Project Name: Cultural Agora @ Your Library
Project goal: Raising awareness of the cultural diversity and strengthening the intercultural dialogue
Project promoter: National Association of Librarians and Public Libraries in Romania (ANBPR)
- Jazzmontor AS, Norway
- Replika Cultural Association
Project value: Eur 202,644
Grant amount (85% SEE Grant and 15% national budget): RON 806,210 (Euro 182,380)
Promoter Site: www.anbpr.org.ro
Cultural Agora @ Your Library: The specific objective of the project is to use digital stories in order to reflect the history and culture, the beliefs and values of the community. Digital story involves multiple disciplines, including literary and artistic skills, use of technology and inter-cultural exchanges. To that effect, libraries aim to encourage interaction between different ethnic minorities represented in Romania, thus promoting cultural diversity and tolerance for minority ethnic values. The digital story provides the tool by which the memory of the communities can be known and shared.
In the future, any library, seen as a community area, will be able to facilitate knowledge sharing using digital stories. A digital story is a creative construction in itself. In order to complete digital stories you only need to use your imagination and your communication skills. The overall result is expected to attest the potential of digital communications in order revolutionise the sharing of knowledge, ideas and culture, with the participation of the ethnic minority groups.
Through the activities proposed, this project will promote community’s involvement in valuing the cultural specificities of minorities. Using the digital stories technique, the librarians and the community members will share their unique cultural experiences, valuable in terms of ethnic diversity. The activities within the project are conducted in Bucharest, Sibiu, Cluj, Braila.
Cultural Agora – a space to tell stories, to learn and to stimulate the creativity of the minorities
The Cultural Agora @ Your Library project is based on a partnership among ANBPR, an arts organization in Romania – REPLIKA Cultural Association, and a hybrid entity in Norway – Jazzmontor AS Norway, specialized in training and consulting in the field of digital stories.
The central idea of the project is to promote the cultural diversity by understanding the values of the various minorities, fostering interethnic dialogue and education collaboration between users and librarians, with the support of technology.
By means of the objectives and activities of Cultural Agora @ Your Library, the area of the library becomes a true “agora” concerning the representation and participation of all community members, regardless of their education level, social position, or degree of knowledge in the use of technology.
The innovative approach of the project consists in managing the cultural knowledge and personal stories of users by means of public libraries. Suggesting a shift from the traditional library as supplier of materials to the modern library, as facilitator for the creation of material by the users, the project offers an original interpretation to the idea of digital story and a creative rethinking of the role of libraries in the community, in terms of intervention in the cultural diversity field.
By accessing the Cultural Agora, people have the opportunity to create and to share their own stories, videos, texts, photos and to voice their values and beliefs of their own ethnic group. Thus, the libraries become an area of interethnic dialogue, in which the digital stories provide a pleasant way to preserve the collective memory of the community and to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experiences among all users of library services.
A generous idea, a united team and an impressive collection of histories of life and culture
The digital stories technique is a creative process that requires both the use of imagination and the development of communication skills and artistic expression. Digital stories involve the exploration of several disciplines, including the calling for literary and artistic skills, knowledge of copyright issues, technology and public expression.
The Cultural Agora @ Your Library Project offers to the libraries the opportunity to include the Digital Storytelling technique in their everyday activities, with a view to upgrade the library offer and to perpetuate this type of innovative services for the libraries’users.
The project is designed to demonstrate that Digital Storytelling has the potential to revolutionise the exchange of knowledge, ideas and cultural experiences. Moreover, Cultural Agora promotes the involvement of different ethnic communities in the storytelling practice as a way to stimulate individual and collective exchange of experiences, in order to discover the power of community to influence and generate positive changes in the lives of individuals.
The idea of the project came out from the Romanian society’s need to find real landmarks and cultural values by contrast to the anti-patterns promoted by the media. The lack of knowing authentic cultural values was significantly influenced by the unfortunate “interference” of the mass media of Romania, internet, newspapers, television, more interested in disseminating controversial and unstrained cultural content.
There is a great number of studies and research in the education and social behavior field that reveals the dramatic fall in the number of people who read books or go to the theater. Recent studies show that 22% of Romanian do not read any book, while one in five Romanian only read one book a year .
