Knowledge Welfare project
Gwanak-gu Office

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Urban value has declined due to Gwanak-gu's long-term image as a city of Moon neighborhoods. Moon neighborhoods! They may sound romantic, but these were shantytowns that were created when destitute people clustered together and settled down on steeply sloping land due to displacement caused by the urban development projects of the 1960s. In Gwangak-gu, which lies on sloping terrain, shantytowns were also established with the forced migration of vulnerable groups from other regions. Although the city has developed and its environment has improved since then, because of the absence of an innovative policy to help the area break away from its shantytown image, when it comes to Gwanak-gu, the image of a shantytown springs quickly to most people’s mind. The image of a shantytown is an obstacle to local economy development. The negative image of a shantytown has had a negative influence on the attraction of new companies and the development of the local economy among other things. As a result, Gwanak-gu lags behind in terms of the financial independence rate (ranking 22th among the 25 autonomous districts of Seoul), while social welfare expenses for the destitute and other vulnerable groups swallow up 53.5% of the district’s entire annual budget. The image of a poor town has produced a vicious circle which has led not only to population flight but also to growing local enterprises moving out to other areas in search of a better environment for children’s education and with the aim of improving the image. To lead the local economic revival, the improvement of its image should have taken precedence. The thirst for knowledge of all citizens including the poor and vulnerable should be quenched. When the financial situation is bad, education is subordinated to other expenses, and consequently poor education leads back to poverty. In other words, a vicious circle repeats itself. Due to the inactive educational environment, the district is suffering from the flight of households with infants or adolescent children seeking greener pastures. As Gwanak-gu’s ranking in the social evaluation also declined, the name of the village was changed in a bid to improve its image in 2008, to little avail. As such, Gwanak-gu became concerned about becoming a twilight zone characterized by a rising burden of social welfare expenses due to the continuous influx of poor households. Gwanak-gu needs to break way from its image as a shantytown and solve the problem of lack of access to knowledge among poor and vulnerable groups. Since 2010, Gwanak-gu has been continuously carrying out Knowledge Welfare projects (library, reading promotion, lifelong learning) in order to create a happy town, though its economic situation is inferior to that of other areas. Just as the sun shines for everyone, the project aims to offer equal opportunities for everyone. As a result, Gwanak-gu has completely shed its image as a shantytown, and its citizens’ pride has increased. Furthermore, Gwanak-gu is receiving a continuous stream of visitors from institutions in and outside Korea wishing to learn about its Knowledge Welfare projects.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
Gwanak-gu has attracted various public projects and donations to little plots of land or existing facilities. Together with the active participation of private organizations and volunteers, 43 libraries within 10 minutes’ walk from home, starting with just five in 2010, were established at a low cost. The “Knowledge Lunch Box book delivery service” network, which allows citizens to freely borrow books free of charge from 40 libraries holding a total of 620,000 books, has been completed by connecting 35 libraries throughout the district with 5 unmanned U-Libraries (Ubiquitous Libraries) via an Integrated Library Network System. In addition, Gwanak-gu has strived to diversify software infrastructures that are easily available at any time for all ages and social groups including destitute and vulnerable groups, and has provided Knowledge Welfare programs, such as support for seniors to publish their autobiography, Everyday Lecture in the Humanities, book clubs, a book festival, the Living Library, and so on.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Gwanak-gu opted for a policy aimed at enhancing the overall quality of life as it realized that it was impossible to improve its poor economic situation in a short period of time. In addition, it has actively implemented its Knowledge Welfare project for all its citizens, including the poorest and most vulnerable groups, to create an urban environment with easy access to knowledge and information to prevent people from becoming alienated from lifelong education for any reason. Consequently, its urban image has been radically improved. As the Knowledge Welfare project has been carried out with great determination since 2010, the problem of vulnerable groups’ marginalization from knowledge-related opportunities has been resolved. Material support for poor and vulnerable groups, including the provision of accommodation and food, may sometimes be just a temporary expedient. However, the Knowledge Welfare project is not a passive work of ”catching fish for people” but rather an active one of “teaching them how to catch fish.” As Bill Gates said, “A small town library made me who I am today.” Likewise, children and youth who benefit from the Knowledge Welfare project will grow up into respectable, talented adults in the near future. Furthermore, Gwanak-gu has supported women who are interested in education and extended their opportunities for policy participation. Inspired by the ancient Korean tradition in which grandmothers tell their grandchildren traditional folk tales in bed, the Bedside