Over the last few years, ANBPR as well as some public libraries in Romania started to apply for EU funded projects and, besides the hard work involved in planning, finding the right partners and writing the application, one of the challenges that public libraries have to face is finding the resources needed for the cost-share asked for, especially when it has to be only financial.
Also, thanks to the advocacy efforts made by ANBPR and the Biblionet Program (GL Romania Program) for the 2014-2020 period, public libraries are eligible entities for the in-country European Structural Funds. But, if in the case of the ANBPR, which is registered as a nongovernmental organization, the cost-share guarantee is linked with management of its own financial reserves, in the libraries case, as public institutions funded from the local budget, the limitations and yearly allocated budget rigidities are more difficult to overcome. But with problems, opportunities are coming, too!
Public libraries are contributing to some of Romania’s, but also EU development objectives, like digital inclusion and lifelong learning and the need to further develop and enhance their services in these areas. This can be done also through accessing EU funds, contributing also to increasing absorption of the European Structural Funds, since, for the last EU funding period (2007-2013), Romania managed to absorb only half of the European Structural Funds allocated.
In this context, we saw the opportunity of an advocacy campaign to convince the central and local government to establish a permanent National Reserve Fund to support the co-participation of Romanian public libraries in European projects related to digital inclusion and lifelong learning, so the libraries can further develop their services in these areas. And the advocacy projects call opened by Public Libraries 2020 was just the best way to do it.
Within the EUSPHERE project we want to publicly show the value of public libraries in the areas of digital inclusion and lifelong learning using a national survey on the services provided by libraries in these areas. Based on these data we plan to gather allies from the local, national and European level, to support us in our advocacy efforts in front of national decision-makers for the establishment of a permanent National Reserve Fund to support the co-participation of libraries in European projects to contribute to the future development of library services in the area of digital inclusion and lifelong learning. And, as we want to empower member libraries and librarians to be involved in advocacy initiatives at the regional and county level, to double the association’s efforts at the national level in constantly showing the value and relevance of public libraries for the development of local communities, we will develop an advocacy community of practice within the Association.
Therefore, we’re starting this project with great enthusiasm, but also great responsibility, as we strongly believe that once we’ll develop a sound methodology to show the value of public libraries in the areas of digital inclusion and lifelong learning and pilot it, this can be relatively easily adjusted and replicated in other EU states, especially in the new EU member states or in EU neighboring countries. And having these types of data from several EU member states would help both the national advocacy efforts in each of these countries, but mostly the advocacy efforts at the EU level. Also, if we will succeed in convincing the Romanian government to establish a National Reserve Fund to support the co-participation of libraries in European projects, this model can be widely disseminated in other EU states as a way for public libraries to easily access cost sharing in support of European Funds projects, so public libraries can further develop their services, innovate and contribute to the sustainable development of their local communities.