Starting from these premises, Agora Cultural founders decided to focus on Romanian cultural capital, with a special emphasis on education and the creation of innovative services to the library, encouraging people to participate in cultural life .
The project encourages the access to culture and promotes the cultural diversity and inter – cultural dialogue by supporting public libraries to become spaces of cultural effervescence that stimulate curiosity, inspire, educate and connect the general public with culture using digital storytelling techniques.
The target groups addressed directly or indirectly by Agora Culture project are :
• creators, artists and cultural experts, including librarians;
• cultural institutions at both local and national level;
• employees of cultural institutions such as libraries, museums, cultural centers, theaters etc.
• non-governmental organizations, as well as artistic and cultural associations;
• cultural events organizers, ethnic diversity experts and cultural operators active in the minorities’area;
• public universities, academic communities;
• local minority communities, including the Roma minority;
• media representatives;
• general public.
All target groups listed above are either directly involved in the acquisition and adaptation of the concept of Digital Storytelling in their educational activity or interaction with users of library services or are interested in the promotion and dissemination of project results.
The direct beneficiaries are mainly :
• public librarians from ANBPR network
• artistic directors, screenwriters, actors from REPLIKA Cultural Association network;
• local ethnic and cultural communities in Bucharest, Cluj, Sibiu and Braila;
• general users of the public libraries involved, but also the wider audience of the public libraries in Romania
Specific activities of the project involve the transfer of know-how using innovative methods based on digital storytelling (DST ) as a way to share the collective memory of the community, offering creative workshops enabling people to create their own stories using video, text, photos, which eventually, will become library materials.
The project supports four libraries in Bucharest, Cluj, Sibiu and Braila in order to become digital stories centres.
Based on the digital stories produced and collected, the four libraries have organized temporary exhibitions of digital stories, using electronic equipment procured under the project (plasma, cameras, recorders etc.). Librarians, together with the creators of digital stories have also organized public debates with their users in order to create common cultural reflections in each library and to strengthen the “agora” cultural emulation space.
The stories with a dramatic potential became the inspiration for an original theater play – IN YOUR OWN WORDS – which was presented in all four centers, and was included in the REPLIKA Cultural Association repertoire.
This project in partnership led to the creation of a common portal of cultural diversity and identity in Romania, focusing on specific and added value of the cultural heritage of the minorities.
Among the project’s partners and supporters, one can find cultural and artistic institutions, libraries and NGOs involved in the cultural and minority rights, mass media representatives, local decision-makers, governments and public institutions.
The project is financed within the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area (EEA) 2009-2014 Promoting diversity in culture and art in the European cultural heritage. Built on the working relationships between the public libraries in four counties (Metropolitan Library of Bucharest, County Library “Octavian Goga” Cluj, County Library “ASTRA” Sibiu and the County Library “Panait Istrati” Braila ), this project emphasizes the role of the library in educating the community members to respect the cultural diversity, using the digital stories technique.
In future, the consortium of partners intends to build a more complex communication interface between Romania and Norway and to engage in the development of wider scope, cross-border cultural programs. Thus, partners from the two countries will help strengthen the intercultural dialogue and understanding the cultural diversity in Europe.
The Cultural Agora project proposes a set of tools and techniques based on modern technology, through which users of library services belonging to different ethnic communities will become creators of original digital stories on relevant cultural themes. In this way, the library becomes a central actor in the intercultural dialogue of different ethnic groups.
In terms of innovation, Agora offers a modern approach to interactive and collaborative cultural diversity, inviting participants to share their experiences and cultural values through the Digital Storytelling technique.
After acquiring knowledge about the use of video editing tools, participants can use this technique in many other activities, including the promotion of their community for personal branding, tourism purposes etc.
Through its creative and innovative approach of the cultural diversity, with a special emphasis on minorities identity, Cultural Agora represents a multi- disciplinary portal of conserving the cultural specificities of ethnic groups that live together in the same space.
Another innovative element of the project is to collect multicultural digital stories, facilitated by experienced trainers – librarians. Thanks to this project, the library, as main social binder and message provider to the people, becomes, broadly speaking, an important vector in the exchange of cultural knowledge, with great benefits for the culture and cultural education consumers.