[ July 10, 2022 by Ioana Avadanei 0 Comments ]

Developing new library services and discovering new competencies in time of a refugee crisis

Libraries are not only open to everyone, but they also have the right approach when it comes to difficult situations in accommodating their communities. The Dimitrie Cantemir District Library from Ungheni can be a good example when we have to project the idea of how librarians can raise awareness of their competencies and ability to adapt, adjust and fix a new situation. This article is about how this library from Ungheni manages to accommodate, from an emotional perspective, Ukrainian refugees and how librarians understood that their role is essential in actively participating to a new type of approach.

The Dimitrie Cantemir District Public Library from Ungheni, Republic of Moldova was founded in 1946. Since it initially starts as a small library in a house with 200 books, the library passed a lot of changes until in 2004 it received the status of District Public Library, which grants consultations to the 58 libraries in the district.


As a coordinator of libraries in district Ungheni, the Dimitrie Cantemir District Public Library has a good practice in organizing various types of activities in different thematic areas and also to be a responsive cultural and educational institution to community needs.  The concept of lifelong learning life was obvious and took shape among women at the library “Dimitrie Cantemir” namely in the pandemic period when the library team launched the “Women Can Succeed at Home” campaign, which purpose of supporting women negatively affected by COVID-19 pandemic.

The main areas of key competencies that have been developed in this campaign were social and civic competencies – organizing the round table The woman – the promoter of change in the community. Within these activities, the group of women participating in the activity, by analyzing a case study, identified the problems in the community, prioritized them, and proposed solutions. These women in turn trained other women, associating in initiative groups, which have tried to promote their ideas. Another competence stands for digital skills – organization IT workshop for women, which was capitalized on the IT skills that help us save time on services providing secure information. The participants got to know and explore the instruments to assess the level of security of the sites, they knew the rules of using the card for secure online payments. Knowledge of the https: // bancameaplatform.md / for opening a bank card, banking news, and other information disseminated during the workshop were beneficial for participating women. Also, the project focused on study skills according to the principle “Learning to learn” in a public discussion. An original approach was on new media, with an aim of creating an opportunity in personal and professional development. In the activity, participants became aware of how the media shapes the personality and how can a conscious citizen and curious to do a fact-check-in (checking the credibility/authenticity of the information published in the media), not to assist passively in community life, but for to change things in his country. Spirit of initiative and entrepreneurship it was another competence, during the project it was a workshop titled From hobby to business. We buy and sell securely online. In this activity, it was discussed and analyzed in detail how women’s hobbies can bring income and more women were encouraged to sell products safely in an online environment. Cultural awareness and expression artistic – public cafe Successful women, role models. As part of the activity, there were discussions on the topic of psychological well-being and self-respect and defined the concept of a successful woman.


Another important project the Dimitrie Cantemir District Library from Ungheni implemented was Libraries of democratic information and civic involvement spaces, financed by the European Union and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Republic of Moldova, implemented by the Baştina Frăsînești Public Association, within the grant program Local civil society development in Moldova in partnership with the Association for Politics External EPA.


Also, among the main projects implemented in 2021 we can consider  “Sustainable democracy through electoral education” – information and electoral education of young people in Ungheni district. Activity within the small grants program “Libraries – voter education points”, offered by CICDE, financially supported by UNDP Moldova and USAID Moldova. The second is the project “We write responsibly, we act for the community” – the development of community journalism and the creation of a consolidated media voice, by increasing the level of media education. Project funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, implemented by the “Baștina Frăsinești” Association. 


Many of the libraries’ projects are focusing on encouraging and promoting active citizenship among women in rural areas. Activity within the project “Moldova against all forms of discrimination” implemented by ERIM, and funded by the EU and co-financed by DRL for example, were awarded at national level for civic engagement.


But the usual structure of events was disturbed, as for other libraries, when the war started in Ukraine. The city of Ungheni was suddenly a safe space for lots of Ukrainians, for some just for a while, because they were in transit, and for others, at the time being is still a safe place and a secondary home. 


So, given that the municipality of Ungheni hosted Ukrainian refugees, the library “Dimitrie Cantemir”, created the necessary conditions to make available to Ukrainian refugee free access to the Internet and the press. This was the first step in assuming the role of an open window to democracy and freedom. The basic function of libraries is, in fact, informational. Both community members and refugees, whether they have applied for asylum or are on their way to other destinations, need to have access to information from credible sources, and librarians can help us find the right information and fight the false news. Refugees can come to the library, where they have access to the Internet, free WI-FI, and the press, from which they can get information, and know what is happening, as long as they are not in their country.


Secondary was the assistance and the services provided in order to feel welcome and to forget or just to leave aside the horrible trauma they have gone through.   For children, librarians prepared personalized spaces with board games, coloring books, but also artistic literature have been arranged (the books were in the Russian language since the library stock of books in Ukrainian is poor).  At the same time, it was and still is, a real challenge for librarians to provide refugees an emotional accommodation. This sensitive aspect needs to have a proper approach, while librarians are not specialized to assist persons on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). 


In conclusion, besides the usual adaptation to a new situation, librarians are the ones who discover, through the process of adaptation, new competencies in order to meet the needs of their new community.  

Get in touch with the Dimitrie Cantemir District Library, Ungheni, Republic of Moldova

Address: 39 Mihai Eminescu St., Ungheni, Republic of Moldova

Phone number: +37323620193

Webpage/ social media channel: https://bprungheni.wordpress.com/

This project is developed by Progress Foundation Romania, granted by E.U. and the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation, a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and implemented in Armenia, Republic Of Moldova, Romania and Ukraine with the help of the regional partners: Lori Regional Library, Armenia; “Dimitrie Cantemir” Public Library from Ungheni, “IPS Antonie Plamadeala” Public Library from Hincesti & Library Association from Republic of Moldova; “G.T. Kirileanu” Neamt County Library & “Antim Ivireanul” Valcea County Library from Romania; Luhansk Regional Scientific Library, Lviv Public Library & Ukrainian Library Association, from Ukraine.


This article was written by PhD Alin Daniel Piroșcă.

Growing Active Citizens Hubs is granted by E.U. and the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation, a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent those of the Black Sea Trust or its partners.


AboutIoana Avadanei

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