A Roundtable Discussion on Rural Library Projects

China Development Brief no. 48 (Winter 2010)

中文 English

Some projects continue with the traditional method of setting up and directly managing rural libraries, while others focus on providing support for their establishment.  Some organizations include library projects as part of their programming, while other organizations see rural libraries as their core business.

This group of NGOs has come a long way, from competing with one another in the early days, to gradually creating a cooperative atmosphere. They are also demonstrating increasingly diverse organizational strategies and displaying their unique characteristics.

To better understand these changes, China Development Brief invited a group of NGOs and foundations to come together and share their experiences about the rural libraries industry.

Host: Wang Hui, CDB Staff Writer

Discussion Participants:

Guardians of Spring

China Zigen Foundation for Rural Education and Development

Beijing Brooks Education Center

China Rural Library

Overseas China Education Foundation (OCEF)

Xinping Foundation

Guixin Foundation

Shanghai Cherished Dream Foundation

 I.  Views from Organizations on the Front Line

The Opportunities and Rationale for Rural Libraries

China Zigen: “To have access to books, a passion for reading, and the ability to read,” is very important for children. Yet the children attending village and township schools in Zigen’s project counties (those designated by the state as poverty-stricken counties), typically have nothing to read outside of their classroom texts. Even the schools that do have books, tend only to have small “leaflets” used as part of China’s compulsory nine year education curriculum, or political reading material which is not very readable. And even these books are often locked away in rooms and not open to the students.

Beijing Brooks: In 2003, while researching environmental protection we discovered that China’s vast rural regions generally had a very weak educational infrastructure. Many students in western provinces had never even seen a book outside of their classroom texts. And among rural adults, long periods without reading led to their forgetting characters, resulting in high rates of adult illiteracy. The lack of good libraries were a major bottleneck for improving the quality of education for citizens in these rural communities. Under these limited circumstances, we seek  the most convenient method to provide remote areas with learning opportunities, support children in their education and maturation, and promote educational equity. At the same time we would like to put forth a proposal to the public: “return to your hometown and build a library.” This is the simplest, most direct way of participating in improving education in your hometown.

China Rural Library: With the exception of the lucky few, most of us from rural areas grew up in poverty. Even as adults, we continue to be affected by the poor-quality education we received as children. That is one of the primary reasons we support rural libraries: to stop the transmission of ignorance and to provide young children with educational nourishment and self-esteem when they need it most. We hope that the knowledge and ideas contained in good books can give inspiration and strength to children. We also hope that rural libraries can promote knowledge exchange, cultural transmission and community interaction.

Shanghai Cherished Dream: China’s major urban centers discard around 20 million children’s books every year, while about 30 million students in 200,000 schools in poverty-stricken areas of rural China are basically without any extracurricular reading materials. There exists a relatively large gap in rural and urban education levels, not only in the teaching of basic knowledge, but also in general exposure to new ideas.  The Cherished Dreams Library Project aims to meet the demand for more reading materials for these 30 million students. Additionally there is our “Dream Center,” which is our core project. The Dream Center constructs multimedia classrooms in selected hub schools. To be eligible, schools must have internet connectivity and have a minimum number of students enrolled. While working with these hub schools, we discovered that schools in neighboring village urgently needed extracurricular reading materials. So, we set up libraries in these village schools, and connected them with teachers from the hub schools to provide guidance. Now, the village schools are able to provide their students with a decent reading atmosphere.

Managing the Libraries: Using “Airborne Troops” or Local Residents

China Rural Library: All of China Rural Library’s projects have long-term, full-time volunteers responsible for management, guaranteeing continuity in the group mission and activities. Full-time volunteers must go through a rigorous selection process to ensure they are able to undertake creative and exploratory educational tasks, institutional management, organization of activities, and other such complicated tasks. Currently all local branch libraries have one to two full-time volunteers who not only ensure normal operation hours, but also organize a number of activities, such as reading groups, movie showings, visits from scholars, essay competitions,  summer and winter camps, and mobile reading stations.

Cherished Dreams:  The selection of sites for Dream Libraries mainly depends on the Dream Center which receives suggestions from the local education bureau, Communist Youth League, and cooperating partners. We utilize recommended teachers from local rural elementary schools, teachers and administrators from Dream Center’s hub schools, or workers from local partner NGO’s to manage our Dream Libraries.

Brooks:  We completely depend on local people and donors for construction and management, Brooks only plays a role in aiding cooperation, training and service. Some libraries are constructed in the middle of the village, while others are set up inside of schools. Donors will go to the area themselves and find suitable and dependable locals to manage the library, for example, the director of a women’s group, the child of the village head who is studying in high school, or a teacher in the local school. Donors may also come back at random times to check up and get feedback on the work being done. If there is a problem in the operation of the library, then Brooks and the donor will make some adjustments as necessary.

