Tag Archives: Biblioteca Publică Orășenească “Petre Ștefănucă

Laminated Memories

I got my latest certificate on Friday, an especially nice one from our city’s mayor, Sergiu Armașu. He gave it to me during an event honoring library projects, librarians and volunteers from across the district. Our library in Ialoveni, the district capital, hosted the program.

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IMG_8995Certificates and diplomas are a big deal here in Moldova. They are awarded at sporting competitions, school ceremonies and other events. A certificate typically includes the official stamp of the organization and may be laminated.

Moldovans start collecting certificates as students. By the time they graduate from high school, they often have a thick folder of them, which they may proudly show to you.

This seemed strange to me at first. During our Peace Corps training, the local librarian arranged for us to meet some kids in our village. She asked one of the girls, a talented artist, to show us her certificates from painting competitions. The girl explained the certificates one by one.

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As I thought about her later that evening, I recalled the many trophies and medals my two sons accumulated from their sports teams, science fairs and other activities. Their trophies filled two large boxes when we cleaned out our house before joining the Peace Corps. I also had my own stash of certificates, diplomas and congratulatory letters.

IMG_1276In other words, as the walls of many American doctors’ offices make clear, our traditions are similar in many ways. Here in Moldova, though, certificates are way more popular, not to mention cheaper, than sports trophies. Kids here sometimes also receive medals, like the boys on our robotics team shown below.IMG_0968

Last month, before Champa’s school held its big celebration of its new drama costumes, we needed to produce nearly 30 certificates to give to the teachers, students and parents who assisted the project. We also needed certificates for my partners in our library’s Bebeteca project. I was able to laminate all of these certificates with a machine at the Peace Corps office, which has undoubtedly been put to good use over the years.

img_1392.jpgCertificate ceremonies in Moldova are usually filled with pride and appreciation. The speeches are heartfelt, the smiles are genuine and the certificates themselves are lovely. The moment is always captured with a poza — a pose for the camera.IMG_7617

After they receive a certificate, Moldovans may use it to prove their eligibility to receive a job promotion or a raise in salary, or to apply for a new position. More often, they hold onto it as a souvenir of a memorable activity.

When I told a Moldovan friend what I planned to write in this article, she laughed and said, “I don’t want a certificate. Give me some cash.” She had a point, just as one might reasonably ask whether Moldova’s teachers would be better off receiving fewer flowers and bigger paychecks. As a foreign visitor, these questions are not for me to answer. I can only say I have come to enjoy these certificate ceremonies as a distinctive part of Moldova’s culture.

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Champa and I now have our own folder of certificates, which we look forward to bringing home to America with us. They’ll be laminated memories of our time here.

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New Library Website

Ialoveni’s library has a new website, one with lots of new features and a much cleaner design, all of which the library can manage itself for free instead of paying someone else.

The site is at bibliotecaialoveni.wordpress.com.

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My library colleagues scrapped their outdated previous site for this new version, which is easier to manage and will serve their customers better. Having worked on several web redesign projects back home, I was able to help guide them through the process of organizing their data into logical categogies and presenting it in ways that put user needs ahead of internal organizational lines.

Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 11.48.38 AMThe new site features the library’s many new services, such as its clubs for robotics and film animation, and its “Bebeteca” room for kids and families. It highlights a library blog that previously existed on a separate site and was often overlooked. There’s an automated calendar that lists upcoming events. Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 11.45.51 AMA map provides directions. An online exhibit offers a video, photo exhibits and historical information about the library’s namesake, folklorist Petre Ștefănucă. A multimedia section shows YouTube videos about the library. Another section provides the annual work plans for the main library and its two branches.

We built the site on WordPress, which offers templates and operating systems in multiple languages, including Romanian. I’m a fan of WordPress, which is easy to learn and has a lot of useful features even in its free versions. Since I use WordPress for my own blog and have become comfortable with it, I took the lead in designing and assembling the new library site, using a free template called Rowling. I worked closely with library director Valentina Plamdeala and my partner Lidia Russu, who I am now training to update and manage the site.

