Branka Mikačević and Vjeruška Štivić
Petar Preradović Public Library, Bjelovar, Croatia

Those who use the Children’s Department include children from ages 0 to 15 and their families, as well as those who serve them, such as educators. There are significant differences between them related to the specific needs of each period of life and it is impossible to provide the same services to children from 3 years and those aged from 7 or 14 years. That is clear. But among the users there are also those who are in the minority, mostly a silent minority, who cannot use the services and programs of the library like everyone else because of their particular special needs. Librarians must not neglect this population, and although it is a minority, sometimes a single user, they are obliged to create conditions in which these users can also use library services and programs. The goal of the Public library in Bjelovar is inclusion, which means that all services and programs are created in a way that everyone can use them equally. Most of our programs are created so that people with and without special needs participate in them equally. Some programs aim to educate the  wider community about special needs populations: for example, that individuals with special needs are just like the rest of us, limited only by their specific needs.

The Library in Bjelovar closely monitors the needs of all its users so that everyone has equal opportunities to use services and participate in library programs for education and personal development. Programs are changeable due to the expressed and unexpressed needs of the community in which the library operates, so over time the programs are modified, new ones are introduced, and some cease to operate, but are restarted if necessary. For example, we list the current programs and services implemented by the Children’s Department of the Bjelovar Library, which are specially adapted to users with specific needs.

  • ČITULJKO IN THE HOSPITAL – the program is intended for children who are receiving treatment in the children’s department of the Hospital with the aim of humanizing hospital treatment. Twice a week for an hour, the librarians of the Children’s Department go to the Department of Pediatrics OB Bjelovar where they organize games, chat rooms and workshops for hospitalized children and their parents/guardians.
  • PETA IN THE CHILDREN’S LIBRARY – a project implemented in cooperation with the Fifth Elementary School Bjelovar, a school for students with greater developmental difficulties. The main feature of this project is inclusion because students with disabilities are involved in the ongoing activities of the Children’s Department together with their other children.
  • WE SPEAK SIGN LANGUAGE– a program for interested people and especially those with hearing impairments. It is carried out in cooperation with the Association of Persons with Impaired Hearing of Bjelovar- Bilogora County. Occasionally visits to schools are organized where lectures and workshops are held in order to get to know the special needs of deaf and hard of hearing people. In agreement with interested teachers, cycles of workshops are organized (4 workshops lasting one school hour) where children are introduced to the basics of Croatian sign language.
  • TACTILE PICTURE BOOKS – a collection of handmade tactile picture books with text in Braille intended for blind and partially sighted children, but also for all other interested users.
  • LISTEN, SPEAK AND READ – a program intended for primary school children, especially children with reading difficulties. The aim of the workshop is to develop reading skills using the Verbotonal method with playing games. The hour-long workshop is led by a professional phonetician and is offered once a week during the school year.
  • CLASSROOM – free instructions to help master the materials of mathematics, physics, Croatian and English, and other subjects for upper elementary school students for which users show interest. The program is led by teachers and professors on a volunteer basis. There are two ways to participate, in pre-arranged dates for groups, or individually in agreement with the educator.

Programs and actions encouraging multiculturalism

  • TRAVEL OF THE DWARF PATULJKO – the program is based on the book of the same name (Galinec, Višnjić Jevtić). It is offered in partnership with educators and teachers. The aim of the program is to introduce children to other cultures, peoples and countries of Europe, and to encourage multiculturalism.
  • MULTICULTURALITY WEEK – Bjelovar is a multicultural environment and this program aims to show the culture and customs of minority communities that live with us for better understanding and connection. The program consists of exhibitions, lectures, workshops, book promotions, artistic performances in which everyone participates, regardless of nationality.
  • CROATIAN CULTURAL HERITAGE – Cultural heritage, tangible and intangible, is the common wealth of humanity in its diversity and uniqueness, and its protection is one of the important factors for recognizing, defining and affirming cultural identity. The program is intended for students and teachers of the seventh and eighth grades of primary school.