manager at the Program Management Unit, highlighted that we define as innovative the services that respond to citizens’ new needs, apply a new approach/method in the implementation of traditional library activities, provide access to new types of information previously inaccessible to library users, or attract new users previously unserved by the library. Priority areas for the development of innovative services include e-government, e-employment, e-health, e-inclusion, e-education, e-culture, and e-business.
The first presentation for the day was delivered by Ms. Sevda Parvanova, librarian at Razvitie 1928 Public Chitalishte in the village of Zamfirovo. She outlined the new opportunities and challenges for the library as part of the “glob@l family”. Ms. Parvanova shared that the library’s work with the Roma population in the district has helped its education and social integration. Sevda links the usage of library computers with requirements such as a certain level of literacy, culture and information interests which provokes citizens to further educate and inform themselves. The library already organizes health lectures, provides services to the business, e.g. access to various software products, legislation inquiries, etc. Users look for jobs online through the library. All these new services enhance the librarian’s authority and transform the library into a popular and preferred partner to local authorities, the business, NGOs and the public. At the same time, citizens are provided with a wide range of services which improve the quality of life throughout the district.
Ms. Krasimira Kaneva, Regional Manager at the Program Management Unit, delivered a presentation on the topic “Innovative Services and Good Practices under the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program”. She presented models of innovative library services from different countries participating in the program – Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Ukraine. Examples included submission of subsidy application forms by agricultural producers in Romania, legal advice and access to e-government services in Ukraine, training of unemployed Roma young people in online job application, and job intermediary services of the Employment Offices outsourced to Bulgarian libraries, the “Safe and Friendly Internet” campaign for children and young people in Lithuania, information and health lectures in Bulgarian libraries and many other examples of successful adoption of innovative services. Ms. Kaneva highlighted the assessment of the results of new library service adoption. She commented that demonstrating the effect is a key aspect since the stage of service development and helps considerably for its sustainable provision. It is always easier to find support for services that have a proven positive effect on the community and are actively sought by the public. At the same time, the library as an institution providing innovative services to the public enhances its own authority.
The group work received the highest evaluation score by attendees. The topic of the session was “Development of a New Library Service”. The participants were randomly divided into five groups. Following a brainstorming session, they selected five main target groups for the new services as follows:
Alex Zdravkova, Director of the Regional Information Center in Montana, and Asia Filipova, representative of the Regional Public Health Inspectorate in Montana, took an active part in the group work. Ms. Zdravkova took part in the group developing services for the business and presented the opportunities for partnership with the Regional Information Center in Montana aiming to support and inform citizens about opportunities provided by the EU funds. Ms. Filipova participated in the group developing a service targeted at children and youth, provided useful guidelines for creating a safe internet environment and declared the willingness of the Regional Public Health Inspectorate in Montana to support libraries across the district in their health-related endeavors.
The librarians, in turn, used their abundant practical experience, the new skills acquired from the training provided under the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program and their imagination and creativity to develop the new services. They came up with ideals like equal access to education for Roma youth facilitated by the library and the ICT, an information center for disabled people and many others. The group work showed that libraries are a valuable partner to a variety of target groups and has an enhanced capacity to respond to citizens’ needs.
Ms. Tania Todorova, librarian at Asen Yosifov 1926 Public Chitalishte in the village of Gabrovnitsa, delivered a presentation on the topic “The Library and People Aged 55+: Basic Computer and Internet Literacy Training”. Ms. Todorova shared that the library in the village of Gabrovnitsa has changed dramatically since its involvement in the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program. One part of the library has been refurbished to host the new computers and thus has become a modern computer room. Following the computer literacy training under the program, the librarian Tania Todorova acquired self-confidence and willingness to share what she had learned with the inhabitants of Gabrovnitsa. People aged 55+ show active interest in library computers. The digital divide is too big for them and they feel detached from the modern global world. To respond to this need, Tania organized basic computer literacy training for elderly people. For two days, two groups of four people each were set up (corresponding to the number of workstations in the room) and the two-month training was launched in two modules: work with computer and the Word text-processing program; and “Internet for Dummies”. Tania Todorova says: “The courses conducted to date in our library reconfirm my opinion that there is active interest in new information technology and that the library is the exact place where basic computer training for elderly people should take place”.
Ms. Tsvetanka Nikolova, teacher at 4th Primary School in Montana, presented the topic “Information Technology in Support of the Education Process”. Ms. Nikolova told participants about the partnership between her school, Geo Milev District Library, Montana Municipality and Turkish partners under the Comenius Program. The partnership has been implemented within the Lifelong Learning Program. The partner project aims to “support, effectively develop and integrate ICT in education which will improve the quality of education services”. The project was launched in August 2011 and is expected to end in June 2013. Ms. Nikolova highlighted the place of libraries in the education process targeted at young people. Libraries attract school goers for numerous reasons: abundant library stocks, modern equipment, high-speed internet connection and, last but not least, their art departments (more widely known as music departments with varied digital collections). Ms. Nikolova ended her presentation by sharing that “through analysis of the education systems and exchange of good practices in Bulgaria and Turkey, an opportunity will be created for a new perspective on education and accomplishment of its uniform European vision – without any ethnic, social and cultural differences”.
The last presentation for the day was delivered by Ms. Anelia Ivanova, Director of Geo Milev District Library in Montana. The topic of the presentation was “Modern Services in Geo Milev District Library: Good Practices, Challenges and Prospects”. Ms. Ivanova called the involvement of Geo Milev District Library in the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program “a glob@l chance” in pursuance of the library’s main mission to be “the most important public space for communication and community development”. Anelia Ivanova presented to the audience “the new reader” whose profile was outlined following a questionnaire survey conducted among young readers of Geo Milev District Library. “The new reader” wants to access library resources from their computers at home and when visiting the library, they need to be technically equipped with a PC or a laptop, mobile phone, internet connection, flash memory device, printer and copier. New readers’ priorities include “furniture of suitable sizes”, appropriate temperature, recreational activities like watching movies and listening to music, games and opportunities for communication with their peers. The young reader would like to be able to visit the library at least until 10 p.m. every day, including on weekends. To respond to the new expectations, the library should become a “community center” equipped with computers and internet access, online information, e-content of local significance, computer and information literacy training, opportunities for implementation of community based projects, work space and room for community events, ability to solve the needs of specific target groups (children, unemployed, immigrants, etc.), enjoyable physical environment, etc.
The analysis of participants’ feedback shows that the development of new library services is a priority for librarians and the shared good practices will be useful for their future activities. The provided group work and experience sharing opportunities received the highest evaluation score. Participants voiced their wish to take part in more similar meetings attended by representatives of institutions and organizations that could be libraries’ partners in the provision of modern services to the public.