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Library Grows with me! Summer School for Young Romanian Librarians

© Anca Rapeanu & Cristina Vaileanu, 2011 | specially for LBB JSS

The Summer School for Young Librarians is a joint initiative of the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) and the National Association of Librarians and Public Libraries in Romania (ANBPR), funded within the Biblionet Program. It started in 2010 and this year we organized the second edition.

Romanian new librarians, foto TIBRO (Tineri bibliotecari din România)

Creative Commons License

The aim of the Summer School is to identify young librarians from public libraries across Romania who are able and committed to the profession, and to encourage their involvement in the development of a modern public library system in Romania. We had 3 main objectives:

  • to encourage proactive and innovative initiatives of young professionals in public libraries;
  • to encourage young professionals to be active in professional associations;
  • to create a proper framework for networking and sharing, innovation and collaboration among young professionals.

But, before describing in more details why and how it was organized, we want to provide some context. While libraries around the world are reinventing themselves, in Romania many libraries are only now beginning this journey.  Also, cooperation and collaboration among library professionals is an aim not yet achieved. The new professionals, after being exposed to obsolete LIS curricula, armed with very few practical applications, enter into hierarchical and rather conservative organizational cultures, where experimentation is rare and promotion very difficult. This debut can result in loosing motivation and changing professions.

It’s not easy being a librarian in Romania. Especially if you work in a public library! And especially if you are young – in spirit or body! Public libraries in Romania are facing a lot of challenges:  lack of proper buildings, legal framework is sometimes a burden, resistance towards new technologies and innovative approaches among librarians and the list can goes on and on. But the most relevant in this context are related to hierarchical and conservative organizational cultures and resistance to change. Given all these challenges, you can imagine it’s quite difficult for young librarians (and not only for them!) to accommodate the profession. For a young professional being librarian is a difficult job, with many challenges related primarily to one’s own mentality, but also to the collective perception. One must overcome the fears about her/his professional abilities, then attempt, through continuous professional training and consistency to evolve.

Let me give you an example of what life of a junior librarian is in my country: “You don’t have the experience to tell me how this should be done!”  or “You are too young to know anything!” So, what does a young enthusiastic librarian do when confronted with this attitude? Change his/her profession! And we don’t want that to happen, because we care about young librarians and believe in their potential. A fresh mind gives a fresh perspective, a fresh start!

Today technology makes the environment change quickly. And this brings a whole lot of troubles to libraries which do not put their young librarians to work for them. Young librarians are passionate, are eager to do new things, to explore, are easy to motivate and generally they are digitally proficient.

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.197760826957356.51425.100001703198200&type=3
Summer School for Young Romanian Librarians 2011

Gallery is available on the Facebook page of  Tineri Bibliotecari Din România

Acknowledging that continuous professional development opportunities and cooperation among professionals are top requirements for healthy library systems, IREX together with ANBPR initiated in 2010 a Summer School for Young Professionals, as part of the Biblionet program, where young librarians with initiatives would be selected to participate based on a self-sustained project proposal. Like already stated, the aim was to identify committed young librarians and to encourage their involvement in the development of the public library system, thus contributing at the rise of a new generation of librarians: skilled, knowledgeable, able and eager to work together. We expected participants would enhance their abilities to advocate and establish partnerships contributing to the development of their carriers, and thus of the library system.

Now, a few figures about Summer School as a model:

  • the budget was of 11,000 USD (for 2010) and 9,000 USD (for 2011);
  • 6 days of training, based on selected participants’ needs;
  • 17 participants in the first edition, 12 participants in the second one;
  • 15 self-sustained projects implemented after the first edition;
  • 12 self-sustained projects in implementation after the second edition.

This is because we gave them the chance to develop professional and personal skills, to network, speak their minds, debate. We gave them a purpose, a voice and some tools to begin with. For more information, you can read the paper we wrote for IFLA and presented in New Professionals Special Interest Group’s Session.

http://conference.ifla.org/past/ifla77/97-vaileanu-en.pdf
See the paper “Library Grows with me!”

A typical participant at the Summer School is generally a young women (we had only 1 man, this year), younger than 35, newer than 10 years in the profession, dynamic and passionate librarian, has lots of ideas, but doesn’t know where to start.

