14 new public library services using ICT for development

Smart phones, an Internet-enabled library on wheels, online medical consultations, websites and webinars, SMS – 14 more public libraries are using cutting-edge ICT to serve community information needs and to contribute to local and national development goals.

The fourteen new public library services were launched this month in Africa, Latin America and Europe, with support from EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries) as part of EIFL’s Public Library Innovation Programme (PLIP). EIFL-PLIP provides small grants to public libraries in developing and transition countries to use ICT in innovative ways to contribute to community development.

The 14 new services focus on four important areas: agriculture, support for children and youth at risk, health and poverty. They demonstrate remarkable diversity in choice and use of ICT by public libraries.

There are many examples – past and present – of public libraries implementing services that improve lives and build strong communities. Through libraries, people are using ICT to connect to new sources of knowledge and information: farmers are finding information about new farming methods and marketing their produce; youth at risk are finding safe space in libraries and learning new technology skills guided by professional and caring librarians; health workers and patients are accessing health information; and unemployed people are learning job seeking skills and finding jobs. However, libraries still remain largely overlooked as community development partners.

In supporting the creation of new services, EIFL-PLIP’s goals are to raise awareness among policy-makers about the potential of ICT-enabled public libraries to act as catalysts for positive change in their communities and to encourage governments to increase funding to modernize public libraries so that they can realize their potential.

After a year’s implementation (in November 2012), the 14 public libraries will assess the impact of their new services, generating valuable insights into the role and potential of public libraries; about the effectiveness of ICT in serving key development needs, and of the value of ICT in the daily lives of particular communities.

The 14 new services replicate 12 successful public library services implemented with EIFL-PLIP support in 2010-2011. By encouraging replication of innovative services, EIFL-PLIP aims to test how ideas travel and how similar public library community development services can be delivered in different geographical and cultural environments. http://www.eifl.net/plip