Around 16 percent of Romanians go to public libraries to borrow books and get online, according to a study by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in 17 countries. The study also found that more and more Romanians are using public libraries and that the libraries themselves are offering more information services. Internet access seems to be an important pull factor, as Romanians get online in the library to search for information about health issues, education, employment, business development and to communicate with relatives and friends.
The importance of libraries to the communities they serve has grown over the last four years since the introduction of the Biblionet program in Romania, which has aimed to facilitate free access to information for Romanian citizens by fostering the development of a modern public library system in the country. But 64 percent of Romanians think that libraries still need additional funding, much more than the 40 percent European average. Respondents considered that extra funds would help libraries increase the numbers of books on offer and improve IT facilities.
The importance of the library for internet access in Romania appears to be very great. Some 90 percent of Romanians who use computers in libraries say that they need the service, while approximately 450,000 used the internet for the first time in a public library. Home internet access in Romania is among the lowest in the EU and the libraries, particularly in rural areas, are picking up this shortfall in access to information.
There are 2,876 libraries across 41 counties in Romania, of which 89 percent are small libraries located in rural areas. The Biblionet program has trained more than 2,600 librarians on how to help library users access information since the program began.
Charitable organization The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports a variety of causes around the world, tackling poverty, health and education. The foundation’s Global Libraries Strategy aims to “ensure that all people, especially those in disadvantaged communities around the world, have access to information through technology in public libraries.”
The library study was carried out in October and November last year and surveyed 17,800 respondents from 17 European countries, including Romania.