The training topics ranged from advocacy to innovation in library, from fundraising to project management. We introduced outreach, community assessment techniques, PR instruments and effective campaigning (including using new media for PR activities), we discussed about professional associations and peers networking, innovation in libraries and writing and planning for projects to be implemented.

The time we dedicated to each topic and the methods we used depended on the needs and wishes of the participants: for example, in the first edition we started with advocacy and networking and closed with half a day consultation on project-planning; in the second batch we emphasised on community assessment and dedicated more time to practical work on re-planning the projects, as requested by the participants.

We had trainers and specialists in different topics doing pro-bono work for us: PR companies, grass-roots and community development NGOs, librarian trainers and us. Also, we used Skype videoconferences to bring in international experience, such as Sebastian Wilke, the convener for the NPSIG of IFLA, or Heikke Marjomaa from the wonderful Library 10 in Helsinki, or Mace Ojala, the “daddy” of Cycling for Libraries, or Morten Findstroem from Copenhagen Public Library.

We tried to make it both fun and professional, helping the participants to connect, relax, express fears and overcome them. We had teambuilding exercises, puzzles, even treasure hunting. And this year we actually made them build an airport from Lego pieces.


As results:

  • In 2010: 17 participants, 15 self-sustained projects implemented.
  • They stayed in touch and started a professional network for young librarians called TIBRO (stands for Young Librarians from Romania) under the ANBPR umbrella, with mission, vision and objectives.
  • They developed a blog and a Facebook page.
  • 5 of the 2010 Summer School participants got involved in organizing the second edition: they helped with advertising the opportunity to their peers, were part of the selection committee, they did the training needs assessment and designed and delivered some training sessions. More than that, two of them serve now as advisers/mentors for 6 of the 2011 “graduates” in project implementation.
  • In 2011: 12 participants, all of them are now implementing their projects. And they have all kinds of projects, from awareness raising campaigns for high school students related to the effects of drugs, to instant messaging reference service, or making local history more accessible to gymnasium students, or developing a READ campaign for high school students or develop workshops on creative writing, acting and directing for teens.

In 2012 we’re planning for the third edition, with new students, new trainers and the ANBPR takes hold of the whole process. And we hope the 2010 and 2011 “graduates” will not stay aside!

But it’s not only that, as we never looked at the Summer School as being just a cool training. We always saw it as a method to bring people together, give them the chance to know themselves and the others and do things together, become the voices of the next generation of librarians. And having to implement projects from their own resources/fundraising efforts and doing it pretty good, the young librarians scored well in the eyes of their managers and their colleagues. And they gained courage, and want to do more! And, more importantly, next spring the new professionals will have their own space in the National Conference of the Public Libraries Association. This is a premiere!

Anca Rapeanu & Cristina Vaileanu
Biblionet Program, IREX Romania


IREX, (the International Research and Exchanges Board) is a non-profit organization based in Washington DC. Throughout its 43 years of existence, IREX has been active in international development, and for quite a while it has been involved in IT&C4D. IREX is implementing in Romania a 5 year program for public access to information through technology. It’s called Biblionet, it is part of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries initiative.

ANBPR (the National Association of Librarians and Public Libraries in Romania) was founded in 1990 to provide professional direction for libraries and the library profession in Romania. The ANBPR has over 3,300 individual members and library chapters in nearly all of Romania’s counties. The ANBPR has taken the lead in representing Romanian librarians’ interests on a national level, conducting training in new areas, publishing professional development materials and advocating for changes in national policy. Starting with July 2009, ANBPR has benefited, for a period of 4 years, from a grant facilitated by IREX. As part of the Biblionet Program – Global Libraries Romania, funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ANBPR obtained the necessary financial resources and specialized consulting to strengthen its organizational capacity.

Biblionet is a national program funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a part of their Global Libraries Initiative and aims to assist Romanian public libraries in better serving their communities through a nation-wide system affording training, computers and free internet access. Through a partnership between IREX, the National Association of Public Libraries and Librarians (ANBPR), local and national governments, and libraries through the country, the program helps to foster the development of a modern public library system in Romania as a step towards improving the socio-economic conditions of its citizens. To achieve this goal, we are developing a network of public access computer facilities in 2,000 Romanian public libraries, training librarians in using new technologies to meet their community needs.

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