February 16, 2018
Popular libraries of Argentina work for peace in Colombia
The role of reading in the social promotion of communities.

A group of librarians traveled to Colombia in the framework of the anniversary of the peace agreements to carry out joint work with community library leaders located in former zones of armed conflict, as part of a bilateral project in the area of ​​International Cooperation of the Commission National of Popular Libraries (Conabip).

That books and reading have a social function for Argentine libraries is not new: throughout the country, the more than two thousand civil associations in the network of the Conabip approach with their spaces, which support volunteers and partners , the encounter with culture and the community.

Precisely, the project with Colombia opted to share that local experience and inspire the development of a movement of community libraries in that Latin American country, precisely at a historical moment in which they are rebuilding "the social fabric, broken after so many years of armed conflict" , says Télam Leandro de Sagastizábal, president of Conabip.

To accompany this recomposition, Conabip, convened by the Foreign Ministry on the anniversary of the peace accords, proposed generating a dialogue between librarians here and there, "a process of profoundly democratic cooperation, valuation of knowledge in the territory and that supposes a great confidence both in the Argentine leaders, and in the potential of the Colombian communities themselves ", explains de Sagastizábal.

If libraries, books and reading are "tools of freedom and social transformation", as defined by the president of Conabip, the bilateral project they developed was the first stone of an approach that places libraries as spaces for "dynamisation" of social processes, "argues Luciana Rabinovich, head of International Cooperation at Conabip.

In November last year, two members of Conabip along with four librarians from Argentina traveled to three Colombian communities: Popayán, the third oldest city in Latin America and two in more rural environments, Villa Victoria in Puerto Asís, at the entrance of the Amazonas, and El Paraíso in the municipality of Algeciras, an area very crossed by the armed conflict.

The trip was carried out within the framework of a project convened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that went from being a simple donation of books - there was one: about 300 titles were sent to each institution of Argentine and Latin American literature mainly - to a work articulated between references of both countries that included the visit of Colombian referents to Argentina and vice versa.

From Argentina, representatives of popular libraries (from Colonia Caroya, in Córdoba, Delta Paraná and Villa Italia, both in Buenos Aires, and from Vaqueros in Salta), participated in meetings and gave workshops with the aim of "working on reading promotion, promotion of rights, problems of inclusion and access, library management and basic librarianship, "explains Rabinovich.

"The idea with the visit was that each library could be disseminated in the community, that the community knew they had this library for everyone, with new books for everyone. In many cases, in places where there were very few books and the presence of books was the excuse to disseminate and enhance those spaces, "says Valeria Chorny, of the Technical Unit of Conabip.

With the support of Fundación Los Grobo, they spent three days in each community attending "the contexts where the libraries were and valuing the local knowledge, traditions and realities of each place and thinking together how a library is built, what it is for and respond to the interest of each community, "says Rabinovich.

To the rhythm of the demand that arose there, the Argentine librarians carried out workshops of narration, literature, poetry, elaboration of projects for financing and of basic librarianship (in a library the first book was cataloged, the Colombian Constitution), besides of the donations of copies in places where there were hardly any books or were under keys.

"The contact with the book was very mobilizing, suddenly the books generated a lot of curiosity, each felt that he was taking something that interested him. They were all very committed to what was happening, "says Marisa Negri, poet, teacher and reference to the Santa Genoveva library in the Paraná Delta.

"If you enable a space for things to happen around the book that have to do with the word and the community," adds the librarian and poet, "people join. This was seen a lot in El Paraíso, who worked all day in the coffee plantations, and at night they approached the meetings, they felt that there, around the culture, something was gestating that they were interested in. "

November was left behind but the project, entitled "Prevention of recruitment of children, youth and adolescents in the municipalities of Popayán, Algeciras and Puerto Asís, Colombia", demonstrated its ability to go further, and although a second trip is planned , the librarians assure that the dialogue channel is already open and that there is no doubt that libraries can be agents of containment and transformation in their communities.

Published by: (Catamarca, ARG)

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