To date 4,055 libraries in 1,335 communes (70% of the target group) received support under four rounds of the program. More than 12,000 librarians have joined LDP activities.
Until 2015 the program was carried within the partnership of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was part of a broader initiative of the Gates Foundation, “Global Libraries,” covering about a dozen countries. In Poland, the Information Society Development Foundation, established by PAFF in 2008, performed the role of manager from the outset of the Library Development Program. The Gates Foundation entrusted PAFF with a $31 million grant for the program.
3,808 public libraries from 1,256 communes with populations up to 20,000 (nearly 60% of the target group) were involved in the program, recruited in three rounds between 2008 and 2015. 10,000 librarians received specialist support in the form of counseling and training, while libraries were equipped with nearly 8,000 pieces of hardware: computers, tablets, printers, multimedia projectors, and other devices. Additionally, libraries received software worth $18 million provided free of charge by Microsoft. 450 libraries received small grants for expanding their offer aimed at local resident activation. Funds for organizing 1,000 study tours found their way to librarians, who also participated in such experience exchange fora as the annual Library Congress.
The Library Development Program contributed to the emergence of many initiatives for strengthening the entire library system. LDP communication and advocacy efforts led to, among others, the establishment of the National Partnership for Library Development (consisting of more than 100 representatives of different backgrounds), 16 regional partnerships with provincial authorities aiming to promote public library modernization in areas with smaller populations, and local partnerships for library development in more than 300 communes. In 2008 PAFF signed a cooperation agreement with the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, which initiated the multiannual “Library+” program carried out by the Polish Book Institute. The objectives of both initiatives were similar – the Foundation and the Ministry were shaping their activities in such a way that these could reinforce and complement each other. Another memorandum was signed with the Ministry of Administration and Digitalization and Orange, based on which all public libraries in the country were provided with free Internet access from 2009 to 2015. There were also joint actions carried out with the National Library, provincial public libraries, the Association of Polish Librarians, and numerous non-governmental organizations.
In 2012 the Information Society Development Foundation received the E-Inclusion Award for the Library Development Program from the European Commission in a competition that promotes best practices in using modern information and communication technologies and preventing digital exclusion.
Since 2016 libraries in rural areas and small towns have been further supported through numerous training and e-learning courses for library employees and their local partners, grants for technological expansion of selected libraries, support in their networking and cooperation efforts aimed at benefiting the local community, as well as creation and development of innovation incubators based on library infrastructure.
The LABiB initiative is being developed as well, which is a network of librarian-innovators using the LABIB.pl social portal to popularize best practices in activities held at libraries.
The years 2021 and 2022 saw the launch of the fourth program round financed from PAFF funds. Apart from continuing to work with the entire library network, this edition channeled support to 247 new facilities based in 79 communes. Participating facilities received 20 months of training and advisory, equipment, and ample opportunities for exchanging experiences. The program promotes new technologies at libraries, paired with critical use of digital media. LDP also pursues actions which stimulate social activity, introduces different forms of public consultations and engaging residents in issues important to their communities.
Libraries are flexible in responding to different needs and challenges. From the very outset of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, they have been assisting refugees and adjusting their offer to help those displaced by war become part of their new local communities. Libraries serve as points where Ukrainian refugees receive all the necessary information about the support provided by LGUs and NGOs, that is such basic issues as where to send children to school or kindergarten, available jobs, and psychological aid. Libraries give refugees access to computers and the Internet, and refugee children are welcome to join any groups active at a given facility. In cooperation with “Sector 3.0,” LDP also launched the bibliotekidlaukrainy.org.pl website to support libraries which are helping Ukrainian refugees.
The fifth PAFF-funded program round kicked off in January 2023. Apart from following up on actions directed at the entire network of more than 4,050 libraries, LDP is particularly aiming to support another 200 facilities (libraries and library branches) operating in rural communes, rural and urban communes, and towns with populations up to 50,000 residents. Among other things, libraries will receive support in preparing an offer for integrating refugees with local communities, providing informal education to local residents about climate change and environment protection, and delivering digital education alongside improving skills related to critical media use.
The Foundation has disbursed $6,851,270, including $282,741 for the current edition.