The Mihai Sadoveanu Metropolitan Library in Bucharest promotes reading among public transport users.
In a survey conducted in 2005, 25% of Romanians outside Bucharest and 6% of respondents from Bucharest said they hadn't bought any book in the previous 12 months. Also, 62% of respondents from Bucharest and 48% of respondents outside Bucharest said they had bought between one and five books during that period. These data were published two years ago by the Cultural Consumption Barometer.
Another such study was conducted recently by the Curtea Veche Association, an NGO promoting reading for pleasure among Romanian children. The Association's executive manager Valentina Roman tells us more:
"Only 8% of children in Bucharest read for pleasure in their spare time. Many said they don't have the time because they are busy with school and other extracurricular activities or because they just can't find books they can enjoy. Parents force them to read books they're not interested in."
Carried out in December 2016 and with a sample size of 1,082 school children from Bucharest aged between 11 and 14, the survey also brought the issue of public libraries to the fore. We asked Valentina Roman if children today still go to the library:
"Almost two thirds of our respondents said they didn't go to the school library because they can't find there a dedicated space where they can just sit and read. Another reason is that they don't find books there that are suitable for their age. Only a small percentage of children visit public libraries. They'd rather exchange books between them. In fact, children mostly read books recommended by their friends. They prefer these to those recommended in school or by their parents."
Although little known and frequented, local libraries are not only the place where you can read and borrow books, but also an area for socialising and hosting community activities. This is precisely the aim of the campaigns initiated by the librarians of the Mihail Sadoveanu Metropolitan Library in Bucharest, which has branches in all of the city's 6 sectors. The most recent such campaign had the title "Travel with a Book" and was carried out jointly with Bucharest's Public Transport Company.
At the beginning of March, the librarians got on busses and trams and encouraged people to read. The general manager of the Metropolitan Library Anca Rapeanu tells us more about this campaign:
"Many people who live in Bucharest spend quite a lot of time every day on public transport. Our idea is to encourage them to use this time to read a book. So we got on buses and trams and distributed postcards made by children taking part in the creative workshops held by the Bucharest Metropolitan Library. It was our way of telling people that not only do we have good books they can borrow, but we also run other types of programmes, educational, entertaining or to encourage socialising, which they can take part in free of charge."
In the six days of the campaign, 50 librarians, as well as 7 volunteers and 19 interns, got on buses, trolleybuses and trams all over Bucharest, on routes running close to local public libraries. They interacted with 11,000 people and distributed postcards and promotional material. Marilena Chirita, the head of the Bucharest Metropolitan Library's Marketing and Communication Department:
"We distributed promotional leaflets listing our library's 34 different branches. The passengers wanted to know where the libraries are located and the services we offer. We also came across people who were already using our services. We had lots of questions from people who wished to know how they could access the library, whether it's free of charge or whether one of our branches was located close to where they live or their work."
Another activity run by the Metropolitan Library is "Time for a Story". First held once a month, it was such a success that it is now being held every week. Anca Rapeanu explains:
"In the beginning, the activity was held in 16 local libraries. A volunteer reads a story to children aged between 3 and 6 accompanied by their parents. The idea behind the project is that while three-year old children can't read, they can be taught to love reading if they are read to and become used to books, even as objects. The parents see how their children react when stories are read to them, which we hope will encourage parents to read to their children every day when at home, at least 10 or 15 minutes before children go to sleep."
There's also a chance that parents themselves will want to borrow a book they can read on public transport on their way to and from work every day.