History of Mobile Public Libraries for Peace"

Los 20 bibliotecarios. Foto: Daniel Reina

"20 librarians". Picture: Daniel Reina.
Project Team Mobile Public Libraries Training in Mosquera, Cundinamarca.
Picture published in Arcadia, Bogota, ISSN: 1900-589X. February 8, 2017

The beginning

The High Commissioner for Peace, Sergio Jaramillo, and the Minister of Culture, Mariana Garcés. Credit: Archive of the Ministry of Culture On January 25, 2017, the Colombian Minister of Culture, Mariana Garcés, and the High Commissioner for Peace, Sergio Jaramillo, presented the Mobile Public Libraries for Peace program that was implemented in 20 Colombian rural areas. The Ministry of Culture purchased the model for the libraries from the French NGO Libraries Without Borders, investing two million dollars to acquire the facilities and finance their operation.


As of February 15, 2017, 20 libraries have been installed in villages belonging to the municipalities of Dabeiba, Ituango and Remedios (Antioquia); Arauquita (Arauca); La Montañita and San Vicente del Caguán (Caquetá); Caldono and Miranda (Cauca); La Paz (Cesar); Tierralta (Córdoba); Riosucio (Chocó); San José del Guaviare (Guaviare); Fonseca (La Guajira); La Macarena, Mesetas and Vista Hermosa (Meta); Policarpa and Tumaco (Nariño); Puerto Asís (Putumayo), and Planadas (Tolima).

Most of these libraries were installed near "Transitory Rural Zones for Normalization" (Zonas Veredales de Transición y Normalización, or ZVTN, in Spanish) that were constructed as part of the FARC's disarmament process. The mobile libraries contributed to the building of trust in communities through cultural content and reading programs. They contributed to reconciliation by providing public spaces where the community could connect and engage in cultural production.
Consult map for more detail


The infrastructure

Training librarians ... building libraries

Each library is a multimedia center that can be transported on two standard plastic pallets. Within a space of between 50 and 100 square meters, they can serve up to 50 people. They can also be deployed in less than 20 minutes. In terms of content, each library has 380 physical books and more than 200 digital books, as well as 17 tablets, 15 digital book readers, 5 computers and 3 video cameras; a cinema system with built-in sound and more than 30 movies; a board game kit; an administrative system for reporting information and lending materials; a power plant and a server that generates an internal wireless network to connect the library's electronic devices and internet access so that users can access employment and educational content.

The material

Photo courtesy of Henry García Gaviria
As for books, the selection was made by a committee composed of CERLALC, the National Library and the National Network of Public Libraries. In addition a standard offering of titles by classic authors such as Gabriel García Márquez, books were selected through a series of pedagogical workshops with the communities and ex-combatants developed jointly with the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace.

"We realized that above all they wanted books related to topics such as rural development, trade, entrepreneurship, gender, Colombian and Latin American history" (Henry García)

Transporting the Libraries

In Alto Sinú on the road to El Gallo.
Photo courtesy of Henry Garcia Gaviria


Mobile Public Libraries reach communities, March 16, 2017

Although in some cases the territory does not present difficulties, in others it represents an enormous challenge. For example, to access La Florida, in Chocó, the librarian will have to travel first to Quibdó, then navigate by boat for 6 hours to the municipality of Riosucio, and from there walk for at least two hours on a path that is more or less passable.
"In Colombia, the colored boxes are called Mobile Public Libraries. They will be in 20 of the 26 "veredas" that host the FARC guerrillas in their transition to civilian life. In these places, each of these Mobile Libraries will lend its services to the community and will carry out library extension activities to the ex-combatant camps. Culture will be one of the first visible faces in this peace process ...
... We stop at a gas station to refill the car, unload our bladders and stretch our legs a little. Fatigue is impossible to conceal, but the desire to reach our destination is greater than exhaustion. The sky, previously dark, is slowly painted with a palette of colors that starts with a soft orange, which briefly turns into a shade of pink that, in turn, is diluted into a very light blue that darkens as one looks up. Dawn is near ... Did the horrible night end? "

Excerpt from "The Journey of the First Library for Peace." Published on the website of the National Library of Colombia by: Johnathan Jesús Clavijo Taborda, April 4, 2017.

Repercussions in mass media

    From left to right
    Canal Capital. February 8, 2017.
    Noticias Caracol. November 5, 2017.
    En las Mañanas con Uno. March 14, 14, 2017.
    Telepacífico Noticias. December 17, 2017.
    Noticias Caracol. November 17, 2017.

One year later

"Sin miedo", a song composed by Dinastía Vallenata that won them the 2017 Mobile Libraries for Peace Stimulus Prize. The video clip enthusiastically describes the formation and activities of the Mobile Public Library in Conejo (Fonseca), La Guajira. One of the librarians who made up this library's original team, Gilberto Pabón Sandoval, is among us in SALALM.

"The Mobile Public Libraries 'Reading is my Story' have become meeting places and have played a decisive role in reconciliation and peacebuilding, as evidenced by the measure of its social impact carried out by the National Center for Consulting. The report reveals that between March 1 and October 31, 2017, the innovative library services initiative, which operates in 20 Territorial Spaces for Training and Reintegration, received 176,313 visits to the activities programmed in 176. In addition, 16 writers and journalists led writing and reading promotion workshops with rural communities and ex-combatants.
These and other surprising data were released on Thursday, November 23 in Caldono, Cauca by the [then] Director of the National Library of Colombia, Consuelo Gaitán. The event marked the presentation of the national evaluation of the entire project, "One year with the Public Mobile Libraries", an initiative that is operating in rural communities and in the camps in which ex-guerrillas have prepared for their transit to civil life, specifically in thirteen departments of the country: Antioquia, Arauca, Caquetá, Cauca, Cesar, Guaviare , Meta, Nariño, Putumayo, Tolima, Chocó, Córdoba and La Guajira. ... "

Read the full news article published on November 23, 2017 by the Ministry of Culture of Colombia.

You can read also the report published in October 2017 in which the results of the first year were presented: "1 year building peace through reading, art and culture"

On Thursday, November 23, 2017, in the village of Andalucía in the municipality of Caldono (Cauca), an assessment was done of what has been this first year of work of the 20 Mobile Public Libraries for Peace, in the different territories of the country that were affected by violence for decades. One of these libraries is in Caldono, which for months has been led by librarian Lucely Narváez and today has been welcomed by the entire community. Watch the videos of the national assessment "One year with the Mobile Public Libraries" held on Thursday, November 23, 2017, from Caldono, Cauca.
On the left the entire meeting is retransmitted (30 min.), and on the right is a summary in 4 minutes.

On the left a brief 5-minute video entitled "Impact Assessment February - September 2017" On the right you can see the Documentary: "The Hope of Peace - Libraries and public librarians in rural communities of Colombia." September 19, 2018 (24 minutes). A Beautiful testimony of the whole experience.

Images that make history

Photo Gallery