Citizens in Ukraine will take to the polls on May 25th to vote in the presidential elections and in a number of local elections against the backdrop of growing tensions and political uncertainty. However, libraries in Ukraine continue to play a critical role in bridging the communication gap between citizens and local governments to address community needs.
With a grant from IREX’s Bibliomist program, the M.L. Kropyvnytskiy Mykolayiv Central Library developed a curriculum on e-government services and trained librarians across Ukraine to increase access to public information to foster effective participation in local decision making processes.
Citizens, local NGOs, and the central library in Mykolayiv City have worked diligently to boost transparency within the electoral process, providing opportunities for citizens to debate with mayoral candidates and to voice their needs and expectations. They have also had the opportunity to discuss city hall initiatives including the city’s Sustainable Development Strategy. In early May, the local library partnered with two local NGOs to leverage the “New Mykolayiv” web platform to launch informative pre –election sessions for the community along with results from meetings with candidates. Seven out of the invited 19 candidates participated in the forums, including the acting city mayor.
The partners initiated the project in response to the community need to discuss the city’s Sustainable Development Strategy. The forum has mobilized active city residents who discuss vital topics such as bike lane routes, park zones, waste segregation and disposal, and the city development plan. The library provides a meeting space, computers for researching the topics under discussion and watching videos from advanced cities all over the world, and librarians’ expertise for getting the most-up-to-date information.
The benefits of the civic engagement project for Mykolayiv community are already tangible, as the city residents have gained regular free access to critical first-hand information for making decisions about the future of their communities.
IREX’s Bibliomist program over the past five years has worked towards modernizing the library system with the goal of transforming libraries from poorly accessed repositories of government-sanctioned information into active hubs for community development