Many years ago, libraries were an important part of social and cultural life in Serbian villages. But war in the 1990s and economic recession caused investment in rural areas to decline. Village libraries could not afford new books and many were closed. Public Library Radislav Nikčević in Jagodina municipality supervises 16 village libraries. The question librarians asked was – how can we revitalize our rural libraries and serve farmers? The answer led to the creation of the Agrolib-Ja project.
The innovative service
The AgroLib-Ja service, initiated in 2010 with support from the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP), combines free computer and internet access and skills training, a web portal and online market, books and articles about agriculture and lectures for farmers. The service works through four village libraries in central Serbia.
EIFL-PLIP PROJECT TIMELINE
May 2010 – April 2011.
Impact of the service
An impact survey conducted by the library in 2012 shows how this innovative service is improving farmers’ lives. The majority of farmers surveyed said they used the service to look for agricultural information; over 70% said the service helped them increase production, and 50% said the information helped increase their sales.
Inspired by the success of the service, villagers from Glavinci in central Serbia petitioned the local government in 2012, demanding high-speed internet for the whole village. It worked – and now over 4,500 people from Glavinci and two nearby villages have access to high speed wireless internet in their homes and in their village library.
Awards and expansion
- In October 2012, Public Library ‘Radislav Nikčević’ was awarded a Beyond Access Libraries for Development grant in the category Economic Opportunity.
- In May 2013, Public Library ‘Radislav Nikčević’ won a World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Project Prize for excellence in contributing to the WSIS goal of creating an inclusive and development-oriented information society. The library won in the category Access to Knowledge and Information.
- In June 2013 Public Library ‘Radislav Nikčević’ won an award for social integration from the ERSTE Foundation, for including rural communities into their services.
- In June 2014, Public Library ‘Radislav Nikčević’ won an American Library Association (ALA) Presidential Citation for Innovative International Library Projects.
- The library is now working with the international organization, Beyond Access, the Serbian Ministry of Culture and Information and local governments of Kragujevac, Vranje, Rekovac, Aleksinac and Jagodina, to extend the service to village libraries across the country.
- In 2015, the library received funding to extend the service to two more regions of Serbia and to redesign their popular website and online market for farmers.