EIFL awards lead to new interest in public library services, and high praise
Award-winning libraries describe the rewards of winning an EIFL Public Library Innovation Award

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Children at Pelči Library (Latvia) celebrate the arrival of new equipment bought with the EIFL prize money - a touch screen computer monitor and a tablet e-book reader.
Children at Pelči Library (Latvia) celebrate the arrival of new equipment bought with the EIFL prize money - a touch screen computer monitor and a tablet e-book reader.

EIFL Communications Manager Jean Fairbairn celebrates the launch of the eighth EIFL Public Library Innovation Award, with this blog about how the awards have raised the profile of public libraries in their communities, boosted librarians' morale and built their confidence.

Friday (14 August) will be a special day - we are launching our eighth EIFL Public Library Innovation Award, for Public libraries contributing to literacy in their communities. To celebrate the launch, we asked past award winners what winning the award has meant to them. Here are some of the responses -

‘We feel like a star in the libraries’ sky!’

Pelči Library, Latvia, winner, Award 7, Public libraries contributing to education, for their ‘Little school of local history’ which stimulates children’s curiosity about history and teaches them valuable research skills.

Daina Girvaite, library director:

“Winning the award has been a wonderful experience for our library.”

“We feel like a star in the libraries’ sky! Many librarians have visited Pelči Library to see our activities, and we have been asked to present this project in conferences and seminars, here, in Latvia, and also in Lithuania.”

“Local officials and the community feel very special because of the success of Pelči Library.”

“There is a new understanding about the important role of the library – even in our little village. Our library has a much better image, people trust us and search for us, offering new ideas and projects, because they believe, we will be good partners.”

“We have received enormous publicity at local, regional and international levels, on TV, over the internet and in other media. The children were especially impressed to be interviewed by National Television Latvia!”

‘The award has motivated us to innovate even more’

‘Dr Robert Ouko’ Memorial Community Library, Kenya, winner, Award 7, Public libraries contributing to education, for providing rural schoolchildren with desperately-needed textbooks and literature through an e-readers programme.

Richard Aoko Oketch, project coordinator:

“This award re-energized us so much, and motivated us to innovate even more. We are expanding our activities and seeking new partners.”

“When our community heard about this prestigious international award, they were very excited. New people are coming to learn about our work, so we expect that more people will use the library in future.”

“We are now in the process of procuring a large LED screen for our multi-media room, plus a projector, using the prize money.”

“We will use the new equipment for education and training sessions, and interactive learning in the library, especially using free online educational resources, for adults and children. We also plan to take part in webinars, and screen locally relevant video clips with information about health, agriculture and business.”

‘We are using the prize to improve the e-book reading environment’

Tallinn Central Library, Estonia, winner, Award 6, Creative use of ICT, for their pioneering online e-book lending service, ELLU (short for E-raamatute laenamis- ja lugemiskeskkond – in English, ‘e-book lending and reading environment’), which gives Estonians round-the-clock electronic access to modern Estonian literature.

Triinu Seppam, director of Library Services:

“The EIFL award was noticed by our colleagues - the news was published in our librarianship magazine ‘Raamatukogu’, and by decision-makers. The city of Tallinn is proud to offer e-book lending service for its citizens.”

“We are using the award money to improve the ELLU e-book reading environment for Android devices - something that ELLU users are really looking forward to. The number of ELLU users is growing, and now more people have begun to understand the value of the service.” 

‘After winning the award we organized a conference’

Olsztyn Municipal Public Library, Poland, winner, Award 6, Creative use of ICT, for their MultiCentre ICT laboratory which enables people to compose music, produce movies, make moving robots, and much more.

Ilona Sekścińska, Chief Specialist, Development and Implementation of Projects:

“After winning the award, we organized a conference for other ‘multi-centres’ in Poland, similar to ours, to show them the way we work, the tools we use and the activities we carry out. It was a very exciting experience.”

“What’s more, a group of 50 librarians from Belarus came to visit our library, and were fascinated by our MultiCentre activities.”  

“The Mayor of Olsztyn praised the library for winning the award, and for our wide range of activities, in the presence of the directors of cultural institutions and the media.”

‘The award helped us stretch our wings’

Twardogóra Public Library, Poland, winner Award 3, Public libraries contributing to social inclusion, for their Internet ABC for Seniors service, which teaches older people to use computers and the internet.

Nadija Łomanowa – Barańska, member of the Coalition for the Library of Twardogóra.

“The EIFL Public Library Innovation Award helped us stretch our wings. It gave us confidence, and made us more certain that we are doing the right thing. So now we fearlessly come up with different ideas, listen attentively to the voice of the community, to hear their needs, and we apply for grants for numerous projects.”

“The Mayor of our commune thanked us for intensive activity in the cultural and educational sphere, as well as for helping seniors become more active, and for coming up with initiatives aimed at inter-generational integration.”

‘We have become one of the most famous libraries in the country’

Pietrari Local Public Library, Romania, winner, Award 6, Creative use of ICT, for their ‘Be Fit Not Fat’ project, that helps overweight members of their community get back in shape.

Crina Popescu, library director:

“After winning the EIFL award, we have become one of the best-known libraries in the country.” 

“Appreciation and compliments have come from everyone who has crossed our threshold, including library visitors and local officials. Television, radio and print media came to Pietrari to create headlines about the library as a result of the award.”

‘We used our prize to develop the project further’

‘B. P. Hasdeu’ Municipal Library, Moldova, winner Award 7, Public libraries contributing to education, for the ‘Trolleybook’, a dynamic summer learning space in a disused trolleybus, parked in a Chisinau city park.

Mariana Harjevschi, library director:

“We decided to use the prize money to develop the project further. So we bought a laptop, an e-reader and a PlayStation for the Trolleybook.”

“On June 1 – International Children’s Day – we launched the ‘second edition’ of Trolleybook. Hundreds of children, parents and grandchildren came, and we enjoyed wonderful, joyful and relaxing moments.”

“We received many congratulations, and recognition from the city authorities after winning the award. And we were on prime time television news.”

Read more about the EIFL Public Library Innovation Awards

Since 2011, EIFL has completed seven exciting innovation award calls and announced the names of 27 winners in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Each call highlights an important community development need, and the award rewards innovative public library services that meet the need.

Winners each receive a prize of US$1,500, a trophy, a certificate, publicity through EIFL’s website and wide network of contacts, and the opportunity to travel to an international or regional conference.

In August we launched our eighth award, EIFL Public Library Innovation Award for Public Libraries contributing to literacy. The call for applications closes on October 12. 

The EIFL Public Library Innovation Awards are supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.