We grow fastest when we share our experience with those who pursue the same goals. This is exemplified by a public library innovation seminar held at the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania between the 16th and 17th of August under the Young African Innovators Initiative (YALI) of the non-governmental organization Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL). The events and visits that took place in Lithuania and Poland between the 14th and 15th of August were aimed at providing the representatives of African public libraries with the experiences and ideas of other developing countries and countries in transition.
The 16th of August was devoted to the introductory session during which the representatives of African public libraries learnt about Lithuanian libraries, their system, best practices and innovations implemented by them. Prof. Dr. Renaldas Gudauskas, Director General of the National Library, gave a welcome address at the event. The director said in a joking manner that the National Library was rather empty those days and guessed that all the readers probably gathered at the Summer Reading Room in Palanga. Autumn will bring people back to the city, however, and the reading rooms and library spaces will again draw high numbers of visitors. These are the results of our dramatic transformation that the library achieved by renovating its major building. Prof. Dr. Gudauskas elaborated on the National Library’s goal to combine a multitude of both traditional and modern library functions with the efforts to be a non-conventional memory-keeping institution, and also said he was happy to have such a large network of international partners.
Ramunė Petuchovaitė, Head of the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programmes, gave a presentation on the Lithuanian public libraries system and organization. Eugenijus Stratilatovas, Head of the Strategic Development Department, provided guests with an overview of the progress of the project “Libraries for Innovation 2” as well as its outcomes that have provided benefits to all of the public libraries of the country. Specialists from public libraries in Utena, Kaunas, Šiauliai, Klaipėda, Pasvalys, and Vilnius also shared their insights and stories about the projects implemented in their libraries.
Besides listening to presentations and discussing them in groups, librarians from the African continent also took part in the demonstration workshop conducted by Donatas Kubilius, coordinator of the open workshops “PATS SAU” for school-age children and young people organized by the National Library, where they had an opportunity to get a first-hand experience of the activities of the “PATS SAU” workshop. Using old computer parts, the workshop participants constructed and tested soap bubble blowers, in this way embodying the main work principles used in this workshop space: promotion of creativity, independent learning, exploration of new technology and giving new life to outdated items.
On the second day of the event, the African guests took up the baton and shared their own experiences: Nyasha Sithole from Masiphumelele public library in South Africa spoke of the community-oriented computer skill development courses organized in his library, their impact on the community, and the nuances of financing and inter-institutional cooperation. At the end of their visit, guests had the opportunity to see and hear about the visitor spaces of the National Library guided by Giedrė Čistovienė, Head of the Project Management Unit of the National Library Strategic Development Department.
After the visits to Lithuanian and Polish public libraries, the African representatives will join the participants of the 83rd International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) conference held in Wroclaw, Poland, between the 19th and 25th of August.