GPSLib: A New Direction for Libraries in Georgia

Beyond Access is excited to announce a new partnership with the Public Services Development Agency in Georgia. A part of the Georgian government’s Ministry of Justice, the Public Services Development Agency has been tasked with assisting the implementation of Georgia’s Open Government Partnership Action Plan to improve access to government services and continue Georgia’s progress toward open and transparent governance.

Much like other countries, though, Georgia faces a stark urban-rural divide. Due to rapid economic development, Georgian cities have grown at an astonishing pace since the Rose Revolution in 2003. However, rural areas often lag behind — not just in economic growth, but in the development of critical infrastructure that would allow them to benefit from growth initiatives, including Georgia’s Open Government Partnership action plan. While the government is trying to expand access to e-government and private services — including tax help, visa services, and banking — rural areas don’t have the existing infrastructure to support these services.

GPSLib Fast Facts

Public libraries and public access

This is where public libraries come into play — or at least where they could, with a little help. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Georgian libraries suffered greatly from public corruption and neglect. From a peak of more than 2,000 just after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the number of public libraries in Georgia dropped to 500, with many of those falling into disrepair. In many parts of the country, however, libraries remained important public institutions.

The public libraries in Sighnaghi were among those that fell victims to the closures of the 1990’s and 2000’s. But the librarians in Sighnaghi were not willing to let go of the libraries — and they knew their community would support them. They built a campaign of support from the community and took their case to the media and government. In 2007, one of the libraries re-opened with support from the municipal government. Today, it remains a key resource in the community for people to access newspapers, magazines, and other resources they could not afford.

Access to information in rural Georgia

The library in Sighnaghi is not unique in Georgia, or indeed in the rest of the world. Public libraries provide an important connection to otherwise cut-off communities. Recognizing this, the Public Services Development Agency (PSDA) has partnered with Beyond Access to implement the Georgian Public Services through Libraries (GPSLib) project. The agency is an arm of the Ministry of Justice tasked with ensuring Georgians have access to critical government services, including registration, and immigration.

The GPSLib project will work with four libraries: in Nukriani and Khidistavi villages, and in the municipalities of Zugdidi and Khulo. These libraries will have updated spaces to provide better access for more patrons. In addition, each library will be equipped with wifi and new computer workstations to increase access to the Internet. All four libraries will have new spaces to allow community organizations, local governments, and community members to come together. Finally, the project will draw on the expertise of IREX, PSDA, the Georgian Libraries Association, and the Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information to offer a series of trainings for librarians at these and other libraries. The trainings will range from basic computer skills to eGovernment services and access to information. These activities combined will transform the libraries into modern centers for community development and will provide a blueprint to spread access to information through rural Georgia.