Public Library - the Important Link between Rural Libraries and Successful FarmersThis paper speaks of AgroLib-Ja (Agricultural Library in Jagodina), innovative project of Public Library of Jagodina, Serbia, which has “developed the idea of changing the libraries according to the changing of users’ needs ”
In the past, Public Library of Jagodina was a classic, traditional library devoted to readers. Today, Public Library of Jagodina is a modern library devoted to users and it is actively involved in solving problems in the local community.
In addition to its basic functions in sharing knowledge, Public Library of Jagodina is also devoted to provide support to socially underestimated groups of people. As the main Library for Pomoravlje region, Public Library in Jagodina supervises all libraries, among others rural libraries. Supervisions data indicated difficult situation in the villages and in the rural libraries.
Considering the possibilities for improving the lives of people in rural areas with the help of forming new services in rural libraries, Public Library of Jagodina in 2008 conducted a survey among farmers. The conducted survey showed the following: that about 90% of questioned farmers had no ICT skills; 88% of them wanted to attend ICT trainings; 84% wanted to attend agricultural lectures and 100% wanted to visit the library in order to find agricultural literature. Also, according to that research we found out that the farmers have no computers and Internet and they do not know how to use them and they are not familiar with the advantages of informing by the Ministry of Agriculture and other state institutions, so the important information were not available to them.
“Therefore, Public Library of Jagodina realized that in order to meet the needs of rural residents, village libraries had to be renovated and turned into information, communication and educational hubs of local communities ”
In response to that, an innovative project has been invented, titled AgroLib-Ja, addressed to the farmers as a marginalized group of people in the society and unreached library users. Before introduction of the AgroLib service in 2010, many village libraries in Serbia were devastated and farmers were struggling to access the information they needed to improve their farming methods. “The project, titled AgroLib-Ja, was aimed for revitalization of five rural libraries and creation a network of rural libraries that provide information and communication services especially for farmers ”.
Today, in five rural libraries the following services are accessible to the farmers:
“• Completely renovated and adapted library environment where farmers can meet, connect, learn and share experiences from best practices.
• Free Internet access and ICT training which helps farmers in sharing best practices, searching for useful information, such as the state subsidies, incentives and grants. Farmers’ ICT literacy increases through using computers and the Internet in the libraries. According to data, over 200 farmers have attended ICT training and just from January to March 2013, there were 7 ICT trainings for 27 farmers.
• Agricultural lectures enhanced agricultural production through learning new information and applying it in practice. To this day, the libraries hosted 37 professional lectures with 23 recognized speakers attended by 1,791 farmers.
• Agricultural journals and literature, which help farmers in applying new farming methods. Farmers’ agricultural production is enhanced by applying what they read in agricultural magazines and books and hear during agricultural lectures in the libraries; their awareness to available government subsidies and incentives increases with the help of the librarians and the project partners.
• The portal AgroLib offers automatic weather updates, news, digitalized magazines and books and within online marketplace www.agrolib.rs/pijaca/ for free registration, advertising and selling, (marketing 2014) improving income and financial situation of farmers. Since 2010 when AgroLib was established, there have been more than 90,000 visitors. Only in 2013, until March 22 there were 16,559 visits, about 10% more than at the same time last year ”
The value of concept of the Agricultural Libraries in Jagodina, Serbia, was recognized by the public libraries in others countries. These are: Klintaine Public Library in Latvia, Pasvalys Marius Katiliskis Public Library in Lithuania and Regional public and University Library Goce Delchev in FYROM. They have successfully adapted the idea of Jagodina Public Library and incorporated it in their practice.
The AgroLib started in 2010 with support of EIFL within PLIP and is still ongoing. The project is supported by the Local government, Agricultural agencies and The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia. For its accomplishments, the project has won three international awards:
- In 2012 by American organization Beyond Access for its originality and innovation in the category Economic Opportunity;
- WSIS 2013 Project Prize for excellence in the category Access to Knowledge and Information;
- ERSTE Foundation Honorary Award for Social Integration 2013.
The aim of this paper is to show that the Public libraries such as the Library in Jagodina may be the initiators of social change not only locally but also wider. The AgroLib has revived and recovered the rural community in Jagodina municipality; AgroLib has caused positive changes in society on the social, economic and cultural level. It brought prosperity and wellness to the rural population. It contributes in changing farmers’ attitude towards libraries. Now, farmers are committed to permanent learning, accepting of new knowledge and improving ICT skills. Also, it contributes to changing attitude of local authorities towards libraries.