Fairytale Book Project has been conducted. This voluntary project is a highly successful program in which ladies aged 65 or more visit nursery schools and kindergartens to tell children’s stories. The program has found a favorable response among both children of nuclear families, who can feel affection for elderly ladies, and volunteers who can enjoy their elderly life and feel a sense of satisfaction. In 2016, 19 elderly volunteers carried out their work at 95 nurseries and kindergartens. The Book Start is a book play program for infants in which women volunteers also receive professional education and training and visit libraries. In 2016, 15 volunteers participated in the program. The Honorary Librarian Education Program is a professional education program that awards a certificate to citizens seeking to work as volunteers at a library. As of 2016, 325 volunteers (over 95% of whom are women) have successfully completed the program and now provide a high-quality service at a local library. All the Saemaul Mini-Libraries have been transformed into 20 district public libraries under public-private governance, for the first time in the country. The Saemaul Mini-Library in Gwanak-gu is a civic reading movement and is the most active group in the country. However, it was very limited for many citizens in terms of its operating method and opening hours, as the Saemaul Mini-Library was run autonomously by its members and was very small. It only opened for about 4 hours a day and didn’t have an IT network. Although other local governments tried to make the Saemaul Mini-Library a public service, they didn’t succeed due to the organizations' nature of closeness. However, Gwanak-gu has succeeded in strengthening its provision of a district public libraries with a pleasant atmosphere and state-of-the-art facilities after about a year’s effort and negotiation and supports the 345 women who currently operate the Saemaul Mini-Libraries, as well as entrusting them with the overall operation of 20 district public libraries. They find it a rewarding job and serve their community by taking care of children who come to the library after school and organizing film screenings, lectures, or reading programs. Citizens can use the libraries more freely than before, and thus are more satisfied with the library service.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The “Knowledge Lunch Box book delivery service” is convenient and rapid thanks to the IT-based Integrated Library Network. Citizens can join the library and search for a book to borrow from a library via the Integrated Library Network. If the library doesn’t have a particular book, the user can make a request for it to be delivered to the nearest library. Then, one or two days later, he/she will receive a message about the book delivery and can check it out of the library. Books can also be delivered to an unmanned U-Libraries at subway stations so that the users can check them out during their commuting time. Also, users can request the delivery of books and receive information on their delivery status via a smart phone application. This network connects 40 libraries holding 620,000 books. Moreover, the Smart Library (unmanned operation) installed at Sillim subway station allows users to borrow books directly like a general library. Such a library system operated by cutting-edge IT is also called the “Library in the palm of the hand”. In particular, it was selected at “the 2012 U-Library Service Support Poject” contest hosted by the Minister of the Interior.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
During 2016, the libraries were used by 1,873,192 citizens, of whom 560,369 borrowed 468,721 books. Among them, 46,872 users checked 65,826 books out of the U-Libraries at subway stations. The number of library members is 160,393, meaning that about 1/3 of Gwanak-gu’s entire population (510,000 people) are library members, with the number more than doubling since the early stage of the project. The “Knowledge Lunch Box book delivery service”, in which the desired book is delivered to the user’s nearest library, dealt with a total of 402,431 books which, if stacked up one on top of the other, would reach as high as Mt. Everest. In 2016, a total of 281 Reading Clubs with 2,487 members were registered and received guidance on how to invigorate their local reading club and lectures in the humanities, and 241 reading clubs were granted financial support for books. In addition, 110 reading clubs received a consulting service designed to boost their ability to continue with their activities and attract new members from 23 consultants based with other reading clubs. Since 2011, Gwanak-gu has operated Korea’s first program designed to encourage elderly people to produce their autobiography in order to record and preserve their precious life stories, and some 50 people aged 65 or more have published their ‘autobiography’ in book form and held a publication party under the program. Launched in 2011, the Book Start scheme has benefited 37,384 people so far by providing various programs, including Book Play at libraries, the Parents’ Club and the Bedside Fairytale Book Project. A large-scale lecture program was carried out from 2013 to 2014; however, it was changed into the Everyday Lecture in the Humanities to improve public access, and a total of 37,498 people attended 558 lectures in the humanities between 2015 and 2016.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
