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Bulgarian Colorado Library Partnership Project Interest Group American Bulgarian Library Exchange Report to the CAL Executive Board Submitted by Nancy Bolt There has been considerable activity on this project since the first of the year. I would first like to suggest that we change the name of the project from Bulgarian Colorado Library Partnership Project to the ABLE Interest Group. This is the name we adopted when we received the large federal grant and the name we have used for the last four years. It more accurately reports what the project is like now since it involved American libraries in five states: Colorado (which still has the most partners), Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, and Kansas. Visit by Stefka Ilieva Stefka Ilieva from the Plovdiv Public Library, one of our partner libraries, received a scholarship to attend a workshop on international library cooperation at the Arizona State Library. After this successful workshop where she made a presentation on the ABLE project which was viewed by other international participants as a model project on international cooperation. National Library Week in Bulgaria When we began the ABLE project, one of the first activities that the American proposed was that the Bulgarian Library Association begin to hold a National Library Week combined with a Legislative Day in Sofia, the capitol, the Capitol, where they could lobby the Bulgarian Parliament for more support for libraries. This was first met with strong resistance: "We've never done that before." "Our librarians would never participate." "Parliament would never respond to us." By the third year of the project, and with financial help from both the ABLE project and the US Embassy in Bulgaria, they organized a huge photo exhibition in the Parliament building; held a meeting with the Chair of the Parliament about library support; created a poster distributed throughout the country; and encouraged local libraries to sponsor special projects, which they did. This year, they celebrated the second annual National Library Week. The Bulgarian Library Association created another poster of a young child looking over a stack of books. They also learned a valuable lesson. The participation of local libraries was not as strong as the previous year because the Association did not promote it as strongly to the local librarians. The main celebration was at the Bulgarian National Library with an exhibit on the architecture of libraries with photos of library buildings around the world including Phoenix and Seattle in the U.S. The exhibit was actually put together by a company in Germany and the Exhibition Catalog is in both German and Bulgarian. The new advocacy of the Bulgarian librarians is showing a positive impact. The Parliament has voted 10,000 leva (about $7000) for every library for books. There has been an increase across the board in salaries for librarians, up to about $250 a month. There is a new library in Stara Zagora (partner with Bemis Public Library and the Colorado State Library). They city renovated an old building for the library into which the library can move. The President of Bulgaria will attend the opening. Laura Bush visits Sofia Public Library President Bush and his librarian wife Laura visited Bulgaria in June. The Sofia Public Library (partner with Jefferson County Public Library) had been working for over a year to establish an "American Corner" library focusing on children's books and services. I sent a box of children's books donated by libraries and vendors for this effort. Laura Bush inaugurated the "American Corner", read stories to Bulgarian children; and publicly recognized the ABLE project. Nancy does training in Bulgaria In May, I visited Bulgaria and conducted training in advocacy for the Plovdiv Public Library's regional office. There were over 100 libraries in attendance and Neli Petrova, who visited Colorado as part of this project, translated for me. I prepared a power point in English, leaving room for translation into Bulgarian. You can see this power point on my Web site (www.NancyBoltAssociates.com) under workshops and advocacy. This was basic an introduction to the topic and I've been invited back this November to continue this training and expand it to include lobbying. Other regional libraries are also interested in the training. Celebration at ALA The Bulgarian Embassy in Washington, DC, hosted a reception for the American partner libraries during the ALA conference in June. In attendance were American partner libraries from Colorado, Iowa, and Maryland; staff from the U.S. State Department; 5 librarians from Bulgarian; and members of ALA leadership. Ambassador Elena Poptopdorova praised the ABLE project and what it had accomplished in Bulgarian libraries. Plaques were given to the Ambassador for her support; to Snezjana Ianeva from the American Embassy in Bulgaria who has provided consistent support for the project; Nelli Gipson, who, with her husband, donated $40,000 for the project; and, I'm honored to say, to me as well. Also at ALA, I made a presentation on the ABLE project to the International Relations Round Table Chair's Program. It was very well received. I will try and put this on my Web site as well although the file is quite large. The ABLE federal funding is concluding. We will be bringing one more librarian to the US who will visit a partner library in Kansas. We are working on a final evaluation. What we already know is that this project has made a huge difference for Bulgarian librarians and the people they serve.
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