 

Like many Moldovan companies and institutions, Ialoveni’s library relies heavily on Facebook for its communications. We made sure the new website includes prominent links to its Facebook site and features its latest Facebook posts automatically. WordPress “widgets” made this easy to do this, as well as to highlight the library’s schedule, link to the blog archives and do other tasks that used to require custom programming.

We hope the new site will enable Ialoveni’s library to serve its community more effectively and attract new users. If anyone reading this works at another library in Moldova and wants to learn more about our experience, we’d be happy to share it with them.

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Grant Fishing

Did Confucius ever submit a grant proposal?

IMG_1548Some accounts say he wrote the famous aphorism: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

If he were living in today’s world, though, Confucius might have said: Give money to people and you help them for a short time. Teach them to write grants and they can keep going for years. (Or something like that.)

Grant writing has become an essential skill for public institutions and nonprofit organizations here in Moldova. IMG_1550With salaries and budgets that are tiny by American standards, they look to external sources for additional support, especially for projects. Potential funders range from USAID and other agencies affiliated with foreign governments to international NGOs, local embassies and others. Civic.md compiles many of their initiatives.

On Monday evening, our Ialoveni library learned its robotics team was among the winners in the latest round of a small grant competition for local youth that also provides valuable experience for the young reviewers. The Ialoveni team will  receive 5,500 lei, or a bit more than $330, to buy the supplies it needs to continue participating in national robotics competitions and perhaps to also organize a small local competition.

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My library partner, Lidia Rusu, in the white sweater below, has gained a lot of experience writing grants over the past several years. She’s also received training from Novateca on other forms of fund-raising and advocacy, doing so well that Novateca recruited her to train librarians elsewhere. I was impressed as she worked with several boys on our robotics team to prepare this latest proposal. We discussed it but they did almost all of the work themselves, including the budget and narrative sections. They also presented it effectively to the review committee you see here at Ialoveni’s Consiliul Raional, or county government.

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The new grant isn’t a lot of money, but it’s enough to keep the library’s robotics program moving forward. Equally important, both Lidia and the boys honed their grant preparation skills and received positive feedback that will encourage them to pursue more grants in the future. Next time they may reel in some bigger fish.

 

Moms, Kids & Rusalina

Ialoveni families came on Sunday afternoon to Bebeteca, the library’s new program that combines a colorful play area for kids with educational programming for adults. Television personality Rusalina Rusu led a lively conversation with local parents while their kids played, as shown below in the slide show. The library, BPO “Petre Ştefănucă, launched Bebeteca earlier this month with support from our Peace Corps grant. It will be announcing future Bebeteca events on its Facebook page. If you live in Ialoveni, especially if you’re a parent with a youngster, come join us!

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‘Bebeteca’ for Families

Ialoveni’s library has something new for local families: “Bebeteca,” a colorful children’s room where kids can play while adults enjoy educational discussions with guest speakers.

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On Sunday, Jan. 28, Rusalina Russu will speak at 1 p.m. at Bebeteca about how she grew up in Ialoveni and became one of Moldova’s best-known television personalities, hosting a show about families. The program is free and the public is invited to attend. [ADDED: Here’s a short post about her talk along with several fun photos of the moms and kids.]

Last week, local doctor Diana Slivinschi, above, discussed children’s infectious diseases. Future speakers are scheduled to discuss topics ranging from dental care for children to planning trips with kids or how Ialoveni provides support to vulnerable families. At some programs, librarians will read stories aloud with the children. The library’s Facebook page will provide details.

 

Parents and grandparents can enjoy the discussions while their kids play with toys and books the library has bought along with children’s furniture and a wall-mounted TV. IMG_0869Students from Ialoveni’s School of Art, upstairs from the library, are painting the room with an original mural featuring characters from national children’s stories.

“We are excited to offer this new programs for families in Ialoveni,” Valentina Plamadeala, director of BPO “Petre Ştefănucă” said. IMG_0832“We want to offer mothers and families the chance to meet, have fun and learn something new. We also hope they will explore the library while they’re here and borrow some books or sign up for our free programs, from learning English to making simple animated movies.”

Plamadeala said story-telling programs at libraries are popular in many countries, including Romania, but a new idea in Moldova. She hopes the Ialoveni program may inspire other libraries in Moldova to launch similar efforts.

