Transforming Communities

Bookworms' Delight

Bookworms’ Delight

You might have never been to a library like this. Unless you live in a small town or in a village, that is. The mayor of Stary Sącz believes that people in his area deserve truly modern libraries that rise to the challenges of the 21st century and are in no way inferior to, say, those in the Parisian Centre Pompidou. Precisely that attitude pushed him to champion the revamping of libraries in his remit, including one in Barcice. Already in full swing for two years, the place has utterly revolutionised the life of the local community. Every week it hosts an event: a World Poetry Day, a visit of Norwegian teenagers on a painting workshop exchange, or a fair of Easter palms characteristic of the region, to name but a few recent ones. After the library was modernised, the number of people borrowing books there increased fivefold, while concerts, performances, theatrical workshops and computer skills courses attract half the population of Barcice on a regular basis. Like 3,800 other libraries in small towns and rural areas across Poland, the one in Barcice overcame its digital exclusion thanks to the Library Development Programme run in the last six years by the Information Society Development Foundation (FRSI) and financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. FRSI is not alone, though, in supporting Polish libraries. Other NGOs contribute in line with their area of expertise: they encourage communities to archive their local history and traditions, assist job seekers, provide career guidance and inspiration for young people, organise specialist clubs, workshops, and provide free internet access. Thus small-town libraries have shaken off their erstwhile image of being a cultural backwater and have transformed into vibrant centres of local community life, offering attractive activities for all age groups, designer interiors, and access to modern technologies along with training and support for those who are as yet shy of ICT.
wyborcza.pl

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