Discussions on the topic “Library and Information Needs and Opportunities in the Municipality of Troyan” took place in five libraries in the villages of Borima, Debnevo, Oreshak, Cherni Osam, and Shipkovo. The initiative was held as a Public Forum in the municipal center and brought together all interested parties.
The event was jointly put together by the Municipality of Troyan, the library at “Nauka 1870” Chitalishte, Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program, and Znanie Association in Lovech. The organizers aimed to attract users’ attention to the offered library services, to identify still pending library service needs, and provide recommendations on addressing these needs.
The discussions in the five villages employed the interactive “world cafe” method. It focuses on mobilizing imagination, creativity, and participants’ emotional thinking. The discussions were attended by different groups of library service users: students, intellectuals, mayors, municipal administration representatives, pensioners, businessmen, citizens. The meetings were moderated by Ralitsa Popova, Executive Director of Znanie Association in Lovech.
The participants in the discussions in each village library were divided into five groups, each of which had to answer the following questions:
1. What should modern library interior look like?
2. What types of services should the modern library offer?
3. What types of new technology are needed?
4. What should library visiting hours be?
5. What do you expect from the librarian?
The most common answers include a well lit and warm library with new furniture and suitably separated thematic spots – children’s books, antiquarian books, new books, computers. Libraries should be also accessible to people with special needs (disabled).
The services library visitors would like to access include both traditional services like book lending and access to periodicals, and modern services like generation meetings or interest clubs, general education, training and information lectures, movies, and computer and internet related services like Skype, social networks, email, electronic search of literature and electronic reading, library software usage. Noteworthy is also the suggestion on home circulation of books which is obviously needed and helpful in smaller settlements.
All users stated their willingness to have library visiting hours consistent with users’ working hours and open libraries on Saturdays. If possible, shift hours should be introduced. Interesting suggestions include the introduction of an on-duty telephone for scheduling visits on weekend days (especially in the resorts in the summer).
Requirements to librarians include: be polite, responsive, active, and have the necessary qualification; be able to establish the appropriate order and procedures in the library; assist visitors with the search of information, monitor and encourage readers’ interests; be capable of dealing with different age groups and apply a specific approach to disadvantaged people. Another interesting idea is the suggestion that librarians should wear suited distinguishing attire or signs – a scarf, badge, etc.
The Public Forum held in the town of Troyan aimed to identify the library service needs of the different interested groups in the communities. Representatives of various groups of users, local authorities, municipal councilors, and the management of the chitalishtes in the municipality took part in the forum. The Chair of the Municipal Council in Troyan, Mr. Minko Akimov, and the Chair of Nauka 1870 Chitalishte, Dr. Violeta Koynovska, welcomed the participants in the discussion and highlighted its importance.
Krasimira Kaneva, Regional Manager for Western Bulgaria, presented the opportunities offered by the Glob@l Libraries – Bulgaria Program and success stories and examples from the activities of other libraries.
Vanya Davidova, Chief Librarian in “Nauka 1870” Chitalishte, presented the results from the “School-goers and the Library” study which contributed to the quality of the discussion. The story about a Dutch library told by the teacher Nelly Genkova and the young people’s essays on their dream library presented by the librarian in “Nauka 1870” Chitalishte, Maria Minkovska, proved interesting for the audience.
The participants in the forum held in the town of Troyan were grouped as follows: library workers; school-goers; young people; citizens (pensioners); institutions; NGO and media; educators. Each group presented their suggestions on library services and partnerships with other organizations and, following a joint discussion, recommendations to local authorities and institutions were drafted to support the addressing of the needs.
Two major proposals were made to local authorities:
To open a library branch in the Lagat complex in Troyan;
To improve the facilities and equipment of the libraries within the municipality.
A recommendation was made to the Bulgarian Library and Information Association (BLIA):
To create a distinguishing sign for librarians.
To librarians: along with the traditional suggestions on their work with the various groups of visitors, new library stock, and improving of librarians’ qualification, proposals were formulated as follows:
To establish a thematic spot in the library in the town of Troyan for European original-language literature;
To set up a premise for a multimedia room;
To organize a traveling library;
To apply the “Living Book” interactive method where an experienced and qualified moderator tells the participants in the event stories or situations in an interesting and simple way;
To organize for children and school-goers expressive reading, computer work, etc. contests with symbolic prizes for the winners provided by the library or other sponsors.