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Responding to information gathered in a community survey, BPO “Petre Ştefănucă” created the new space with the support of a U.S. Peace Corps grant and a small project Plamadeala implemented through the “Together for the Community” program of the Association of Librarians in the Republic of Moldova and the National Library of Moldova in partnership with the Novateca National Program.

Librarian Lidia Rusu and Peace Corps Volunteer David Jarmul developed the project, purchased the materials and worked with the rest of the library staff to create the room and organize the programs.

(A Romanian version of this article was posted by the library, which used the infographic below to describe its survey results showing wide community support for the project idea .)

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Ready, Set, Flow

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Raise your hand if you’ve done any of these things at your local library:

    • Guided a fire truck to a burning fire
    • Used munipial sludge to fertilize a garden
    • Replaced a broken pipe in a water system

Oh, and you needed to do all this with a robot you programmed. (You can raise your hand on your own.)IMG_9958

On Wednesday, students in our robotics program at the Ialoveni library began their newest challenge: a “Hydro Dynamics” competition in which their robots will carry out as many of these and other tasks as possible within two and a half minutes.

They are joining students aged 9 to 16 from 80 countries in this event organized by First Lego League, an international organization that challenges kids to think like scientists and engineers. This year’s competition focuses on water; previous themes have included animals, food, trash and climate.

IMG_9928Our team will be programming robots to operate precisely on a colorful mat filled with Lego models of pipes, wells, fountains, gardens, a filtration system and other structures involving water. In one of the 18 possible missions, their robot will need to turn the handle of a faucet, releasing plastic models of water. In another, it must pull a lever that releases rain from a cloud. In others, it must place a water well near a garden, open a valve or drop water into a pot to make a flower rise.

This video shows what they’ll be doing:

Our students will also need to give a presentation in which they share an original idea for solving a problem involving water. Their overall score will assess their research, presentation and teamwork skills as well as their programming prowess.

Ialoveni’s library, Biblioteca Publică Orășenească “Petre Ștefănucă,” is among several public libraries participating in the competition with support from Novateca, the NGO that’s been a driving force in modernizing public libraries across Moldova. (See my recent post describing Novateca’s remarkable impact in our area.)

On Monday and Tuesday, my colleague Lidia Rusu (shown above) and I participated in a training session for the new competition. Novateca organized the program, where we were reunited with many of the libraries we met at November’s SumoBot Challenge at Tekwill, which I showed in this video. The librarians have formed a Facebook group to stay in touch, share ideas and encourage each other as they compete against teams from schools and other groups.

Our students are now building the Lego structures for the competition and starting to think about their research project. After Christmas, they’ll need to decide which of the 18 missions to undertake, and then start modifying, programming and testing their robots.

Raise your hand and wish us luck.

 

 

Keeping Kids Safe Online

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Just like parents in America, Moldova’s moms and dads worry what their kids are seeing and doing on the internet.

On Sunday, some of them learned techniques for protecting their children’s privacy and for avoiding online threats such as predators and sexual content. They participated in a special SuperCoders event where they discussed E-safety while their kids got a fun introduction to computer coding.

At Biblioteca publică orăşenească „Petre Ştefănucă” in Ialoveni, where I work as a Peace Corps Volunteer, 19 kids took part in the program sponsored by Orange Moldova, the country’s largest telecommunications company. Orange Moldova teamed up with Novateca to organize similar sessions at 37 public libraries across Moldova over three weeks.

IMG_8186Ranging in age from 10 to 14, Ialoveni’s kids used a Romanian version of the colorful Scratch software developed at the MIT Media Lab to encourage young people to think creatively, reason systematically and work collaboratively. The software resembled some of the Hour of Code games I’ve used previously at the library.  As before, the kids loved it and began solving fun problems within minutes. Meanwhile, their parents were in an adjacent room discussing topics ranging from cyber bullying to the importance of changing passwords regularly.

In the brief video clip below, my library colleague Lidia Rusu asks the kids in Romanian whether they’re tired of programming. You can figure out their response without my translation.

[Video clip also viewable on YouTube.]