The Convention was opened by Jerzy Koźmiński, the Polish-American Freedom Foundation’s President & CEO and the ISDF Chairman of the Board, and Rafał Kramza, Information Society Development Foundation President and Library Development Program Director. The Convention’s opening session took place in the “Wisła” movie theater in Warsaw. In his speech, President Koźmiński recounted the Library Development Program origins and objectives emphasizing that the principal goal of the Program is to assist libraries in transforming themselves into modern, multi-function, information, cultural and education centers stimulating civic involvement. He also stressed how important it is to build the Program’s sustainability and facilitate its results. Rafał Kramza, in turn, referred to the slogan of the Convention pointing out that the idea behind is to create a portfolio of guidelines, which later can be individually interpreted and developed by each of the participating libraries.
Words of appreciation for the Convention participants were sent by the First Lady Anna Komorowska, who together with President of the City of Warsaw Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz assumed the patronage over the Convention. In her letter Anna Komorowska emphasized the important role played by libraries in the society as well as their universal values. Anna Duńczyk-Szulc, Vice Director of the State Patronage Department at the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage read out the letter from Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski who thanked librarians for their involvement in the development of culture and strengthening the library’s traditional role while at the same time opening it to new forms of activity. President of the City of Warsaw Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, in turn, in her letter referred to the key role of a library as an open to all, common place that serves as a catalyst for local community stimulation. The letter from the President of Warsaw was read out by Małgorzata Naimska, Vice Director of the Office of Culture at the Warsaw City Council.
The important part of the Convention opening session was the lecture given by Darren Hoerner, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s representative. ‘We must prepare libraries for the future, and a library with a concept responds to that by creating new activities and ways of acting,’ said Hoerner who encouraged the participants to inspire each other and develop knowledge gained during the Convention.
The opening session was also a good opportunity to present the winners of the ‘Library – place for the safe Internet’ competition which accompanied the campaign popularizing rules of safety on the web among young library users. The competition was organized by the Information Society Development Foundation in partnership with Microsoft, Orange Foundation and Nobody’s Children Foundation. Next, the Olga Rok Scholarship for personal development of librarians working in public libraries in villages and towns of up to 20,000 residents was granted. This year the scholarship in the amount of PLN 2,500 was awarded to Urszula Kopeć-Zaborniak, Director of the Town Public Library in Cieszanów. The honorary patron of this initiative is Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment.
Next, the Convention participants listened to the lecture given by Jens Thorhauge, library expert from Denmark. Thorhauge emphasized that within the last fifteen years libraries have transformed from institutions focused exclusively on collecting books to places where people can use digital services co-created by representatives of local communities. He also pointed out to challenges faced by libraries and indicated methods of dealing with them by the appropriate planning of activities. ‘Libraries must change if they want to meet the challenges of the present world. In democratic societies these changes are based on people’s personal development, dialogue, good social relations and pursuit of the common good,’ he said.
Jens Thorhauge’s presentation was a starting point for the the ‘Library with a concept – values’ debate with the participation of Elżbieta Stefańczyk, Chairperson of the Polish Librarians Association, Tomasz Makowski, Ph.D., Director of the National Library, Joanna Orlik, Director at the Malopolska Institute of Culture and Alek Tarkowski, Ph.D, Director at the Digital Center Project Poland. Among key values the panelists listed stability and sustainability, presence in residents’ mentality, universality, education and integration.
During two-day workshops that took place in Fort Sokolnicki, the librarians had an opportunity to broaden their knowledge and improve practical skills. There were 36 workshop sessions referring to individual areas of a library concept, such as integration, openness, cooperation, culture, education, team, arguments, information and inspiration. The participants learned, among other things, how a library can promote a healthy life style, how to support local artists, how to attract people thanks to a modern design and present the library in an attractive way in the community media as well as how to use the open resources available on the Internet.
The Public Libraries Convention was also an occasion for the meeting of the National Partnership for Library Development, a body which comprises representatives of the world of science, art, economy, media, politics and the non-governmental sector. The significance of numerous people representing various environments involvement in the actions benefitting the Program was emphasized in a joint letter of the First Lady Anna Komorowska and the President’s Chancellery Chief Jacek Michałowski addressed to the participants in the National Partnership meeting. ‘President Bronisław Komorowski believes that the involvement of various environments in well-thought-out strategies of the country development is a clear sign of modern patriotism and attention paid to Polish matters,’ the letter reads. During the meeting, Professor Anna Giza-Poleszczuk presented findings of the Unit for Social Innovation and Research “Shipyard” Foundation’s research, commissioned by the Information Society Development Foundation after three years of the Library Development Program implementation. The research was carried out in communes participating in the Program and its aim was to answer the question how users benefit from libraries. The findings of this research were summed up in a “What do Poles need libraries for?’ report. Next, Darren Hoerner explained why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation attaches such great importance to the Program’s impact and Paule Andre Baran and Matej Novak, representatives of IREX implementing the programs corresponding to the Library Development Program in Romania and Ukraine, referred to the situation of libraries in their countries and shared their experiences gained during the Program’s implementation.
The Polish-American Freedom Foundation is a partner of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in this undertaking. The Manager of the Program in Poland is the Information Society Development Foundation, established in 2008 by the PAFF. Libraries and their branches in rural areas and small towns (up to 20,000 inhabitants) participate in this undertaking. The principal goal of the Library Development Program is to assist them in transforming themselves into modern, multi-function information, cultural and education centers stimulating civic involvement. Thanks to the assistance received by nearly 3,327 libraries in more than one thousand various communes, tens of thousands of rural residents and small townsfolk will gain an opportunity to improve their quality of life.