The Europe Challenge and Valmiera’s community re-engagement
Europe today faces great challenges: How can our continent rebuild after the pandemic? And how can it respond to the social, economic, and climate crises? If we are to answer these and other questions, Europe’s citizens and communities must lead the response – and build local solutions that are replicable in Europe.
The Europe Challenge recognises that our libraries have a unique role in helping communities to meet the challenges of where we live, challenges that are common across our continent.
Valmiera’s (LV) local Europe Challenge has to do with a recent administrative reform that resulted in a merger of several municipalities into one larger region. It highlights that public space goes beyond specific local areas. Libraries can bring together communities from the new region and encourage people to share opinions and stories by building relationships and conversations that can help find solutions and define the community’s needs.
As part of The Europe Challenge, the Europe Challenge team of Valmiera Library asked “Why do local communities need a library as a public space?” to various community members to formulate the topic of their challenge and identify the community’s needs. Valmiera consulted with small rural libraries to reach out to active community members to collect various stories from locals and heard several solutions. As part of the prototyping, experimenting, testing and fine-tuning phase of the Europe Challenge, Valmiera kicked off their challenge by collaborating with two community members on finding solutions for their Europe Challenge. Watch a short video here.
These solutions were collected and converged into the four challenge topics ranging from promoting volunteering, conserving live history, engaging with people with special needs and environmental sustainability of urban areas. These challenge topics all come together to formulate Valmiera’s Library overall Challenge: How can we connect people from all areas of the Valmiera region to encourage conversations and participation so that people can feel equal and understand their value in shaping the local region, the country and Europe? Valmiera Library is convinced that through everyday activities, local libraries play a significant role in reaching diverse communities and uniting them.
Valmiera’s communities propel their challenge by identifying their strengths such as storytelling, video stories and conversations and use these skills to organize activities for the local community. For example, association Oleru manor uses lectures and workshops to gather suggestions for creating modern gardens in the urban environment with the help of volunteers in creating a shared space and atmosphere.
Valmiera’s local Europe Challenge connects with the broader Europe Challenge by engaging active citizens with local initiatives that lay the foundation for a more comprehensive understanding of each person’s significance in shaping the future for the region, country and Europe.
Ieva Zemīte from society Oleru manor states that “The library in recent years has provoked the development of the culture of discussion in public. ‘We should learn how to listen to the speakers and how to ask elaborate questions that will allow us to come forward with good arguments and hold the conversation.”
For more details on Valmiera library’s work, read their communities’ stories here.