Saturday, February 28, 2009

a library: bit 1 biblioburro

I finished Alberto Manguel's The Library at Night. It is a very interesting take on libraries, the history of all libraries, even the 40 or more books on a shelf in your house, even, the stack you might have in a corner of a living room or hallway. One of my favorite sections in the book is the tribute to Columbia's donkey libraries. Not all communities are able to afford libraries like we are fortunate to have.

In 1990 the Colombian Ministry of Culture set up an organization of itinerant libraries that would take books to the farthest corners of the country. While library-buses had been in place since 1982 in the districts surrounding Bogota, the government deemed it important to reach the inhabitants of the more distant rural rural regions. For this purpose, large green carrier bags with capacious pockets, that could easily be folded into convenient packages, were devised to transport books on donkeys' backs up into the jungle and the sierra. The bags are unfolded and hung from a post or a tree, allowing the local population to browse and choose. Sometimes the librarian reads aloud to those who have not learned to read for themselves, occasionally a member of a family who has attended school reads to the others. 'That way,' explained one of the villagers in an interview, 'we can know what we don't know and pass it on to others.'

It is likely that libraries will carry on and survive, as long as we persist in lending words to the world that surrounds us, and storing them for future readers.

The hard-to-swallow part about the book--in learning from it--is that Nazis burned books and sometimes, Jewish people wailed out loud, stunting the high from the burn. Jewish people lost their lives---trying to save their books--from their libraries.

No one would ever try something like at Gad's Hill.

I learned more from this book, about my own feelings about books, about literature, about's easy because it's innate, for me, it's like walking...picking up a book and reading...but I think about those who are less inclined but-----want to, to read, to learn. And then...I remember the scene in Good Will Hunting (you know the one) doesn't have to be formal or accredited or expensive...or come from--within--a classroom.

It's free...all we need is found in a library.


Wildeve said...

A thoughtful post about a subject near and dear to my heart. I often think that if I ever win the lottery I would give money to libraries, or to create new ones. I recently watched "Good Will Hunting" again, what a great movie.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

speaking of burning books, last year I reread fahrenheit 451 - what a great book!!!!! I can't imagine life without books and without my local libraries....will definitely check out this book - thanks for the heads up!!

ArtSparker said...

Wow, what a cool job to have, to be an itinerant librarian.

flawsnall said...

@Wildeve: I want to the win the lottery too. A library is the best place to invest.

@Kimy: I will check out Fahrenheit 451. You'll enjoy Manguel's work. Very informative. Lots of history and insight.

@ArtSparker: Yeah, it's a pretty neat job. However, it's starting to wear and tear on my primary job, teaching at the college. Hope I can continue to balance both, especially since I'm only part-time at the library. I'm really lucky to have both because I continue to learn something. There's always a surprise!

lilaphase said...

Fahrenheit 451 really touched me, also. It was written ~50 years ago about the future. So much of it speaks accurately to our technology experience today.

I will have to check out this book.