Vesna Crnković

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.

Vesna Crnković is a professional librarian at Public Library Radislav Nikčević in Jagodina, Serbia. She has been the director of this library for 12 years, from 2006 to 2018. During this period, the Public Library in Jagodina has evolved from a commonplace library with limited, traditional services and has since become recognized as a leader in the development of innovative library services.

Under her management, the Public Library in Jagodina has developed many innovative projects, most notably the Agricultural Libraries Project. This project has received numerous awards, including the Residents' Social Integration Award, the Award for Sustainable Economic Development and the Award for Excellence. A monumental achievement was the prestigious 2014 Presidential Citation for Innovative International Library Projects awarded by the American Library Association.

Crknović is a member of numerous organizations and project teams which deal with innovation and trends in librarianship. In 2017, she has become a member of the International Network of Emerging Library Innovators and now acts as an innovator within the INELI-Balkans Leadership Development Program. 

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