The Global Libraries – Bulgaria Foundation is the successor body to the activities taken under the Bulgarian Libraries – Place for Access to Information and Communication for All program, popularly known as the Global Libraries – Bulgaria Program. This program was a joint initiative of:
- the Ministry of Culture
- the United Nations Development Program
- the Ministry of Transport, Information Technologies and Communications
- the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria
- the Bulgarian Library and Information Association.
The initiative was funded via a $15 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The aim of the Global Libraries – Bulgaria Program was to facilitate access to information, knowledge, communications, electronic content and community services through Bulgaria’s network of public libraries. Over a five-year period, the program increased the use of libraries throughout the country and helped Bulgarian citizens join the global information society. Building on these foundations, public libraries have continued to expand their scope and activities, become more attractive for visitors and play an important role in local development. The program also fostered fundraising and advocacy work that champions public libraries as centres of knowledge and change.
In order to make the program’s achievements sustainable, Global Libraries – Bulgaria relied on the joint efforts of the government, local authorities and the non-governmental sector.
The program’s indicative total budget was $48 million, which included the $15 million start-up grant, an $18 million donation of software products from Microsoft, and a matching contribution of $15 million from the Bulgarian central and local authorities.
The Global Libraries – Bulgaria Program supplied 960 public libraries in cities and villages throughout the country with IT equipment and Internet access for visitors. Over 3,000 library staff from over 1,600 libraries were trained in computer and Internet competencies, and attended professional development courses in modern library services, library management, communication and working with users and communities, and advocacy and project writing. These activities took place throughout the country to help overcome intra- and inter-regional differences in Bulgaria’s social and economic development.
Through the joint efforts of local communities and key partners, the program promoted the modernisation of Bulgaria’s public libraries and contributed to expanding their image and scope to incorporate provision of innovative services and spaces for the wider community. Services and activities now include community projects, computer and Internet access, and IT and information literacy trainings. Libraries also provide pleasant, user-oriented spaces in which to work or hold events, and have become central communication points for important local information, and places where particular groups (children, unemployed, entrepreneurs etc.) can come together and address their needs.
The Program’s full support for the 960 participating libraries included: IT equipment for library users, a comprehensive training programs for library staff, and support for libraries’ involvement in advocacy, networking, public relations and outreach activities. The software required for the IT equipment was donated by Microsoft.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries Initiative works to open up the world of knowledge, information and opportunity to more people. Being part of the Global Development Program of the Foundation, “Global Libraries” works in countries that have proven the need and willingness to support public libraries in providing free access to computers and the Internet, as well as training for the full use of these resources. “Microsoft” is a partner of “Global Libraries” and donates software at the request of various partners. The initiative seeks to transform public libraries into vital sources of assistance that can improve the lives of millions of people.
Links to Global Libraries – Bulgaria Program (Bulgarian language only):