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Milica Buha, a Community Story from Serbia

Milica Buha has been working as a librarian at the Belgrade City Library for 20 years. The Coronavirus pandemic has distracted her and her colleagues from their activities, but they have not given up. They have tried to make these activities available online. Let's find out more about their “Wiki Senior” project!

Milica Buha

I am 53 years old and I have been working as a librarian at the Belgrade City Library for 20 years. As librarians, we are obliged to attend certified courses and workshops every year. One of the first workshops I attended was the “Viki Bibliotekar” (Wiki-Librarian), organised in 2015. I particularly liked the activity on sharing knowledge free of charge, so I started a similar initiative in our library network. After training one group of colleagues, a team was formed and in 2019 the “Viki Senior” (Wiki-Senior) project was launched.  The Coronavirus pandemic has distracted us from our activities, but we have not given up. We have tried to make these activities available online.

I found out about EPALE through a colleague, one of my superiors, who was familiar with my work with adults. My first experience with EPALE was a competition for the best blog on adult education practice, for which I wrote a blog about our “Wiki Senior” project. This was my first blog on the EPALE platform. Our organisation seeks to be more involved in the adult education process, and this project is just one of the activities undertaken to achieve this. While researching the platform, I came across a number of interesting ideas that I thought we should apply.

The “Wiki Senior” Project, carried out under home isolation conditions during a Coronavirus disease pandemic

We started the “Wiki Senior” project at the Belgrade City Library at the end of 2018. The idea was to involve our oldest fellow citizens in the process of writing Wikipedia articles in Serbian. As a project leader, I wrote about this initial experience in the article “’Wiki Senior’ Project at the Belgrade City Library”. Unfortunately, at the very start of the project’s second year, the Coronavirus pandemic broke out.

At the point when our workshops were suspended we had 10 active participants, four of whom attended each week. Workshops are held once a week, with a total of 26 people participating so far. Of these four regulars, only one participant was able to write articles on Wikipedia independently. As we could no longer meet through the workshops, we decided to continue the training online.

Of course, not all of the problems could be solved through written communication, so we used other applications too. Initially, I took pictures with my phone showing step by step the different stages to follow in order to accomplish a specific goal, but it was slow going. Following this, I came up with the idea of doing it in real time as well. We set up a group meeting via the Viber application, and I was able to go through all the necessary steps on my laptop while simultaneously recording my monitor with a camera. My student repeated these steps on her laptop and successfully completed all of the tasks.

This has been a very interesting and unusual experience for me.

Between mid-March, when strict isolation measures were introduced in Serbia, and the end of April, this particular user wrote more than 80 impressive articles on her own. Apart from my initial help on a dozen articles, she wrote all the other articles independently, with minimal intervention from me.

Ljiljana Sundać
It must be said that this particular “Wiki Senior” project participant is an extremely active 70-year-old woman. Before isolation, she made sure to take photographs for each article so that she could write about Belgrade.

For her, it was an extremely enjoyable physical activity, and one which was also very fun. An important element of our work during isolation is that in Serbia, people aged 65 and over were strictly forbidden from leaving their homes, except once a week, between 4 and 7 in the morning.

This lasted for more than a month. This particular user confirmed my suspicions that this activity - writing articles on Wikipedia - has helped her during this very difficult time of almost absolute inactivity.

I am not sure when we will be able to continue our regular activities and attract even more participants, but I am sure that this type of activity was extremely useful in the situation we were in due to the Coronavirus disease pandemic.

The name on Wikipedia of the user I work with is Ljiljana Sundać, and her contribution to Wikipedia in Serbian in 2020 can be found on the project page. Ljiljana wrote her first Wikipedia article on October 11, 2019.

She is only sorry she did not start writing earlier!

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