Guardians of Spring:  Most of the work is done by local volunteers, though outside volunteers may also come in for given periods of time for guidance and exchange of ideas. We will go to local areas and screen volunteers. The most important factor is passion and commitment, whether the volunteer is a rural woman who loves to read, or a local teacher. Outside help usually comes to provide training in library management, or advice on organizing and managing reading activities.

Thoughts on Books Supply and Selection

Brooks: According to the characteristics of the area in which the library is located, such as ethnic culture, sex ratio, degree of literacy, books are distributed on the basis of a 1:4 ratio. The first donation will not surpass 1000 books. After one year of operation, we assess the library’s circulation and needs to replace old books and conduct training. Usually libraries need about 800-900 new books and 3-4 periodical titles. Genres include literature, encyclopedias, history, geography, health and fitness, children’s books, agricultural technology, law, etc.. We coordinate with publishers and booksellers in order to select suitable books.

Guixin Foundation: We select age-appropriate books for children. If the children are in grades 1-3 the books will mainly have pictures and teach Pinyin, if they are in grades 4-6 they will be books on general knowledge, while grades 7-9 will generally have reference books and books that aid in studying. Genres include science, art, literature, foreign and domestic famous authors, Chinese cultural classics, safety, health, physical education, etc.. There is a fixed publishing company and sponsoring partner that determines the supply of books.

China Zigen: Zigen’s reading projects does a survey of teacher and student needs, then works with a book selection volunteer (a worker from San Lian bookstore) to determine the book list. We mostly select books having to do with local history and culture, as well as Chinese history and culture. Zigen supports the purchase of books, commissioning a distributor to distribute and deliver the books. (A distributor typically refers to a large-scale book wholesaler that buys from a publisher and sells to small retailers. Distributors are now being used by many organizations to serve project libraries in villages. The Brooks Center is a prominent non-profit distributor.)

Guardians of Spring: We select different types of books according to the needs and interests of different audiences whether they are elementary school students served by school libraries or rural residents served by village libraries. After first understanding the needs and wants of the reading audience, we consult with a professional book distributor to select books.

China Rural Library: In selecting books we largely consult our core book catalogues. These catalogues are compiled and consolidated from the lists of different friends. To begin a collection, China Rural Library will buy 2000-5000 books. The collections expand with books donated by friends of the library, and with additional purchases made by us.

Cherished Dream: The best donors to consult for collecting reading materials that are suitable for elementary and middle school students are those with similar tastes: city elementary and middle school students. We collect secondhand books with the help of the local education bureau in areas such as Shenzhen, Zhejiang, and Shanghai. These departments ensure the collection, selection, packaging, labeling, and shipping of books to the rural schools.

How Can We Evaluate the Operational Effectiveness of Rural Libraries?

Cherished Dreams:  Every Cherished Dreams library is supplied with a library management software. After books are shelved, schools utilize the software to manage the borrowing of books. At the same time we use a unified database to manage book borrowing in all rural school libraries. We believe that public interest projects need to introduce more tools for the rational analysis of data, to promote efficiency and sustainability.

Guardians of Spring:  Apart from book borrowing statistics, we place a lot of emphasis on quality activities in the library. We aim to create a sort of “living” library. In other words, we do not just want to let a donor’s books lie unused on the shelves. We want to maximize the use of the books and hold interesting events and activities in our rural libraries.

OCEF:  We have library supervision questionnaires, getting feedback and evaluations on all aspects of library management from teachers and students. The most important thing is still that teachers and students can get enjoyment and benefit from the library.

Brooks:  We just want to coordinate the local schools and communities to work together to effectively manage the library and satisfy local service needs. I would go so far as to say that factors such as the size of a library, its management style, its level of technology, are not that important. Basically, we hope that through regular contact with our donors and volunteers we can confirm the normal operation of our libraries. As long as a library is able to maintain normal hours of operation, we have already met our goals at this early stage.

Communication and Cooperation with the Community and Other Organizations

China Rural Library: We cooperate with many different organizations in the same sector. We don’t just exchange our ideas and experiences, we also communicate and cooperate on professional tasks. For example we have learned from Zigen’s “Love Database” in developing our ideas on “blanketing” elementary schools.  We also cooperate with the Brooks Center, buying a portion of our books from their sub-wholesaler.

China Zigen:  We supported the people in charge of Xiamen’s cultural development center to set up reading corners in all classrooms in Zigen Project Schools. We also recommend that those of our Project Schools with relatively advanced reading levels apply to Cherished Dreams for a “Dream Center” or to Evergreen Education Foundation for a stack room. In addition, we have participated in the “Reading Forum Group” with other organizations in the sector, sharing our experiences.

