Access to Information = Access to Opportunity

Posted by: Oleksandra Chuvakova,  Community Affairs Coordinator,  Microsoft Ukraine

Читати українською

BibliomistTechnology is becoming increasingly important in all public services, but especially libraries. In an age where economic, educational, health, and social opportunities depend more and more on access to the Internet, lack of access means lack of opportunity.

Microsoft decided that the USAID Bibliomist project was a great opportunity to partner with USAID, the International Research and Exchanges Board,  the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Library Association to spur the evolution of Ukraine’s libraries into modern information resource  and community centers.  Microsoft donated $9 million in software to Ukraine’s public libraries as part of its global initiative to endow communities with accessible and useful technology.  Today Bibliomist can proudly state that it has helped revive 10 percent of Ukraine’s libraries and firmly planted the seeds to rejuvenate many more. Only through such a broad-based partnership could such an endeavor be realized.

Libraries are sources not only of books but also information, so their importance is not waning. Libraries can use technology in a variety of ways. For instance, by supporting public access computers, we help ensure that those who do not have computers available to them at home, work, or school can still benefit from this critical technology. Using technology, libraries can also provide benefits to the community as a whole. For instance, libraries are well positioned to develop community assessments, which are studies that help a community identify its needs and then determine how to go about meeting them.

Today Ukraine’s public libraries are working diligently to close both the digital and the opportunity gap: from giving free classes on resume-building to providing free access to technology.  They are striving to provide services and workshops that address essential community needs, from increasing electoral literacy to promoting healthy lifestyles. As libraries discover better ways to deliver information via new media platforms and improve operational efficiencies, they will have a greater impact on a broader population.

In supporting Ukraine’s libraries, our expectation is that Microsoft technologies will be a resource that both municipalities and local community groups will be able to use in their efforts to bridge the digital divide and make their communities stronger.

Although there is much still to do, we’re inspired by what we’ve seen while working with Ukrainians: people taking the lead in changing not only their lives but the lives of those around them, making a real impact in their local communities and in Ukraine in general.

Not a Window but a Gateway to America

Posted by: Heather Fabrikant, Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer

Vinnitsya Window on America with staff including Window director and Head

Monday morning arrived and I was thrilled to be taking a trip to visit four of the U.S. embassy’s 29 Window on America centers in Ukraine: in Vinnitsya, Khmelnitsky and Ternopil.  I had never been to any of these three oblasts and was excited to see more of Ukraine.  Each region of Ukraine is also like a window: shedding light into the complex and beautiful Ukrainian country and people. Our Window on America program in Ukraine is a network of centers co-located in Ukrainian libraries where Ukrainians interested in learning more about the U.S., watching American films, learning English, meeting Americans, or practicing English can come together. For a full list of the centers in Ukraine click here. The following are some of my recollections from the trip.

Babushkas on Bicycles – Travels Through Central/Western Ukraine

As we drove, our van stuffed with books, posters and DVDs to deliver to our Window on America centers, I marveled at how lucky I was to be living in Ukraine and doing such exciting work.  On our way to Vinnitsya we passed the beautiful Teteriv River, strewn with dachas, and dotted with yellow sunflowers reaching the horizon. I thought of the sunflower oil made from these golden medallions and sold at outdoor markets. I escaped into the mossy, hanging trees, verdant from the frequent summer rain. I saw babushkas on bicycles overloaded with their bounty. Motorcycles and truckers alike braved the bumpy roads.  Cows grazed next to the highway and horses galloped through soccer fields. Tractors wove in and out of the road and ancient trucks emblazoned with “milk” or images of bread flew by. The smell of burning grass wafted into the car and a tile mosaic sign indicated we had entered the Vinnitsya oblast.  Continue reading “Not a Window but a Gateway to America”

Library Innovations and eGovernance Fair

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft 

LEAP, and the net will appear.” John Burroughs

Ambassador Tefft speaks to media at Library Innovations and eGovernance Fair

I was thrilled to be invited to participate in the opening ceremony of the first ever Library Innovations and eGovernance Fair at Ukrainian House on April 11, 2011. It was a wonderful opportunity to highlight for the 800 librarians in attendance our robust commitment to libraries and free access to the internet in Ukraine. Below is an excerpt from the speech I delivered on Monday. You can watch the full speech here and browse photographs here of the 40+ library booths that showcased their activities at the fair.

I would like to thank the organizers of the event, Bibliomist, represented by Deborah Jacobs of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and my good friend Ambassador Bob Pearson, IREX President, as well as Deputy Minister of Culture Victoria Liznicha, and Representative Volodomir Yavorisky, Head of the Rada Committee of Spirituality and Culture.

While we may come from different backgrounds and organizations, I can say with confidence that we all share a love for the written word, and for libraries and librarians. My President shares this sentiment. In 2005 – then still a senator from Illinois – President Obama said of librarians, “Guardians of truth and knowledge, librarians must be thanked for their role as champions of privacy, literacy, independent thinking, and, most of all, reading.” More recently, in his State of the Union address, President Obama mentioned his ambition to make wireless internet available to 98 percent of Americans within the next five years. He believes – and I couldn’t agree more – that this universal internet access will help businesses to grow faster, students to learn more, and is even is an important public safety infrastructure.  Continue reading “Library Innovations and eGovernance Fair”