Public Library Radislav Nikčević, Jagodina, Serbia
The village libraries: Empowering farmers to connect, share and grow
Increased agricultural productivity is the key to boosting income and creating jobs in the rural regions of Serbia. In order to increase their productivity, farmers need access to agricultural information and training, as well as access to markets and financial opportunities.
In Jagodina, a rural town in central Serbia, the local public library has partnered with the agricultural community to develop a new project called AgroLib-Ja (Agricultural Libraries in Jagodina), which has since transformed local libraries into information and communication hubs. The Public Library in Jagodina has recognized that in order to meet the needs of rural residents,village libraries had to be renovated and turned into information, communication, and education hubs in service to the local communities. Some of the challenges were to provide relevant agricultural information to farmers, to raise their awareness about computers and the Internet, and to encourage them to use the AgroLib online marketplace. The Agricultural Libraries project was launched by the Public Library in Jagodina in April 2010.
Starting with the more traditional aspects of agriculture, the new village libraries go beyond using only books and journals, additionally offering agricultural lectures, discussions, and seminars in order to present examples of good practice and to help farmers improve their production, or start a new agricultural business.
Since most Serbian farmers possess very limited computer skills, ICT training for farmers was organized. The sessions included browsing certain websites, finding and filling out applications for subsidies and other types of forms, and other basic instructions to help farmers use new information technologies as a source of information regarding perspective grants by the Serbian government.
Additionally, these ICT sessions included instruction on how information technologies can aid them in the development of their agricultural business. The Public Library in Jagodina has provided farmers with the AgroLib Market – a web portal to help them sell their products online. The rural libraries have become hubs that connect farmers with the Government, provide chances for further education, open up the market, as well as a space for interaction with other farmers and members of the community.
Agricultural workers are invited to use the innovative library services that are tailored to their needs. Rural libraries are equipped with books and contents for all residents of the community including children, students, farmers, experts, academics, and the elderly.