Brooks:  Before, all rural library projects were done on an individual basis, but now that we have entered a stage of integration of resources, it is possible to communicate and learn from each other through meetings, observation sessions, and trainings. We have accumulated a lot of experience over a long period of selecting books, and have just established a “Public Welfare Book Distributor,” which provides book services to all kinds of public welfare organizations.

OCEF:  We work with some local NGOs, co-sponsoring schools. We also cooperate on some projects with other NGOs in our industry, such as a recent collaboration with Smiling Library on a model library project.

There Are Always Deficiencies

China Zigen:  Management of the libraries depends on local volunteers, but many rural schools have a serious lack of teachers. It is very difficult to find designated people to manage the libraries.

Guardians of Spring:  It is very difficult to know how exactly to encourage rural residents to read more and have a passion for reading. At the same time we often run into problems that we wouldn’t encounter in cities, such as needing to negotiate with local governments in sensitive locales, and working with local cadres who may or may not be interested in building libraries.

OCEF:  Changing the ideas of rural teachers takes time. It takes a lot of patience to work with teachers on stressing the importance of reading, finding methods and techniques for guiding reading, and discussing topics with all children equally.

What Course Will Rural Libraries Take in the Future?

China Zigen:  In the difficult conditions of most rural schools, where both reading materials and teachers are scarce, we must try to lower entry barriers to libraries. In this respect the best method is to build reading corners inside of classrooms, bringing the pressure of managing the library down to the classroom level. In schools that already have libraries and relatively good teachers, we must promote reading. As more and more schools gain access to reading materials, NGOs should move from the first step of building libraries to the next step of encouraging reading.

Brooks:  The construction of rural libraries can be divided into three steps: The first step is getting off the ground, going from having nothing to receiving donations and constructing a library. The second step is improving the quality of the library. This includes increasing the number of good books, improving reading levels, and diversifying library-related activities. The third step is reconstructing rural culture. Building upon these reading activities, we must work to expand the horizons of rural adults and children, raise their cultural consciousness, and stress the importance of protecting local culture and education. From this base we can construct local culture, just as is written in the Brooks Center’s educational materials.

Guardians of Spring:  It is hard to predict the trajectory of the libraries. What we hope is that all may have books, have the ability to read books, and love to read books. We must move from using books to alleviate poverty to popularizing reading.

Guixin Foundation:  We want to use our libraries efficiently and hold activities to support children as they grow, such as reading, writing, arts and crafts, small experiments, dramas, and other extracurricular activities. We also want to have university students come and give classes, and encourage children to make reading a lifelong habit. We also want the rural school library to become a village center for learning about science and technology, and the arts.

Every Group Has Its Own New Plan

Brooks:  First we wish to accelerate efforts to create a platform for cooperation among public welfare libraries. In this way, these organizations can stop replicating each other’s work and instead concentrate on what they do well.  Second we wish to create a platform where groups can effectively communicate their experiences and resources with regards to reading, education, and training personnel. Lastly we wish to keep track of libraries that are constructed by rural residents themselves, and allow the integration of their libraries with NGO-built libraries. In this way we can truly promote the public welfare and create a cultural foundation in rural areas.

China Zigen:  First, we would like to use 2-3 years time to build up our local libraries into networks that cover entire counties. Second, we would like to spend more time in improving the management of our libraries, gradually implementing training courses for management of the libraries and teaching training. Third, we would like to implement classroom reading corners in poverty-stricken areas and remote rural elementary schools.

Guardians of Spring: Many rural libraries fall into disrepair after operating for a short time, so we spend a lot of time trying to find ways to increase the long-term stability of rural library operations. By building on the stable foundation of the libraries already in operation, we hope to expand to more remote rural locations.

OCEF:  Currently we have many projects we’d like to do, creating an integrated project that would include education stipends, scholarships, and book donation projects. We hope to help local coordinators establish groups to provide financial aid to students, and ensure the sustainability of projects.

II.  Views from Sponsoring Foundations

Implementing Your Own Projects or Sponsoring Other Organizations?

Xinping Foundation:  Because our institutions have just begun, we admit that we lack expertise in the field. For this reason we only sponsor other organizations’ projects (grassroots charity organizations or foundations with operations on the ground), and do not run projects ourselves.

Cherished Dreams:  We use our own team to implement programs because we have the advantage of having a large-scale collection of books, a modern transportation and distribution system, and also an electronic database for behind the scenes management. We also have a well-developed and expert team for construction, operations, and IT support.  Moreover we have the advantage of being able to buy at wholesale prices, achieving a scale that ensures that these projects can expand to other areas and be run sustainably

Guixin Foundation:  We run our own operations. Each project has very strict regulations, which creates a standard that makes it easier to evaluate and manage our operations.  While surveying our Guixin Libraries we have discovered that finishing the programs ourselves makes it easier for us to discover problems in a timely fashion and find a more efficient way to improve the project.

OCEF:  We run our operations ourselves. We have already run our foundation’s Student Grant Projects for many years. It was only in running our programs that we discovered many of our project schools had a need for books, at which time we began our library projects.

How Can Local Organizations Gain the Support of Your Foundations?

Cherished Dreams:  Rural elementary schools selected to receive “Dream Libraries” are located in close proximity to “Dream Centers.”  Eligible schools are included on a list of possible candidates. If there is a school that meets Cherished Dreams’ guidelines, it may be recommended.

Xinping Foundation:  Generally, we do not take applications. Instead, we are the ones who extend invitations to new organizations, because we are constantly monitoring their actions.  After we send out the invitation, it’s somewhat like a trial marriage, as we will run a few trial programs first. If everyone is satisfied then we will formally become partners. A characteristic that we especially look for in our partners is the quality or potential of being a “social entrepreneur.”

Guixin Foundation:  Our projects are implemented at the village school level. You first tell us about the situation of your school, and if your school fits our requirements and criteria, then you may become our partner, or participate in the construction and management of a library.

How Should We Understand and Evaluate Sponsored or Directly Operated Rural Libraries?

Xinping Foundation:  We directly invite our partners, and this, to a large degree, ensures the dependability of sponsored programs. If during our “trial marriage” period the project is not done well, then they will not have the opportunity to cooperate with us. Because there is not just one way to solve a given area’s library problems, it is not proper for Xinping to provide a template and method. We mostly hope to create a platform, including discussion groups and reading networks, to allow organizations that cooperate with Xinping to share all that they are doing.

Cherished Dreams:  Along with the books we send to schools, we also provide a computer, book management software, and a bar-scanner. We also use a central databank system that is connected to and able to manage book collection and borrowing information for all of our affiliated libraries.  This databank makes it possible to start up and promote rural reading activities. We utilize uploaded data on the frequency and rate of book borrowing in doing our assessments of libraries.

OCEF:  Volunteers will visit the schools at regular intervals, and in some key areas volunteers will go to the schools every semester to work together with teachers in the construction of the library.

Guixin Foundation:  For every library we build we do about 3-5 years of monitoring and service. During this period, university student volunteers come in intervals as assistant teachers. The teachers and students responsible for the management of the Guixin libraries are in charge of weekly registration for reading activities. Additionally, records of student achievement in class reading activities, hand writing practice sheets, and reading competition results are also an index for evaluation. Also donors and the foundation director pay visits to the schools to inspect them.

Afterword:

This year in May, the first session of China’s Symposium for the Construction of Rural Libraries and Popularization of Reading was held in Wuhan. Over 120 workers and volunteers from nearly 100 NGOs all over the country came together and shared their experiences. Just a few years earlier it would have been impossible to imagine that rural libraries could have reached this kind of scale.

Rural libraries are civic organizations that are dedicated to one means of rural education. In their development, we can see different tendencies. Some pay attention to a specific type of service, others provide financial support; some are established in rural middle and elementary schools, others are concentrated on immigrant communities in cities. The seven organizations that participated in the above dialogue with China Development Brief are just a small portion of the many organizations that work to construct rural libraries.  We could also include organizations such as as The One Kilo Book Network, Evergreen Education Foundation, Dandelion Rural Libraries, The Fujian Fuqian Culture Center, Shanghai Morning Star Book Society. Collectively, these groups are making a remarkable difference.

More importantly, these library projects are spread across different areas, and adopt a range of different operating methods. Some work to create multifunctional libraries in local elementary and middle schools, others construct libraries as a vehicle to support community integration.  They allow villages, which had been isolated from the cities, to bring the information age within their reach.

In the years to come it is possible that the term “rural library” will become outdated and inappropriate. One reason is that the goal of these organizations is no longer just to construct libraries in remote rural areas, but also to serve immigrant populations in cities.  They also wish to bring more activities into these libraries with more activities, making them more “alive,” and attuned to the needs of the local population.

The direction many of these organizations appear to be heading in is the promotion of “reading.”  The emphasis, however, will no longer be on increasing the number of books in the library, or on some physical aspect of the library, but rather, on helping the library grow into a mature institution. The question is, what exactly do libraries give to the children or the villagers, or to the local schools or communities? And so there is a gradual transition from focusing on library hardware to improving “software” qualities, such as library services. Thus, the quality of the training given to those managing the libraries has become a more pressing concern.

This most certainly is not a top-down model. It is a grassroots movement that creates a common place for learning in rural communities, and also cultivates a spirit of participation in local affairs.

乡村图书馆同业之声
王辉
中国发展简报2010冬季刊
乡村图书馆是教育领域的经典项目,一些机构早已开始运作,新机构也在不断参与进来,寥寥数年间有了新的变化。其中既有传统的直接操办乡村图书馆的做法,也有专司支持做乡村图书馆项目;既有一个机构中设立图书馆项目,也有机构专门以乡村图书馆为“主营业务”。此外,这个NGO群体从最早的各自为战,到现在慢慢形成合作的氛围,越来越多样的手法和策略,逐渐显现出NGO各自不同的专业姿态。
正因为这些变化,中国发展简报邀请了几家一线做乡村图书的NGO或运作型基金会,以及支持这些服务型组织的基金会,请他们分享各自的体验,以增进同类组织间的交流。
主持人:王辉(中国发展简报)
参与讨论:守望春天,中国滋根乡村教育与发展促进会,北京天下溪教育咨询中心,立人乡村图书馆,海外中国教育基金会,心平公益基金会,桂馨基金会,上海真爱梦想公益基金会
一线机构如是说
做乡村图书馆的机缘和理由
中国滋根:“有书看、爱看书、会看书”对一个孩子来说非常重要。但滋根服务的项目区县(国家贫困县)多数村小、中心小学没有书,孩子们除了课本没有其他书可以看。即使有书的学校,书往往是“普九”时期充数量的“小薄本”或政治读物,可读性不强;而这些可读性不强的书还被锁在图书室,不开放给孩子们。
天下溪:在2003年关注环境保护的过程中发现,在中国广大的农村地区,教育基础设施普遍非常薄弱,很多西部地区的孩子根本没有见过课本以外的书籍。对于数量庞大的农村成年人,由于长期缺乏阅读,返盲率极高。图书匮乏已经成为很多地区提高教育质量和公民素质的瓶颈。所以,我们希望在各种条件有限的情况下,用最方便操作的方法,让那些僻远之地有一种触手可及的吸取知识的机会,尽可能去实践村民和青少年的自我成长和教育,去谋求一种教育资源的公平。同时,我们向公众提出倡议——“回自己的家乡建一个图书室”,这也是一种公众最简单、最直接对家乡、对教育的回馈和参与方式。
立人乡村图书馆:乡村,是我们的出生地和生长地。然而,童年的贫困深深地伤害了我们中除了少数幸运儿外的大多数人,落后的青少年教育在我们的心灵深处留下了创伤。我们要做乡村图书馆,首先就是想要部分地结束这种伤痛和悲剧,在人之为人的思考、开始精神发育的时候,能够吸收到适当的营养。从小就能树立自立的信念和信心,更加健康的成长,尽早知悉做“人”的真理。我们希望好的书籍中所承载的知识和思想,照亮他们的方向,给以前行的慰藉和力量。同时,我们也希望乡村图书馆能成为信息传递的一个重要中转站,文化传播的一个坚实的起点,并在乡村社会内部生长成为一个文化聚合、涵养的场所和公共事务交流的平台。
真爱梦想基金会:中国中心大城市每年淘汰约2 000万册儿童图书,而中国贫困地区的20万所乡村学校、约3 000万乡村学生几乎没有儿童课外读物。乡村学生与城市学生受教育程度存在较大差距,不仅体现在基础教育对于儿童各方面知识的培养,也体现在儿童视野、格局和全面素质的培养。因此,梦想书屋项目就是针对这些约3 000万乡村学生的课外阅读需求。此外,我们的“梦想中心”“梦想中心”是真爱梦想基金会的核心项目,主要选择中心校建设多功能综合教室,要求学校需通网络、达到一定的人数等条件才能做,有一定的门槛。 选择与中心校合作的同时,也发现一些由中心校管理的更偏远的村小对课外书籍也是迫切需要。所以在我们已有的梦想中心学校网络周围选点来做梦想书屋,由梦想中心学校老师参与管理、引导,形成较好的阅读氛围。
打理图书馆:“空降兵”还是当地人
立人乡村图书馆:立人所有分馆均有长期专职义工来负责管理,确保组织使命和机构活动的连续性。专职义工均经过严格选拔,确保执行团队能够胜任教育探索和创新、机构管理、活动组织等复杂任务。目前每个地方分馆仅有专职义工1~2名,不仅保障分馆的正常开放,而且要组织读书会、电影放映、学者访问、作文比赛、冬夏令营、流动图书站等活动。
真爱梦想基金会:梦想书屋的选点主要是依托各地的“梦想中心”网络,由当地教育局、团委、合作伙伴来推荐。我们通过梦想中心学校推荐周边村小,通过梦想中心学校老师参与管理,或者当地合作的NGO来管理梦想书屋。
天下溪:完全依赖当地人和捐款人的建设和管理,天下溪只担当配合、培训和服务的角色。图书室有建在村子中的,也有建在学校里的。在哪里建,就由捐赠人自己找到合适的可靠的当地人来打理图书馆,比如村子里的妇女主任、村长家读高中的孩子,以及学校的老师等。此外,捐赠人也会不定期去核实、反馈。如果出现图书室运转方面的问题,天下溪会和捐赠人一起做一些调整,如将村子或学校的图书馆合并其他的村子或学校里去。
守望春天:主体工作由当地志愿者来做,外来志愿者也可以定期做指导和交流。我们在当地筛选志愿者,最看重他的爱心和愿望,其他的条件都是次要,谁来都不太重要,比如爱看书的农妇,还有当地的代课教师等等。而外来志愿者主要提供图书管理方面的培训,另外就如何开展阅读活动提出相应的建议和意见。
图书选择需费心思
天下溪:根据图书室所在地区(不同的种植、养殖种类)、民族特色、性别比例、学生的阅读基础和就读年级等情况,按照1∶4的比例来配书,第一次捐赠不超过1 000册。图书室运行一年后,再根据图书室的运转情况和具体需求做些更新替旧和培训的工作。图书室一般的配置是800~900本适合当地需求的新书和3~4种报刊杂志。类别有文学、百科科普、历史地理、生活保健、儿童读物、农业科技、法律等书籍。我们会和出版社、图书经销商联系选取适合的书籍。
桂馨基金会:根据孩子的年龄和特点,选择适合孩子的图书。如1~3年级多为拼音和图画书,4~6年级多为知识类课外书,7~9年级多为工具书和教学辅助类图书。图书的种类有科学、艺术、文史、古今中外名著、中国经典文化导读、安全、卫生、体育等各类书籍,由固定的出版社及合作伙伴提供。
中国滋根:滋根阅读项目工作人员收集当地孩子、老师的图书需求,与阅读项目的选书志愿者(三联书店的一名工作人员)一起确定书单,主要是选择本地文化历史、中国文化历史方面的书籍。滋根支持经费购买图书,然后委托一家图书中盘商(中盘商,意为大型的图书批发商,上接出版,下达小型批零单位,现被借用到乡村图书馆项目之中,为广大乡村图书项目服务机构提供图书选配等服务,目前的公益中盘商是天下溪。)负责图书配货、发货。
守望春天:根据不同阅读人群选择不同的图书。阅读人群有小学生(在学校的图书室),还有农民(建在村子里面的图书室),当然就要配选不同的书籍。图书选择,基本是在了解了阅读人群的意愿前提下,交由专业配书人士进行。
立人乡村图书馆:我们选书主要参考立人核心书目。这些书目是不同的朋友从不同角度提供并综合而成的。启动图书由立人自行采购2 000~5 000册不等的图书。后续增加的图书一部分来自各地朋友的捐赠,另一部分是继续采购。
真爱梦想基金会:募集适合中小学生阅读的课外读物,最优捐赠者是具有相近阅读习惯的城市中小学生。这些二手图书的募集主要依靠与真爱梦想合作的包括深圳、浙江、上海等地的教育局,经过集中收取、分拣、装箱、贴标签、物流发送至乡村学校。
怎么评估乡村图书馆的运行效果
真爱梦想基金会:每间梦想书屋配备一套图书管理软件,图书上架后,学校使用软件进行借阅管理,同时我们会用统一的数据库管理所有乡村学校的书屋借阅情况。我们相信,公益需要引入更多的理性分析和数据统计,这会让公益资产更有效、持续的应用。
守望春天:除了借阅情况统计,基于图书室的活动尤为重要——要建设一个“活”的图书室。换言之,就是不要让捐赠的图书躺在图书室里面,而是要让图书室的书籍们都发挥最大的作用,基于图书室在农村或学校开展丰富多彩的活动。
海外中国教育基金会:我们有图书监察问卷,从学校老师、学生反馈几方面来评估,最重要的还是孩子和老师能感受到阅读的乐趣,并从中受益。
天下溪:只要我们能配合当地的学校/社区一起对图书室进行有效的管理,起到服务当地的作用就行,至于图书室建在哪里、大小如何、图书分类和管理是否专业、图书室是否具有高科技因素,都不那么重要。我们希望通过捐赠人、志愿者时常回访图书室是否正常运行以及运行状况的这个举动,参与到图书室的运行中来就好。图书室能够做到按时开放阅读就达到了我们的初期目标。
与同行、社区交流与合作
立人乡村图书馆:我们和同行有许多合作,不仅在思想、经验上有交流,更在业务上有交流和合作。比如借鉴滋根“爱的书库”,开发立人覆盖小学的思路;与天下溪合作,从他们的公益中盘那里采购部分图书。
中国滋根:我们支持了厦门担当者文化发展中心,在我们滋根的项目校,执行“班班有个图书角”项目。同时,推荐滋根在图书阅读方面做得比较好的项目校申请建设“梦想中心”、青树基金会的书库项目等。此外,也参加“阅读论坛组”,与其他同行交流经验。
天下溪:之前的图书馆项目都是各做各的,但现在到了整合资源的阶段,我们会和其他组织,通过各种会议、观摩、培训来相互交流,相互学习。在长期的图书选配过程中积累了很多经验,目前建立的“公益图书中盘”,为所有的公益组织提供图书方面的服务。
海外中国教育基金会:和一些地区的NGO有合作资助学校,与同行的NGO也有一些共同项目的合作,如最近和微笑图书室一起做的样板图书室项目。
总有些地方使不上劲
中国滋根:图书管理依靠当地人,但很多乡村学校教师紧缺,很难有专门的人手花精力把图书室管起来。
守望春天:怎样让更多的农民更爱书、更爱阅读是个难题。同时,也会遇到很多在我们城市里遇不到的问题,比如在敏感区域,需要和当地的政府一起去做,而且也要看当地村干部是否有意愿去建图书馆。
海外中国教育基金会:农村老师理念改变需要一定时间,这考验着我们的耐心。比如在阅读的重要性,如何引导阅读的一些方法和手段,以及平等和孩子探讨等问题。
图书馆项目未来何去何从
中国滋根:在没有书、没有师资、条件简陋的乡村学校,要尽可能降低图书馆的门槛,最好是建设班级图书角,把图书管理的压力下放到班级。另外,在已有图书馆,师资相对较好的学校,推动阅读。另外没有书的学校已经越来越少,民间机构的图书馆项目也应从浅层次的捐建图书提升到推动阅读。
天下溪:乡村图书室的建设目前来看可分三步走:第一步,从无到有。通过图书捐赠让没有图书的地方开始有图书。第二步,提升图书质量,让优秀的图书、好的阅读方法和多样化的活动进入乡村,包括目前开展的阅读推广。第三步,重建乡村文化。借助阅读活动的开展,开阔村民和孩子们的视野,提高他们的文化意识和素质,重视本地乡土文化的保护和教育,从而构建本地的乡土文化,如天下溪的乡土教材的编著。
守望春天:朝向说不准,但希望人人有书读、人人读得起、人人爱读书。“从书本扶贫向阅读推广”是必然的。
桂馨基金会:有效利用书屋,开展适合孩子们成长需要的活动,如阅读、写作、手工、小实验、小剧场等课外活动和大学生拓展课服务,帮助孩子养成阅读习惯,让阅读影响孩子的生活。同时,也使学校图书馆成为科学技术和文化艺术在农村社区传播的中心。
各有各的新打算
天下溪:首先加快建设公益图书平台,这样各个公益组织可以不必重复建设,而是集中精力,做好自己擅长的部分。其次是将平台建设成与图书阅读、教育相关的包括阅读资源、培训资源、各地各校图书室经验交流等的资源共享平台。最后关注纯民间个人运作的图书室,让他们和公益组织建立的图书室共享资源和信息,从而真正推动民间的、公益性质的文化基础建设。
中国滋根:第一,已建书库的区县,用2~3年的时间,逐步建成全区县覆盖;第二,花更多的时间,推动书库的运营,逐步开展书库管理培训和阅读课教师培训;第三,尝试在贫困县,偏远村小,推动班级图书角项目。
守望春天:很多乡村图书室运作一段时间后就很萧条,所以怎样让乡村图书室保持长期稳定就显得尤为重要,我们也在为此不断摸索。在稳定现有的基础上,在更偏远地区开设新图书室。
海外中国教育基金会:目前还是想做好几个项目点的工作,建设为综合项目点,包括助学金、奖学金、图书等项目。并帮助当地协调员成立助学小组,保证项目的可持续性。
支持项目的基金会如是说
 自己做还是资助别人做?
 心平基金会:由于机构刚成立,自认我们还不够专业,更重要的是要满足更多的需求,所以我们只资助其他组织(民间草根公益组织或者运作型基金会)来做,而不是自己做。
真爱梦想基金会:由自有团队来执行,是因为我们具备大规模图书收集、现代物流配送、数据库后台管理的优势;以及拥有成熟专业的建设、运营、IT团队;此外我们具备大规模采购的价格优势,能确保该项目可大规模复制、可持续运营。
桂馨基金会:自己做,项目有严格的项目流程,也便于按标准操作和评估。我们的桂馨书屋项目尚在探索中,自己完成项目,便于及时发现问题,找到更有效的方法完善项目。
海外中国教育基金会:自己来做。我们基金会助学金项目已经做了很多年,积累了一些学校,后来在我们自己的项目点,其中不少学校反映需要图书,然后才开始做图书项目。
本土组织怎样才能得到基金会的支持?
真爱梦想基金会:“梦想书屋”主要选择“梦想中心”附近的村小,原则上只有以上范围的学校才进入“梦想书屋”候选名单。如果符合真爱梦想选点要求,该组织可向真爱梦想推荐学校。
心平基金会:主要是我们主动邀请,而不是让他们提交申请,因为我们时刻关注他们在做的事。邀请之后,双方更像是一个试婚的过程,我们可拿出几个试点先做,如果大家觉得做得差不多,就可以成为合作伙伴。我们看重的是合作伙伴身上具备的“社会企业家”的品质和潜质。
桂馨基金会:我们的项目以乡村学校为实施单位。您将所了解的乡村学校的情况告知我们,如果学校符合我们建设书屋的标准,您可以作为我们的合作伙伴或志愿者参与书屋的建设和管理。
如何了解和评估所资助的或直接操作的乡村图书馆?
心平基金会:由于是主动邀请,很大程度上保障这些资助项目可靠性。如果在“试婚”时没有做好,接下来就不会再合作。在本土,没有一种方法可以解决图书馆的问题,所以由心平提供模板和方法也是不妥的,我们更希望搭建一个平台,包括论坛、阅读交流网等方式,让跟心平合作的机构分享各自做的事情。
真爱梦想基金会:将图书送到乡村学校同时,为每所学校配置电脑、图书管理软件和扫码仪,并且用中央数据库系统将所有覆盖的学校的图书馆藏数据和借阅数据进行统一管理,基于数据统计有针对性地开展推动乡村阅读的系列公益活动。我们将对上传数据的学校数量、频次、借阅率等进行项目效果评估。
海外中国教育基金会:定期会有志愿者下访学校,而在一些重点地区,每学期会有志愿者下去和老师共同建设一段时间。
桂馨基金会:我们会对建成的书屋做3~5年的跟踪和服务。期间,大学生志愿者会定期来做支教;由学校老师和学生担任的桂馨书屋管理员对每周的阅读活动做登记。此外,学生的阅读课活动记录、手抄报、阅读比赛等也是评估的指标。捐赠者和基金会理事也会不定期下乡做巡查。
后记
今年5月,第一届中国乡村图书馆建设及阅读推广研讨会在武汉召开,全国各地近百家NGO的120多名工作人员和志愿者齐聚一堂分享各自的经验。乡村图书馆能有如此规模,这在前几年是无法想象的,如今这已成为一个就在眼前的事实。
乡村图书馆是民间组织致力于乡村教育的一个路径,在发展过程中呈现出不同的面向,有的关注具体的服务,有的提供支持;有的在农村社区和中小学,有的针对城市中的流动社区,不一而足。前文参与讨论的7家机构,仅仅是众多从事乡村图书馆事业的组织中的一小部分。如果要拉上一个名单,一公斤图书网、青树教育基金会、蒲公英乡村图书馆、福建福前文化中心、上海启明书社……这个群体已然形成了星火燎原之势。
更为重要的是,这些散落在不同地域的图书项目,开始有了多样化的操作方式,有的为当地中小学搭建多功能图书教室,有的借用图书馆为载体进行社区融入。它们使与城市隔离的乡村,对信息化时代触手可及。
未来,也许再用“乡村图书馆”一词去形容这个群体所做的事情,可能不太恰当了。因为他们不光将图书运往偏远的乡村,也开始将目光投向城市流动者的社区。他们还将赋予图书馆更多的功能,将其作为有生命的载体,与当地的需求更加细密地结合。
未来的方向,有可能是推动“阅读”。“阅读”的意义不在继续追逐图书馆的硬件和图书数量的扩充,而是更在意这些图书能够真正发挥的作用,它们将给那里的孩子或村民,抑或当地的学校和社区带来什么?也即从当初对硬件和图书数量的满足,逐渐过渡到对图书馆的“软性”服务的要求,因此对图书管理员的培训也变得更迫切起来。
这绝不是乡土流行的自上而下建起来的“农家书屋”,而是一个个可以滋养和培育当地社区参与精神的共同生活学习场所。

Wang Hui is CDB Staff Writer

Translated by John Lenhart

Reviewed by Frankie Chen

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