Publish in core platform
Target audienceDigital skills for all
Digital technology / specialisationDigital skills
Digital skill levelBasic
Geographic Scope - CountryLatvia
Industry - Field of Education and TrainingInformation and Communication Technologies (ICTs) not further defined
Type of initiative
National or European
To receive the allowance provided by the State, citizens need to apply through the municipality by handing in a physical application, or through e-service provider E-pakalpojumi clicking on the e-service “Application for energy resource support”. In this process, public libraries of local authorities have also been actively involved in providing support to citizens in the preparation of the application
Local authorities delegate libraries to engage in communication and collaboration with citizens
It is not surprising that the task of engaging in citizens’ applications is delegated to libraries from the local authority, taking into account the multi-faceted digital skills of librarians acquired and developed over the years in various training programs and projects, implemented by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development and coordinated by the Culture Information Systems Centre (CISC). For example in the My Latvija.lv! Do Digitally! campaign included training for 6 000 national and local government officials to help the general public use e-services.
As a result, libraries themselves are proactively involved in the process of implementing applications for energy support and seek creative and effective solutions both to consult citizens and to accept the applications themselves, by identifying the appropriate type of allowance for each individual visitor. Most importantly, every visitor should receive the necessary information on the possibilities to apply for the allowance and, if necessary, be helped with the application process.
The Irši parish library head Dace Grele reveals: “People are shy in the countryside. They are not used to getting help financially. I took advantage of the priority of being part of a small community, and I interviewed people both in person and through phone calls. I encourage and inform them about the opportunities of receiving an allowance for energy costs. What matters the most is that the person come to the library! There step by step we put in the data, print out the form and the client signs it.”
The opinion of library managers on consultative support for citizens
By surveying library managers, we learn that in the Central Library of Dobele, the Central Library of Latgale, the Central Library of Ventspils, the Central Library of Balvi, the libraries of Ludza, Madona, Varakļāni counties and elsewhere, individual library staff have participated in the training organized by the company ZZ Dats on the use of the Energy Resources module in municipal social assistance and social services administration application SOPA and have also received access to the SOPA platform to be able to accept applications from those people who do not have digital means of authorization (online banking data, eID cards, etc.), as there is still a significant number of such people in the regions.
Also, librarians provide consultative support to citizens who have digital authorization means, but do not have a clear understanding of how to access it. Libraries often make sure that citizens in the communities find out about the possibility of support and also receive it, for example, the Tukums library has printed information pamphlets about heating support which is available, while the Ērģeme library even organized means of transport so residents of the parish living further away could get to the library and submit applications.
Residents can also apply for the state-determined support for heating at the state and municipal unified customer service centres (KAC), but oftentimes people in parishes choose to go directly to the library, where there is a familiar and habitual atmosphere, as well as other services are offered – there is an opportunity to get acquainted with the current press, take a book to read. Sometimes the local libraries are more accessible.
As Zeltīte Millere, head of the Tūja library, points out: “It is a time-consuming and responsible process. I do this of my own free will, helping my readers and the local community. It’s often the older generation that has no transport or internet, or no one to help them. The distances to the service provision center of Liepupe parish are not long, but troublesome for these disadvantaged groups. Such submissions and provision of other assistance could be made by KAC, traveling to places on specific days, once or twice a month. The library service places could be provided, but municipalities lack resources or do not think about how to provide assistance in various populated areas of the parishes. On average, I fill out 10 or more submissions every day. One part, who can, fill it in by themselves, but the larger part needs help – both to fill it in, with explanations, and by copying additional necessary documents.”
Kristīne Frickopa, head of the Library Service of the Central Scientific Library of Liepāja, notes that “according to the information provided by the librarians, many residents were not informed that they can also contact the parish KAC. Some KACs, which could not cope with serving residents on the spot, invited residents to turn to the library.” Also KAC is often set up in local libraries, and the library manager, in addition to her main job, also works as a customer service centre specialist and provides practical assistance to residents in various issues related to receiving state and municipal services, for example, in the libraries of Ērgļi parish, Gaujiena, Ērģeme and Irši parish.
We can conclude that the active application process for energy resources allowance, currently taking place in Latvian cities and rural areas, is also important in promoting cooperation between libraries not only with the administration of local municipalities, but also in building constructive communication with the Latvian Association of Local Governments, which organizes regular consultations and weekly talks with library representatives involved in the process. Hence, the existing situation once again proves that municipal public libraries are absolutely irreplaceable and strengthens their impact in local society.
In conclusion, Maruta Beča, head of the library of Sīļukalnas in Preiļu district summarizes: “Pros for this process: a new challenge, you have to learn how to use a new program, you have to be competent in providing information to clients about the necessary documents, you have to be communicative, you have to be able to find solutions, carry out extensive explanatory work and be carriers of information, especially for elderly customers. Also to encourage and support, as part of this work is taken up by phone consultations, if the users of the e-service have any doubts. It is necessary to cooperate with the social care worker, who ensures that those under his care can submit these applications. Although, as if the working hours for accepting submissions are set, if the client comes, then it is also accepted during the library’s working hours. On the other hand, as a librarian, I have the opportunity to promote my library’s offers, because many of the visitors have come to this institution for the first time.”
The role of stakeholder cooperation
Culture Information Systems Centre, as a long-term cooperation partner of municipal public libraries and the maintainer of the State Unified Library Information System or Light Network, appreciates the synergy that has developed between the library, the municipality and the local community in a nationally significant work process.
We believe that both the digital, communication and management skills of librarians play an important role in this cooperation, as well as the thoughtfully created network of municipal public libraries covering the whole of Latvia. In the Light Network, every library, regardless of its location and number of readers, is a bright source of light in the local community. It is essential that libraries maintain their status as modern and technologically secured providers of knowledge and information, therefore, of course, the issue of appropriate technical infrastructure and its renewal is always relevant.
We can achieve high results only through cooperation, and our centre will continue to work actively, monitoring the library network and ensuring its successful and continuous operation – this is ensured both by the mandate and support of the Ministry of Culture, and by our own experience accumulated over more than two decades and knowledgeable and educated employees.
The last few years have brought great challenges to the world, but society, including librarians, have proven that they are able to accept new situations in a short time and improve their skills by actively using the opportunities provided by technology.