【2010~2014】 Preparation of hardware-oriented infrastructure and implementation of various reading programs ▶Oct.7,2010~Feb.11,2011 Establishment of the basic plan for the medium and long-term development of Gwanak-gu Libraries The plan to reinforce library’s functions and to promote a reading culture was established based on a general analysis of local characteristics, library resources, etc. ▶2010~Dec.2014 Increase in the number of libraries (5→43) Diverse types of libraries, including 20 small libraries operated on a purely voluntary basis, 2 container-type libraries, 5 unmanned U-Libraries, 3 children and infants’ libraries, 1 multicultural reference library, etc were established to meet citizens’ various needs. ▶Nov.2010~May.2011 Construction of Integrated Library Homepage and Mobile Library The computer and Smartphone App system, allowing users to borrow and receive books (through the “Knowledge Lunch Box book delivery service”) and to request their desired books. ▶Nov.2010~Dec.2014 Establishment of Integrated Library Network connecting 40 libraries holding a total of 620,000 books The network enables users to check a book out of their nearest library within one to two days. Users can also borrow/return books at the U-Library at subway stations. ▶2011 ~ Hosting of the Book Festival, encouraging the elderly to produce their autobiography, Living Library, Book Start Movement, etc. 【2015~present】 Emphasis on software-oriented Knowledge Welfare areas ▶March2015 Establishment of the Humanities Support Center The Humanities Support Center was founded to popularize the general humanities. It provides extended lectures on the humanities to help citizens cultivate their liberal arts knowledge through public-private-academic cooperation. Around 558 lectures have been given since 2015. ▶Nov.2014~present Implementation of registration system of Reading Clubs Starting with 44 clubs in 2014, the number of Reading Clubs has now reached 281. Gwanak-gu has expanded its overall support and its members’ opportunities for policy participation to vitalize the Reading Clubs. Continuous promotion of reading culture and lifelong learning programs based on libraries. 【Monitoring and Evaluation】 Through the citizens’ policy evaluation and survey held at the end of each year since 2010, Gwanak-gu’s major projects including the Knowledge Welfare project are evaluated by its citizens. In addition, Gwanak-gu has established the reading culture promotion ordinance and the humanities center support ordinance to define the scope of the district civil servants’ obligations and support. 【Human Resources】 Small Libraries are operated purely by Saemaul Mini-Library members on a voluntary basis. The membership includes people with experience of operating a library for up to 20 years, and who educate other members on how to run an autonomous library. The members (2,487) of 281 registered Reading Clubs are dedicated to establishing a reading environment for all citizens, planning reading programs, and carrying them out by themselves. Moreover, as volunteers actively participate in talent donation activities such as grandma’s story-telling, Book Start, and reading programs, the project expenses have been reduced. 【Financial Resources】 Along with an investment of KRW 244 million in the U-Library support project, Gwanak-gu has attracted about KRW 700 million through various public competition projects. In addition, a benefactor donated KRW 100 million to establish the “Yongkkumkkuneun small Library”, and publishers and residents continuously donate books to the library. Furthermore, the Kkumnamu Infant Library located at the site of the main library was opened in a new building constructed with a donation of KRW 3 billion from a benefactor in Gwanak-gu. 【Technology Resources】 Integrated Library System, which was designed to improve accessibility and rectify the shortcomings, enables users to easily join the membership and request books using the Smartphone App or a computer. Moreover, users can check books out of an unmanned U-Library at a subway station, a service that helps all citizens including office workers, students, and vulnerable groups to access Knowledge Welfare easily.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Mayor of Gwanak-gu Yoo Jong-pil, an important contributor to the Knowledge Welfare project He has strived to promote smooth collaboration with the Saemaul Mini-Libraries since the early stage of the Knowledge Welfare project. This unique case was achieved through long and patient negotiations between the Saemaul Mini-Libraries and Gwanak-gu in which Mayor Yoo Jong-pil played a leading role. He has introduced the good programs of Gwanak-gu to other regions. He has given about 100 presentations and lectures on successful Knowledge Welfare project in and out of Korea - including China in November 2016 (event organized by UNICEF) and Japan in February 2017 (publication ceremony for World Library Tour in Japanese) - in order to widely promote the Knowledge Welfare project. As a former director of the National Assembly Library, he published a steady-selling book titled World Library Tour in three languages (Korean, Japanese, and Taiwanese). He is often referred to as the “Library Preacher” Saemaul Mini-Library members’ devotion reduced costs by KRW970,000,000/year It took over six months to transform each Saemaul Mini-Library (total of 20) into a district public library. The process began with the members’ advice on how to remodel the mini-libraries, after which it took four months to enter information on 3,000~6,000 information into the book management system. Since the opening of the library, everything from facility management to operation has been carried out purely by volunteers. Moreover, as the 345 members (12 to 25 people from each village) are all women, the library acts as a venue for sharing the information on local childcare and parenting. The program’s contribution was recognized at a national level with the 2014 President’s Award for Reading Culture. (The Saemaul Mini-Library system has started as a purely voluntary grass-roots movement since 1970’s. Mini libraries didn’t meet the requirement of small public libraries.)

