When the door of the library opens, the natural association is – books! But libraries are closer to us and closer to the communities than we can imagine. The word “community” is strange as it seems that everyone belongs to it, except me. But the truth is a little bit different … Educational activities and handicrafts flourish in libraries, talents brighten and knowledge seekers are finding here the magical doors of education.
Everyone finds something for themselves in the library.
Klaipeda Municipality Immanuel Kant Public Library has just completed the project «I am a Woman and What Are My Superpowers?». The project manager Inesa Atkočaitienė has left the hard work and tensions of the project behind and shared her experiences of the project: why women’s empowerment is needed? What she has learned and how women empowerment is related to entrepreneurship?
When asked how she understands if the project idea is worthy of attention Inesa finally gave the best, most sincere answer:
Inesa: Frankly, this question is one of the hardest: if I don’t believe in it, it won’t work, but if I do- it is already half of success.
Honesty is bold and only the specialist can afford to rely on intuition, to feel intuitively when all the components of the project are in place … an important question: what was the project about and why was it suitable for the library?
Inesa: The project «I am a Woman and What Are My Superpowers?» was about empowerment. The cycle of project meetings «Women’s Power» was designed to spread not only the cultural message, but also the psychological one. The goal was to invite those book authors who have experienced ups and downs and described them in books. The aim for the meetings was to work as an experiential self-help, fostering femininity as a natural trait and reducing cultural exclusion. We, the library, are close to women. As much as we would like to see gender diversity in the library, it is often women who are the most active visitors and participants in events. Women looking for psychological literature, wanting to talk openly with a librarian, attending meetings with health professionals.
Can the library be that first goalkeeper in finding answers to solving personal breakdowns?
Inesa: Undoubtedly, various psychological issues (smaller or larger) happen to everyone. As a result, there is a growing sense of loneliness in society, regardless of the gender, race, area of residence and other factors. Only women, who are more likely to deal with such problems, seek help and talk out loud about it. A large community of women has formed in the library, and being in the community increases a sense of security and trust. The project aimed to support members of the community, encourage them to want to enjoy life, realize themselves and find the tools to not feel lonely, to be understood. Being able to offer them several tools was an opportunity to contribute to the improvement of the emotional and psychological climate in society.
Short question: If you were to repeat this project, what would you do differently?
Inesa: First of all, his project can be deepened. The meetings can be held on even narrower topics. Next time I would dare to differentiate educational activities and meetings. Given the complexity of education, I would be bolder in deciding which activities to do via distance and which ones to do live.
Public projects are a niche question. The funding for such projects is very specific and involves non-profit organizations. What do such organizations forget about when implementing projects?
Inesa: That they are non-profit! That, as being non-profit, we must make a much greater moral contribution to achieving the same results. It is also not always possible to measure that impact by mathematical calculations. Yes, we all work for one number or another, but we are not a concert hall and not a company that gets tangible benefits. The projects we run usually have a high social impact and community strengthening results.
In the project, you provided an opportunity for women to learn entrepreneurship in practice. What are the links between entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment?
Inesa: The practical aim of the project was to increase digital literacy and promote women’s employment. Former stereotype: a woman raises children in the family, takes care of the family “fireplace” and is employed one way or another (not always in a favorite job). That is changing. Both young and mature women want to feel good about doing in life what gives pleasure to the heart. And even better, when that pleasure can become a source of material prosperity and independence. Social media sometimes creates the image that it is enough to advertise a service or product and run a business. However, not all the nuances are known about tax obligations and without the knowledge pleasant business that generates income can become a bitter memory. So you need to have the knowledge to start a legal business. Some business know-how is for the financial data, some for the correct marketing management. The specialists of the relevant state institutions have provided information about the tax obligations free of charge for the participants of the project. Our trainings have focused on social group of women who are willing to start a business out of their hobby and cannot afford payed courses. It was important for me to involve lecturers in these trainings capable of sharing good practices. Experiential self-development (through another person’s experience) is more motivating, focuses on specific business issues, and allows a better view of potential risks.
Such an initiative only proves that libraries can be a discovery for those who are looking for the answers and not only in books, but also through activities, events and creation. You meet many women in your work, why is there an urge to empower them?
Inesa: I grew up in an ambiguous period myself: I grew up in a patriarchal family with Soviet thinking. I am now in a society with a liberating approach to everything. Growing up, I saw many examples where a man is being treated as superior to a woman and the woman is a housekeeper, a mother, putting a lot of worries on her shoulders and often living in the role of victim. When I meet a lot of women with whom we implement ideas and discuss events at the library, I have the opportunity to ask myself – who is a woman? What is her role in the society? And the discovery is that a woman can be a great caregiver, nurturer of a warm emotional atmosphere, a businesswoman. She has a full right to financial independence, personal development and emotional comfort. It is necessary to love and respect yourself as a person without following stereotypes. Also, when life gets difficult or when the goals are «not going according to the plan,» we need to realize that help and understanding can be found very close, even closer than sometimes we imagine. For example, at a nearby community library