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Dr. Melba Pattillo Beals, one of the Little Rock nine shared stories from her terrible  adolescence. She gracefully talked about how libraries helped her understand that there was another world outside the cage she was put in by the society.


Melba like young warriors are still around us. They are looking for help and this is one reason why  libraries are still needed.

While this title is no news to anybody that knows a little bit about this library, something changed this week. A TV station in Romania aired a movie that showed, for the first time, how bad the reality is for this library. (The movie about this starts on minute 9).

Biblioteca nationala  a Romaniei

Many people got angry but the reactions were very few until… Monday evening when some young people ( I hope to  find out more about them) started an online  petition.  The  Ministry of Culture is asked in simple terms to make the needed effort to give the library its rightful home.  Since Monday 2,126 people sign it.  Signers wrote comments on  how much they want and need to have a national library, librarians from all over Romania showed their support, representatives from different publishing houses signed it too. Young students or parents claimed the need for preserving the collection of this institution…

It is the first time when a library in Romania gets support from its public. (So far no library association or commission took any stand after this movie) The whole movement is quite interesting and I am very curious to learn if the National library will know how to use this momentum.

In case you want to support this move watch the movie, sign the petition and join our group on Facebook  Romanian National Library: Looking for a home.

IREX Romania is the lucky organization that was chosen by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to plan for a program to provide public access computers with Internet access in Romania’s public libraries, as it is stated here. This is a five year program and we are approaching the end of the first year.

As a mean of communication with librarians involved in the program and not only, a web page, a forum and blog were developed. After a couple of months of healthy conversation on their forum  IREX Romania decided that critical messages are not welcomed there anymore. Four of my messages are gone and at least two other people experienced the same treatment on biblioteca.ro.  While trying to find my posts I managed to come across a reply that was posted on the blog by veveritablonda, a critical voice on biblioteca.ro.  Because there is no public access to that message anymore I will post it here.

This is very nice, Shannon, finally somebody who appreciates the progress we’ve made and the potential we have. Still, because the title of your post is “Return to Romania” (taking from another famous project initiated by IREX Bucharest) I would be curious to find out how many Romanian graduates who studied in the US, are working now for you, in this Global Libraries Project. As far as I see, none. Don’t you guys put your money where your mouth is? Is IREX now the cemetery of old employees coming from USAID, CHF, WORLD LEARNING and so on? It is very disappointing to see how all our youth emigrates, because at home nobody needs them, not even those who trained them to be “the future of Romania”. Don’t you think this situation is very sad and proves rather poor strategic vision in terms of investment return? Why is the US training so many Romanians, who come back with stunning degrees, when none of them is needed in your own organizations? 🙂

As you can see there were several questions asked on this reply from May 2008.  Not only that nobody answered them but they cannot be accessed anymore. I do not have any kind of prove to sustain veveritablonda’s statement but it sure sounds interesting. Since it got such a reaction from IREX team…it must have touched some sensitive problems. Don’t you agree?

There is a cultural magazine in Romania that does weekly articles about cultural-social related topics from a Romanian intellectuals’ perspective… This week I had a small contribution to their articles about Romanian libraries. I am still amazed by this.

While in college, I heard about Dilema magazine but having an adversity for the elitist way in which the culture was talked and acted about I was very hesitated to read it. I remember trying it once and, I cannot remember exact why, I did not liked it. I felt it was too cultural for my taste… A couple of years later I bought one magazine, and really like it and since then I am reading it regularly.

What changed? Did I changed? Most probably. Maybe the people writing there changed a little too. Maybe because of choosing a different tone it became more accessible…I don’t know.

All I know is that this week’s number of Dilema veche talks about the situation of Romanian libraries. For Romanian libraries is not much but it is a good start.

P.S. The online version will be available starting Monday.

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