The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—Global Libraries
The foundation’s Global Libraries initiative is working to open the world of knowledge, information, and opportunity to many more people. Part of the Global Development Program, Global Libraries works with select countries that demonstrate a need and a readiness to help public libraries provide free access to computers and the Internet, as well as training on how to make full use of these tools. The initiative is helping transform public libraries into vital resources that can help improve millions of lives.
Through its programming, Biblionet:
• Equipped over 80 percent of Romania’s libraries with tech tools and Internet connectivity, reaching over 600,000 first-time Internet users.
• Trained 4,200 librarians to use new technology to provide better services to library visitors and their communities.
• Created a robust professional development system, with 41 regional hubs and modernized content, so that librarians can continue to meet their communities’ increasingly complex needs.
• Professionalized the Association of Librarians of Romania (ANBPR), from its ability to serve its members to its capacity to cultivate partnerships with private and public actors.
• Deepened government support for libraries at local, national, and European levels through advocacy initiatives, ranging from annual progress letters for local councils to international dialogue with European counterparts. Armed with data and success stories, Romanian librarians now engage officials from Bucharest to Brussels on the importance of the library sector in achieving local and national development goals.
Access to information is an essential component of development in today's globalized society. Despite growing information needs, fewer than 28 percent of Romanians had Internet access in 2009. While the country had made rapid economic advances over the previous two decades, libraries were overlooked as a critical local partner that could bridge constituent needs and public and private sector resources. With the right kind of investment and attention, however, public libraries have proven their ability to be the link that connects people from all backgrounds with the information, services, and opportunities they need to succeed.
Equipment: IREX provided hardware, software, and IT support for 2,280 public libraries, for which local administrations invested $25 million to cover Internet connectivity, library renovations, and operating costs. Library directors and IT staff from local public administrations were trained to handle eventual technology upgrades.
Training: IREX established training centers within each of Romania’s 41 county library systems, as well as regional training centers (RTCs) in five county libraries. It also developed local abilities to design and deliver content in person and via an online learning platform. Biblionet’s curricula – centered on IT skills, library management, and new service development – received accreditation and will continue to be available through the RTCs.
Association Development: IREX provided $650,000 and intensive technical assistance to the ANBPR to strengthen its organizational capacity and traditional member offerings such as training, study tours, and national conferences. IREX helped the association grow into new areas of expertise needed by a modernized library sector, such as private sector partnerships for new library services.
Government: IREX raised the profile of library issues at the national and EU levels by bringing together private businesses, NGOs, Romanian officials, and EU representatives for forums and working groups to inform policy decisions and demonstrate libraries’ essential role in modern society.