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Gwanak’s most successful achievement is its break from its image as a shantytown, which degraded its urban value for many years. Gwanak-gu overcame its poor financial situation by implementing the Knowledge Welfare project. In addition, it prevents the poorest and most vulnerable groups from becoming alienated from knowledge and information. The elements that contributed to Gwanak-gu’s SDGs are as follows: SDG3 All the library facilities in the city were Integrated into the network at a low cost, while a “Knowledge Welfare for everyone” was created by creating an environment conducive to study of the humanities and by providing support for reading clubs, so that citizens of all ages can experience a revitalized community and a healthy lifestyle. . SDG4 Since 2015, some 558 lectures in the humanities have been held all over the city, including the ongoing series of “Everyday Lectures in the Humanities”. In addition, libraries have been established as venues for cultivating themselves through planning and talent donations. SDG5 Every library is equipped with facilities and books for infants and children so that mothers can carry out their own self-development, childcare, voluntary work, etc. at a library. Women and girls, who account for around 93% of reading club members (2,487 people), participate freely in social activities via the medium of books with financial support for books and the community network’s support. Above all, 345 female members are proud to take part in this initiative involving 20 small libraries. SDG10 The ultimate purpose of Knowledge Welfare is to resolve the problems of alienation from knowledge and inequality. In other words, everyone should have equal access to the benefits of knowledge, just like the sun shines for everyone. Citizens can use the Knowledge Welfare system not only free of charge but also with financial support. SDG17 Along with 80 teams in Korea, 9 overseas inspection teams, including the Mayor of Technical and Environmental Administration, in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Mayor of Setagaya in Japan, visited the Knowledge Welfare project sites. The state-run China Central Television aired a special report on “Gwanak’s Characteristic Libraries”. Gwanak-gu’s libraries have also been reported in various overseas newspapers, The mayor of Gwanak-gu presented the excellent case of the Knowledge Welfare project at the first UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities in 2016. He also received a positive response to his lecture in Japan in 2017. Gwanak-gu’s Knowledge Welfare projects have contributed to their overseas promotion.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The city’s poor financial situation was the main problem Gwanak-gu collected ideas for mobilizing local resources to establish an infrastructure that satisfies the public at a low cost. A good example is the Yongkkumkkuneun small Library located on the first floor of the Gwanak-gu Office, which have enabled easy access by using small plots of land belonging to the public office. This library was established with a benefactor’s donation of KRW 100,000,000 and with donations of books. Dedicated to the city, the library was opened in the abandoned Gwanak Mountain ticket office, while the unmanned U-Libraries at subway stations and the Integrated Library System were established via the government competition for a U-Library support project. Furthermore, the budget was reduced through other competition projects such as the “Small Library Support Project”, etc and various creative ideas including the container-type libraries in a park. As a result, the number of libraries was increased from 5 to 43 at a low cost, and they are called “Good Libraries.” Lack of understanding about the Knowledge Welfare project The next problem is the fact that due to a general lack of understanding about the Knowledge Welfare project, as well as the difficult economic situation, the desire for knowledge is inevitably subordinate to other living expenses. The provision of Knowledge Welfare does not consist in “catching fish for the people,” but is rather a sustainable project of “teaching the people how to catch fish” that has consistently evolved since 2010. An opinion poll targeting 1,000 citizens revealed that 46.4% of the respondents viewed “the Knowledge Welfare project” as Gwangak-gu’s best policy. Consequently, the image of Gwanak-gu has been changed from that of a shantytown to a Knowledge Welfare city, and is now visited by domestic and overseas officials seeking to learn about Gwanak-gu’s innovative policy.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Breaking away from the image of a shantytown Although economic development is important, thanks to this initiative, civic pride, which is a higher value and cannot be purchased, has been raised by focusing on enhancing the urban image. It is difficult to achieve economic revival only through the city’s policy given the poor financial condition, and can have a bad influence on the enhancement of citizens’ consciousness as it increases their dependence on other institutions. The “Knowledge Welfare project(library, reading culture promotion, and lifelong learning)” chosen by Gwanak-gu aims to resolve urban problems and develop the area through the residents themselves. It has raised citizens’ pride and increased their affection for the city as well as breaking away from its image as a shantytown. A policy appreciated especially by the poorest and most vulnerable social groups A couple who earn their living by shoe-shining couldn’t spend money on books before and couldn’t read books as there was no library nearby. Now, however, there is a nearby library thanks to Gwanak-gu’s Knowledge Welfare project, so they are pleased to be able to read plenty of books in their work booth. People like daily product delivery women and small restaurant owners have also benefited from Knowledge Welfare free of charge. There is another case in which a married daughter visits her parents with her child and happily uses a library in Gwanak-gu every weekend, because benefits such as reading books and enjoying cultural performances and lectures without a financial burdeb cannot be obtained in other areas, unlike in Gwanak-gu. Getting along together with the generations in the family is another advantage of the Knowledge Welfare project. The Knowledge Welfare project naturally increases women’s policy participation Twenty libraries are being run by an increasing number of civic volunteers, all of whom are women. 