The event was an occasion to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Information Society Development Foundation (ISDF) established by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation (PAFF) to implement the Library Development Program.
The first part of the meeting was opened by Jacek Królikowski, the Information Society Development Foundation President, who recalled first contacts with libraries, lots of letters sent to the Foundation Office, and touching moments after the meetings at the libraries. Next speaker was Joanna Lempart, the Polish-American Freedom Foundation Program Director, who recalled the 2008 – the year when PAFF started cooperation with the biggest grant-giving institution in the world, that is Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As a result of that cooperation PAFF got from the Gates Foundation a grant of $31 million for implementation of the Library Development Program in Poland as part of the Global Libraries program that was carried out all over the world. The task was entrusted by PAFF to the Information Society Development Foundation established for that purpose. The Program allowed almost 4,000 Polish libraries to change into modern multimedia centers which play the role of a hub of social activity. Joanna Lempart thanked President Królikowski and ISDF staff for their professionalism and involvement over all those years of cooperation, and pointed to the difficult task of consolidation and enhancement of the Program results, as since 2015 LDP has been financed by PAFF with its own money.
The Special Guests of the Congress were Urszula Dudziak, a singer and author of “Wyśpiewam Wam Wszystko” (I’ll sing you everything) and “Wyśpiewam Wam więcej” (I’ll sing you more) books, who gave a motivational speech on developing a passion and enjoying one’s life, and Anna Bikont, a journalist and writer, who gave a touching speech on Jacek Kuroń, an outstanding social leader, based on fragments of “Jacek” book of which she is a co-author.
During the Congress, the winners of the 7th round of Olga Rok Competition for Active Female Librarians were presented with scholarships. Olga Rok Scholarships, financed with the endowment fund created in 2012 at the initiative of Anna Rok, Olga Rok’s granddaughter, support personal development of female librarians who stimulate themselves and the others to look for new solutions and are courageous in changing their communities. This year the scholarships were awarded to the following winners: in the “bigger library” category – to Agnieszka Batorek of Władysław Biegański Municipal Public Library in Częstochowa, in the amount of PLN 5,000, for partner-like and innovative cooperation with children with impaired vision; in the “smaller library” category, which is especially strongly supported by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation – to Sylwia Drząszcz of Communal Public Library in Wisznia Mała, in the amount of PLN 5,000, for Mother Tongue – Well Programmed project which combines learning Polish and new technologies, and for I Am Developing Because I Am Reading project which popularizes reading and encourages to joint efforts to make the commune area more beautiful. There were also four book awards funded by Czarne Publishing House, which went to: Jolanta Janiec of Municipal Public Library in Hrubieszów, Magdalena Mazik of the MOCAK Library of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków, Dorota Telega-Łosek of Communal Public Library at Czernica, and Katarzyna Czarkowska of No. 9 Branch of Koszalin Public Library. The Partners in the Competition are the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, the Information Society Development Foundation, and the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland.
The second part of the Congress consisted of workshops related to everyday work and development of activities of a library, as well as professional development of librarians, for example: The Mobile Skills – the Mobile Library; E-learning Or Tailored Online Training For Librarians And Library Users; To Believe Or Not to Believe (Information) – That Is The Question; I Remember That… – Theatrical Improvisation Workshops For Multinational And Multigenerational Groups; or Solutions Are Hidden Among Differences. Skills in Conflict Solving And Having a Dialogue.
On the second day there was a foresight session on the role of libraries in next 10 years conducted by 7 experts in the area of technology, global education, culture, space, social engagement, ecology and reading. Supported by them, and on the basis of real statistical data and the librarian’s experiences, the participants prepared packages of scenarios for a library functioning in its social and institutional environment.
The Polish Library Congress is a cyclical event held as part of the Library Development Program. Over the years 2008-2015 the Library Development Program was implemented by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation in partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. A total of 3,808 libraries in more than 1,250 communes – that is almost 60% of libraries in rural areas and small towns in Poland – participated in the program.