On the 29th of March–1st of April 2021 a virtual job-shadowing visit of the librarians of the Rijeka City Library (Croatia) under the Erasmus + program took place in the Panevėžys County Gabrielė Petkevičaitė-Bitė Public Library. Although we have already become accustomed to the virtual communication format, we always think about the lack of live communication, real walks around the library spaces, live conversations with our colleagues having a cup of coffee or tea. However, this four-day visit was lacking only physical space for the meeting, as everything else was full of warm communication, rich information about library services and projects, extremely sincere interest of Croatian colleagues in everything that happens in Gabrielė Petkevičaitė-Bitė Public Library in particular and in Lithuanian public libraries in general.
Project ZELDA in a context of the city of Rijeka transformation
Croatian colleagues Andreja, Tanja, Emili and Donatella took part in this remote job-shadowing visit under the Erasmus + project ZELDA, “Green and Sustainable Library”, run by the Rijeka City Library, with the main aim of adopting good practice in European public libraries in the field of a sustainable, “green” library development.
The Rijeka City Library is one of the main cultural institutions of the city of Rijeka, which from 2018 to 2022 falls into a cycle of major transformation processes affecting not only the history of the library itself but also of the city of Rijeka in general. Rijeka City Library aims to become a modern, dynamic library, and its staff aims to incorporate good European library practices and new methods into their daily activities. In order to create attractive modern services for their users and become an ecological and sustainable library, Rijeka librarians have planned visits to European public libraries that create a sustainable environment for the “green” library and involve their various user groups in educations with a creative use of secondary raw materials. Following the good practice of European public libraries, Rijeka City Library staff will strive to implement these ideas in their library by creating innovative educational programs. Rijeka librarians will also share these ideas with their colleagues in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County and librarians from all over Croatia.
How we inspired our Croatian colleagues
The first visit of Rijeka City Library specialists under this project took place in 2019, visiting the Ljubljana City Library (Slovenia). The Croatians purposefully chose the Gabrielė Petkevičaitė-Bitė Public Library as their second host organization in their project: during the visit of the Panevėžys County Public Library staff to the Rijeka City Library in 2018, these libraries became partners and signed a cooperation agreement. Croatian colleagues got interested in the opportunity to participate in the Erasmus + program and submit a project application themselves, so after receiving support for the project from their national agency, our partners chose Gabrielė Petkevičaitė-Bitė Public Library as one of their partners in the project.
Virtual tour in Lithuanian public libraries
On the first day of the job-shadowing visit, a virtual tour of the Gabrielė Petkevičaitė-Bitė Public Library was organized for Croatian colleagues, the library’s Sensory Space, international and Erasmus + program projects and cooperation with other European public libraries were presented. Andreja Silić Švonja, the coordinator of ZELDA project, gave a presentation on it, emphasizing that the ideas of the “green” library have been chosen purposefully in the project. One of the Rijeka City Library’s strategic goals is to create a “green”, sustainable library.
On the second day of the visit, colleagues from Croatia were pleasantly surprised and impressed by the creative eco educational activities of the Panevėžys County Library, the active and inclusive activities of the Open Space for Youth, and the special mission of the library taking care of the Juozas Miltinis’ Heritage Study Center. The guests got interested in the abundance and variety of the library’s e-services.
Librarians of Rijeka were told about the services and projects of Panevėžys region public libraries. Presentations were given by managers and specialists of Anykščiai L. and S. Didžiuliai, Panevėžys E. Mezginaitė, Kupiškis and Molėtai District Municipal libraries. The activities of the Association of Lithuanian Municipal Public Libraries were presented by the President of this association Danguolė Abazoriuvienė.
On the third day of the visit, colleagues from Croatia were also introduced to the activities of the Gabrielė Petkevičaitė-Bitė Public Library’s clubs. The guests were especially interested in the activities of the Bitė Book Club, presented in detail by its moderator Jūratė Baltušnikienė. Rijeka librarians were introduced to the activities of the Mums’ Club, the Seniors’ Club and the Youth Book Club. Croatian colleagues participated in a virtual meeting of the English Conversations Club Let’s Talk, where the club members told about their activities and easily involved guests from Croatia in a live chat about their favorite leisure activities. On the fourth day of the visit, colleagues from Croatia were introduced to the project “Responsible Reader”, which had just started on the 1st of April. In this project Gabrielė Petkevičaitė-Bitė Public Library has been participating since 2015.
Impressions of participants and further plans for cooperation
In the closing session, the Croatian librarians and the Panevėžys County Library’s staff members discussed the benefits of a job-shadowing visit. The participants of the visit emphasized that the only disappointing thing was that they could not come to Lithuania and see the whole wide range of activities of the Gabrielė Petkvičaitė-Bitė Public Library and other public libraries in the Panevėžys region and Lithuania on-site. Rijeka librarians thanked for the rich program, interesting topics and great experience. Donatella was impressed by the fact that the library masterly brings together the community. According to her, this is the main goal of a modern library. The participant of the visit mentioned that first of all she would like to implement the ideas of the English Conversations Club, the Mums’ Club and the idea of the project “Responsible Reader” in her library. Andreja was interested in the successfully implemented infrastructural projects of Lithuanian libraries, modern environment and cozy and warm atmosphere in library spaces. Andreja came up with many useful ideas for the emerging youth space in the Rijeka City Library. “We will definitely apply many of the ideas observed during the visit, modifying them according to our situation,” said Emili, the participant of the visit.
The benefits of the visit for both collaborating libraries were perfectly summed up by Tanja: she said that she and her colleagues were extremely interested to see our perspective, our approach, the ways in which we build our library. “I liked seeing openness in your library the most. It is amazing that so many people in your library do such a great job and all of this helps you become a valued, active member of the community.” Looking at the further perspective of cooperation between Gabrielė Petkevičaitė-Bitė Public Library and Rijeka City Library, it was decided to look for particular funds to support joint cultural activities (giving priority to youth projects). Rijeka City Library was invited to participate in regional cultural heritage research conferences organized by Gabrielė Petkevičaitė-Bitė Public Library.
In 2018, the visit of our library staff to the Rijeka City Library greatly impressed its participants, both in terms of professional development and warm communication with our Croatian colleagues. It is gratifying that, relying on the feedback from Rijeka librarians, our library team managed to organize an enriching professional visit for their colleagues. “We inspired each other. This is the most important aspect of our cooperation,” said Tanja, a participant of the visit, on behalf of herself and her colleagues.