325 citizens participated in and completed the honorary librarian education for the library service, and 95% of them are women. In addition, regarding the reading club support project, 281 reading clubs have a total of 2,487 members, of whom 93% are women and girls. In addition, it is largely women and girls who participate in and benefit from book concerts, lectures, and education programs at libraries or lifelong learning centers. The Knowledge Welfare project is designed to vitalize the impoverished city at low cost compared to any other project, offering the poorest and most vulnerable social groups opportunities to participate in policy, benefitting children and the elderly, and enabling women and girls in particular to take part in the policy voluntarily. Rather than focusing on material development, the Knowledge Welfare project recovers humanity and offers equal access to knowledge, and is recommended to all cities.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Gwanak-gu has enacted an ordinance and established and implemented a five-year master plan to secure the momentum of the initiative and to prepare systematic measures for Gwanank-gu civil servants’ obligations, citizens’ right to participate, and smooth support for the initiative. Enactment of Gwanak-gu’s reading culture promotion ordinance The ordinance enacted in 2011 provides that both the public and the private sectors shall establish, operate, and support a reading culture promotion council together in order to carry out diverse projects smoothly and to spread and promote a culture of reading throughout the local community. The council deliberates, determines and implements all major matters of the Knowledge Welfare project together with the public and private sectors. Enactment of Gwanak-gu’s “construction of a humanities city” ordinance Enacted in 2014, this ordinance defines the obligation of public-private-academia cooperation to offer Gwanak-gu citizens various opportunities in the liberal arts in their daily lives. The ordinance aims to establish a humanistic city where citizens can become more creative and acquire knowledge of the liberal arts, and ultimately enjoy a valuable and happy life. It was chosen as one of the “100 good local government ordinances” competition in 2015. Based on this, Gwanak-gu has established the Humanities Support Center to organize lectures in the humanities throughout the district and carry out practical tasks for developing Gwanak-gu into a city of the humanities. Establishment of master plan for reading culture promotion (five-year plan, 2014-18) Gwanak-gu has established roadmaps for the five-year reading culture promotion project with the objective of establishing a culture of reading in citizens’ daily life, creating a sound reading culture environment, promoting the pleasure of reading books together, and performing Gwanak-gu’s characteristic Knowledge Welfare city project. It has also appointed the relevant divisions to develop and execute detailed Knowledge Welfare projects systematically and consistently. As a result, based on the provision of “libraries that citizens can reach within 10 minutes' walk”, a cultural community in which citizens communicate with each other through books has been created and humanities programs have been actively carried out. In addition, the network consisting of reading-related institutions, groups, and citizens has been established and a daily reading culture has been propagated.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Women can feel a sense of accomplishment and children can enjoy themselves safely 20 small libraries are being managed purely by volunteers(345 female members), enabling them to feel a sense of pride about playing an important role as volunteers for the community, and every library is equipped with a large number of children’s books and has a special space where infants and children can easily access books. The reading club members(2,487, of whom 93% are women and girls) share good practices and discuss how to enhance operational efficiency. They also plan, conduct, and evaluate the Knowledge Welfare programs themselves. An important element of success is access for the poorest and most vulnerable social groups. The Knowledge Welfare project improves the quality of life and makes it sustainable, unlike other temporary forms of financial support for poor and vulnerable social groups. The libraries within close range are far more useful than large libraries in resolving the alienation felt by poor and vulnerable social groups and quenching their thirst for knowledge. Gwanak-gu provides the “Knowledge Lunch Box book delivery service” through IT technology. Moreover, books are delivered to the homes of people with mobility difficulties including the disabled and the elderly.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Gwanak-gu Office
Institution Type:   Local Government  
Contact Person:   Kim Eun-jin
Title:   Planning team leader  
Telephone/ Fax:   82-2-879-5551/82-2-879-7819
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   145, Gwanak-ro,Gwanak-gu
Postal Code:   08832
City:   Seoul

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