PUBLIC LIBRARIES EMPOWERING WOMEN AND GIRLS
One of the library’s trainees, working with her computer at her new job in an automobile parts store.
Violeta Behlimova, one of the library’s trainees, at her new job in an automobile parts store. Violeta is also working at the library as a German language teacher, and completing a course at medical school. Photo credit Gjorgji Ristoski

Public Library ‘Braka Miladinovci’ Radovis brings HOPE TO UNEMPLOYED WOMEN IN MACEDONIA

Public Library Braka Miladinovci proudly lives up to its motto: ‘Friendly Libraries for All Citizens’. The library has only four employees, but they go out of their way to provide services that meet community needs. In 2010, just two years after the global economic crisis, that meant tackling unemployment.

Located in town of Radovis in eastern Macedonia, the library serves two municipalities:  Radovis, with about 30,000 people, and its tiny neighbour, Konce, with about 4,000 people. The municipalities estimated that one in five people was unemployed. Joblessness among women - at 38% - was especially worrying. Creation of new job opportunities was therefore also the main focus of municipal development strategies.

Close to the community, librarians believed that economic recession was only part of the problem. They believed most women were not motivated to seek work, and did not know how to market their skills because the school education system had not encouraged an entrepreneurial approach to life. To deepen their understanding of library users’ needs, librarians surveyed library users aged 18 - 40. The reasons most often given for failure to find work were lack of computer skills and not having money for training.

Librarians put their heads together. After much discussion, they came up with a new service, ‘Creative minds create job opportunities’, which tackles the problem of unemployment from all angles.

Nina’s story

Nina Ivanova was 35 years old and unemployed. In 2011, she attended the library’s course.

“We learnt how to analyze advertisements in relation to our skills. One advertisement was for employment at an insurance company. Before the training, I would never have paid attention to this kind of advertisement. But I now realized the job could be interesting and so I applied.

“Now I am employed in the insurance company and I am very happy because this job fulfills me completely. I am very happy that Public Library ‘Braka Miladinovci’ gave me the opportunity to take part in their free training course. Now I am one of the most frequent visitor to our library!”

Good results and advocacy pay dividends

Advocacy was a constant part of the library’s activities. “We kept the mayors of Radovis and Konce informed about every achievement and development in regular meetings and on the phone,” said Ms Ivanka Sokolova, the librarian who coordinates the service.

The Mayor of Konce was so impressed that he started coming to the library to ask for advice. “When the Mayor received a grant from the European Union to construct a new building, he asked us what he should use the building for – an NGO or a library? We said a library, of course! And now they are creating a new library in Konce!” said Ms Sokolova.

Public Library Braka Miladinovci won the support of Radovis municipality, which made funding the library a priority area for its 2012 budget. The municipal labour office has named the library as a strategic partner and training in its employment programme.

The library can connect with the community better if it offers diverse services and develops a strategy for long-term changes in people’s behavior.

- Ivanka Sokolova, librarian and coordinator of the ‘Creative minds create job opportunities’ service

FACTS

1

There are 32 public libraries in Macedonia.

2

Just 63.1% of people in Macedonia use the internet.

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