Young Library Professionals Redefine the Modern Library
What is a modern library? What role can young librarians from around Eastern Europe play to promote modern services and approaches in their libraries and beyond? At the International Young Librarians Summer Academy in Latvia this summer, these were among the key questions the participants sought to answer. Nearly 45 young librarians from the European Global Libraries (GL) countries including Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine convened to share ideas, learn new technologies, and develop essential skills as advocates, teachers, and community leaders. They were joined by librarians from Botswana, Columbia, and Vietnam, all of whom sought to learn from their Eastern European peers and potentially replicate this Academy in their own regions.
One of the key messages from the Academy was that modern services do not necessarily include the use of advanced technology, but rather necessitate a community-centered approach to library programming that serves to unite and inspire library patrons. An example of one of these innovative programs is the Cycling Librarian campaign in Poland. Referencing the critical mass bicycle campaigns in the United States, the Polish initiative is an outreach campaign that unites librarians and patrons to bike from library to library throughout their community and neighboring communities. For the Academy participants this was a model they couldn’t wait to replicate in their respective countries. In fact, on September 27th—less than a month after learning about the program--the librarians in Ternopil, Ukraine hosted their own Cycling Librarian event, which was met with great support and excitement from the library staff and patrons.
Thanks to the workshops led by two library specialist from the United States, Nancy Davenport and Helene Blowers, the participants were also inspired by ground-breaking American library services such as the Youmedia space in Chicago. The Chicago Public Library program is focused on engaging teenagers, and features new technologies like flat screen TVs, Apple desktop computers, and film making tools, but equally depends on traditional community building strategies—encouraging teenagers to play games, create music and art, and tell stories. For Latvian librarian Svetlana Sprūža, Youmedia has inspired her to consider new ways to attract young people to the library and create new opportunities for them to interact with their community and their peers.
In addition to absorbing ideas from other places, the participants dedicated a lot of time to developing new ideas and services for their own libraries. The culminating activity was to create an international initiative with their Eastern European peers, and ideas included expanding the Cycling Librarian campaign, developing a "Librarians Manifesto" for the group, and brainstorming new ways to visit each other and share experiences. If the recent Cycling Librarians event in Ukraine is any indication, these librarians are already poised to learn from one another to improve their libraries, and re-define the modern library in Eastern Europe.
For more information about the International Young Librarians Academy, check out the Global Libraries blog here. You can also learn more about the innovative work that IREX is supporting in libraries, by taking a look at the IREX Global Library program pages in Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine.