Municipal Library Semily operates in a small town of about 8000 inhabitants. The library runs three departments: for adults, for children and regional department providing support to 60 local non-professional libraries within the district.

The long-standing strategy of the library is focused on children and teenagers. On the one hand, the aims are concentrated on the traditional role of the library: supporting reading literacy and offering good choice of book collections. On the other hand, libraries in the 21st century are challenged to become centres of cultural and social life within the community, and to take part in education. Trendy topics of the now are information literacy, media literacy and technology literacy.

“Czech small- and middle-sized libraries often aim at youngest children, and it is a good way to go, raising future readers and library visitors,” comments Jitka Šedinová, director of Municipal Library Semily. “However, in today’s society, we perceive the urgent need to pay attention to our 10+ year olds and teenagers; to provide them with space where they can safely spend their free time, and fill this time with fine, cool activities. And to do so, it is necessary to actually have the space and qualified staff, not to mention funds to cover all of that.”

With the beginning of the school year 2023/24, Municipal Library took advantage of new opportunities and applied for Meet&Code project. “With the grant we were able to purchase robots and organize two courses for both, young children and teenagers,” Jitka Šedinová explains. “Children learned to programme robots through funny activities, and tried out their abilities. We got positive feedback, the robot programming courses were success and we are finding a way how to continue.” Courses were lectured by an experienced young student Jakub Růžička who cooperates with Regional Research Library in Liberec, with the help of librarian Natálie Jana Holcová from regional department of Municipal Library Semily. “I have always been interested in technology,” adds Natálie. “Robotics is a new challenge for me, and definitely something I’m going to specialize in. I’ll be taking courses soon.”

Apart from robotics, children and teenagers can attend newly opened clubs in library: Readers’ club, which is organized into two age groups, and Writers’ club for children aged 9-15. “We opened our first group of the Readers’ club two years ago because I believe this is what library should do in the first place,” says Jana Baánová from the Children’s’ department. “We were curious if something so old-fashioned would raise interest. At first, they were a small bunch of children who had always liked to spend time in the library, but the second year took us by surprise – about twenty children wanted to attend the club, spend time with us, among books,” adds Jana, smiling.

Since 2017, Municipal Library Semily has been organizing a Writers’ contest. At first, it was a competition for children. Later, at requests from adult writers, it was opened for literally anyone interested in writing without age limitation. The competition is generally opened for amateur writers, individuals or even schools. In 2022, there were 72 literary works for the committee to read and award the best.

“We were thinking – what can we offer to help our young writers get better, or even get started at all?,” shares her thoughts Petra Luňáková from regional department. “Eventually, we organized a 3-day summer workshop for children in July. We worked with marvellous illustrated storytelling cards and kids came up with amazing ideas and stories. So, our director Jitka came and asked if we wanted to have a Writers’ club to meet twice a month and – here we go!”  

Librarians from Semily organize other one-time or casual activities for children, or even children with their (grand)parents: “We spent two Sunday afternoons having creative workshops with mixed group of kids and adults and it worked beyond our expectations,” says Eva Macková from regional department. “We created mosaic – on photo frames or cork mats, and it was great to see the little ones cooperating with their moms and grannies, creating neat handiworks together.”

Finally, Municipal Library Semily holds chairmanship of the Children’s Libraries Club of the Liberec region. Its purpose is to connect librarians, provide support for their activities, share ideas and materials, participate in common projects and also to educate. “We have just opened a new common project called Share your place. Libraries throughout the region will work with children to portray interesting landmarks, nature spots or even personalities of their hometowns. Eventually, the chosen works will be part of the final great exhibition of matters of interest in the entire Liberec region,” explains the Club’s chairwoman, librarian Jana Baánová from Semily.

Text by Petra Luňáková

Photos by Municipal Library Semily