Sustainable growing within the third space of active citizenship
How can a public library reach out to its community and how can that mechanism become sustainable? Answering to this question, we have already added a debate on the particularity of how a public library is able to design something that can be named sustainable for its audience. In fact, sustainability here is just a part of the whole painting which must be seen by the community as a whole. That is why the process to retrieve the mechanism of sustainable actions that the County Library “Antim Ivireanul” Vâlcea is reverse: it needed a space dedicated to the community and then to add activities aimed to strengthen the relations between library and community.
The County Library “Antim Ivireanul” Vâlcea is a public institution located in Valcea County, Romania in the historical regions of Oltenia and Muntenia. It is also part of the wider Wallachia region and its capital city is Râmnicu Vâlcea. The library Antim Ivireanu is located in Ramnicu Valcea city. The library has a reading room named Marian Creanga with 100 seats and a Children’s Book Loan Section, with a reading hall of 25 seats and other sections for public relations, legal depository and administrative.
By its mission and vision, the library is connected to cultural needs and technological trends, emphasizing the collection and valorization of information and the promotion of development opportunities available at European level. The main objective of BJAIV is to respond to the interests of information, study, education, reading and recreation of users. BJAIV contributes to the capitalization of the local and national cultural heritage, as well as to the promotion of Romanian culture by organizing events and seminars, meetings with personalities from the country and abroad, book launches, making documentaries about the life and activity of writers, and creating cultural content. -educational, analyzes and syntheses based on the collections held. In addition to current activities, document lending, the County Library “Antim Ivireanul” Vâlcea coordinates local and international projects, organizes events involving personalities from the country and abroad, conducts personal and professional development courses for community members. The library permanently develops collaborative partnerships both with organizations from the country and from Europe. The County Library “Antim Ivireanul” Vâlcea has, in addition to the headquarters, three branches and is a methodical guidance center of the network of public libraries in Vâlcea County, a network of 86 communal and city libraries.
Defining its objective, the library from Valcea county Consolidation of the status of community and cultural-educational center of library, both by diversifying services, products and programs offered to the community, as well as through permanent development and accessibility of info-documentary resources. Also, upon its main purpose to position itself as an active hub for community, the library is creating the premises for redefining the concept library as a specific center for education and lifelong learning – similar structure to popular universities with which the library could create partnerships. And due to the present challenges of digitalization, the library is increasing the visibility in the digital environment by emphasizing its dual role as a content manager and facilitator of access to information.
Summarizing all the above, we can say that the County Library “Antim Ivireanul” Vâlcea is an institution with a strategic role in the development of the local community. On the one hand, because it ensures equal free and non-discriminatory access to information and documents necessary for information, lifelong learning and personality development of users, and, on the other hand, because through the diversification and permanent accessibility of info-documentary resources, through projects and cultural events, the library has been redefined as a community space connected to the cultural and educational needs of citizens, which ensures lifelong learning and also fulfills the role of social link. An educated community is a strong community, and here comes the strategic role of the library in supporting, in the medium and long term, quality education, so that citizens are informed, actively involved and responsibly decide their future and that of the community.
Since 2016, the library has had the “Third space of active citizenship”, an initiative Progress Foundation. “Third space of active citizenship” it was designed as a space that can be used free of charge, with prior appointment, by local NGOs. The space offers nowadays free internet access and other facilities (projection screen, video projector), useful for debates, exchanges of ideas, meetings on topics of great interest to the community. This space is situated at the intersection of what a public library can stand for its community and how to generate that bridge that links the community with a public library.
The library has also carried out a series of activities/projects that encourage the learning and practice of active citizenship by consolidating, for example, the public library and civil society. A project called Women as a vector of European information had the objective of an interactive meeting on the importance of the role played by women in society. The library is position very good within participation to democracy and had for several years a project called If you do not vote, do not complain, which consists in an information session on the parliamentary elections.
A strong collaboration with local NGOs is visible in the practices of various courses dedicated to NGOs on how to write projects to obtain funds from the EU or other funding bodies, collecting and donating food for the needy. Every year, with the help of volunteers, the library is organizing charitable events to promote solidarity between generations and tolerance towards those with financial problems.
A pragmatic approach to the community can also be understood through networking events organized frequently by a group of mothers concerned with the mission and role of women in today’s society and by the event Parents’ school, which aims to talk about health and social contribution in workshops organized by a group of parents. Youth on Move Association – it is a project of workshops within the framework of Erasmus + projects, workshops with volunteers from EVS (European Voluntary Service), the library involves these volunteers in various actions and events organized by the institution.
Cooperation with various foundations such as World Vision Romania Foundation, had the purpose to grow the competencies of the librarians through different workshops and educational activities for personal development, vocational counselor, etc. Also, the Friends of Vâlcea Hospital Association organized the week of breast-feeding, a series of debates, and presentations in order to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding for the child’s health. Other associations such as Pro-Waldorf Association organized a creative workshop entitled “The musical story”, held by teachers and actors, Vâlcea Red Cross – workshops on how to provide first aid, and Down Association Vâlcea organized in the library special events dedicated to children with Down syndrome.
Growing Active Citizens HUBs, organized and implemented by Progress Foundation it is on board within library activities. The project’s objective is to develop a complete system to facilitate community participation in the practice of democracy by training active citizens, creating spaces to protect and promote democratic values and by conducting integrity audits for local public administrations. Being the heart of its community, library Antim Ivireanu assumed, by its mission, an objective of creating a support network, consisting of public libraries and NGOs, which will support the provision of public spaces in libraries for learning and practicing active citizenship, where community members can meet, discuss issues of general interest and equally to learn, to exchange ideas, to communicate and to collaborate, brought inside the community the idea of a library open for dialogue.
If we look over the library’s schedule of activities within past years, we see that there is a focus on strengthening the approach between the community and the library as a space. While other projects of the Antin Ivireanu County Valcea Library are putting a spotlight on building a relation between the readers and the book, still there is a preoccupation on consolidating the role of an active citizenship.
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.