“LIbraries For Everyone – LIFE” Program
One of the most important duties of modern public administration institutions is to meet the information needs of citizens and this may be achieved through libraries. The public libraries which are administered by local governments provide important public services and now they face the responsibility of offering computer and internet services to citizens in addition to providing publications like books, journals and newspapers. For in our age, the internet has a direct impact on the social and professional lives of individuals. However, some citizens cannot benefit from these services sufficiently. This applies especially to large sections of the elderly, the low-income groups, the undereducated, and the disabled. Therefore, the digital gap/digital divide among different societies and among groups within these societies is expanding increasingly. Moreover, it is important for the productivity of public services that e-government and e-municipality services are offered efficiently. These services not only help citizens save money and time but also ease the workload of public institutions and municipalities. However some citizens are not able to use these services because they are either not aware of these services, or they do not know how to use them; while some others refrain from using the services because of security concerns.
Examples from developed countries show that the most effective method for the solution of this problem encountered by the citizens is to get the public libraries owned by public institutions (i.e. public libraries, municipal libraries, institutional libraries) involved. Based on this evidence, the LIFE (LIbraries For Everyone) Program was launched by Hacettepe University Technopolis Technology Transfer Center with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The program is implemented at the libraries administered by local governments and aims to support the technology infrastructure to enable citizens’ access to basic computer and internet facilities; to facilitate their use of internet-based services such as e-government and e-municipality services; and to offer free training to citizens at these public libraries to assist them acquire the necessary ICT use skills. For the impactful delivery of these services to citizens, the program also aims to train the staff of the municipal public libraries not only in ICT skills, but also in subjects of librarianship for their professional development, so that they can offer library services in a more effective manner.
In line with the official slogan of “Local Transformation, Global Access” the LIFE Program envisions the stimulation of a process of radical transformation and advancement at selected municipal public libraries representing the province, the district and township levels, so that these institutions become “centers of attraction” for the citizens residing in their service areas. The Program will not only transform the municipal public libraries into community centers, but will also assist especially women, the elderly, the youth, the unemployed, the disabled, and the rural populations have life improvements especially in the impact areas of economic development, education, communication, and culture and leisure. The Program which is supported by stakeholders, private sector entities and NGO’s will also work toward and take the necessary measures for the sustainability of the program activities.
In line with this vision, the LIFE Program has three important objectives:1) By the end of July 2018 (Program end date), the municipal public libraries in Turkey that participate in the Program will be transformed into institutions that can meet the information needs of the citizens in their service areas by offering creative and innovative services. 2) By the end of the Program, municipal public library users (especially women, the elderly, the unemployed, the disabled, the youth, and rural populations) will report that their library use has contributed to improvements in the impact areas of digital inclusion, education, economic development, and culture and leisure. 3) By the end of the Program, the systems and structures developed with the Program will have achieved sustainability beyond the life of the Program.
The participation of the municipalities which officially have libraries and information centers within their organizational structures to the Program will be on a “voluntary” basis. For the Program libraries, the Program Office will provide computers, internet access devices and software, training and promotional materials, as well as training for the staff of the libraries. The ultimate goal of the LIFE Program is ensure that by the end of the Program municipal public libraries will have been transformed into centers of attraction that can support the lifelong learning efforts especially of the disadvantaged communities in their service areas in addition to providing conventional library services.
The Program Team that consists of Training, Impact Assessment, ICT, and Advocacy working groups is based at the Program Office located at the premises of Hacettepe University Technopolis – Technology Transfer Center.