Henry García Gaviria

National coordinator of the "Public Libraries for Peace" Program

    Henry tells us:
    "He was the National Award winner for Senior Management in 2017 in the Administrative Department of Public Functions and Presidency of the Republic of Colombia (National Coordinator of the Public Libraries for Peace Project).

    He is a professional in Social Communication and Journalism with postgraduate degrees from the University of Antioquia in Marketing Management, Curated Art and Museology, and Politics and Culture.

    He has lectured at the University of Antioquia and served in many and diverse positions, such as directing various media and communication offices; curating and judging awards, art and film competitions; communications advising in different educational and cultural institutions; editing curatorial scripts for museum exhibitions, and acting as general coordinator of the Scientific and Cultural Bulletin "Códice" (University of Antioquia). He has also worked as style editor for research and distribution texts and is editor of the books "El Espectador, 120 Years of Critical Testimony"; "The Black Cultures in Colombia, 155 years of the abolition of slavery in Colombia "; "The Legacy of Manuel Quintín Lame among Colombian Indigenous Peoples, 40 Years after his Death "; " Sala U Arte Contemporáneo"; " Sentir para ver ... The Touch Gallery of the Louvre Museum"; and " Stories of my path", among others.

    His vocation for letters and the arts has also materialized in the collective creation of multiple contests and cultural spaces such as the International Short Film Festival of Medellin (FICME), the National Week of Robotics, the National Short Story Contest "Write to Read, Read to Write" and various products, programs and cultural and educational events with a social focus.

    He has also been Coordinator of Communications and Training Coordinator of the EPM Library of Medellín, and Training Leader of the EPM Foundation for the Library Network of Medellin, the Water Museum EPM, the EPM Fund for Higher Education, the EPM Library and the Park of Desires. He was Specialist in Positioning and Promotion of Project Use and Appropriation of Information and Communications Technologies in Public Libraries, supported by the Colombian Ministry of Culture and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    He worked for the Colombian Ministry of Cutlre and the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace of the Presidency of the Republic as National Coordinator of Mobile Public Libraries (Public Libraries for Peace), and National Coordinator of the Project "Public libraries through the Paths and Veredas of Peace" (of which he was the creator). He has been a consultant for department government of Atlántico, the University of La Salle, the University of Antioquia, and the Spanish Cooperation Agency on issues related to cultural management, public education, rural development, the culture of peace and communication for development.

    Speaker, workshop leader, and lecturer in multiple regional, national, and international spaces related to culture, libraries, social innovation, communication and the manifestations of letters and arts.

    Currently, he works as Project Manager of Social Innovation in Compartamos con Colombia."

Interview with Henry at the IV International Library Meeting organized by the Bibliotec Foundation in Cali, on September 28 and 29, 2017 at the Comfandi Cultural Center


Arrival of the Mobile Library to Santa María (Riosucio), Chocó

Managing the work

Interview with Henry on April 10, 2018 in El Espectador, in which he explains important aspects of his involvement in the project.
How long have you worked with libraries?
I started in 2011 at the EPM Library, a very large and important one in Medellín. From there I went on to create a whole training process, because libraries have traditionally provided the services that we all know, but modern libraries are for more than that. I was in the Public Libraries Network of Antioquia and now I'm in the Ministry of Culture.

This project takes libraries to rural areas. Where did that idea come from?
In mid-2016, when the topic of rural areas came up within the context of implementing the peace agreements, we had to arrive with rapid response strategies to serve these communities and contribute to the process of reincorporating FARC guerrillas to civil life. That's when the National Library turned to an international ally, Libraries Without Borders, to work on a mobile public libraries project. In March of 2017 we already had 20 public libraries operating in 20 of the 26 designated rural areas and transitory normalization points.

What contributions does a library make to a neighborhood?
We had two objectives in practice: Provide library services, which usually occurs in urban centers and cities, and take them to the most difficult areas in Colombia because there are remote libraries with complex road infrastructure conditions, and in territories where in many cases the word "library" is unknown because of the conflict. The other objective was to be able to contribute to the process of reincorporation of the ex-combatants of the FARC.

How have these mobile libraries brought people closer to the meaning of the "library"?
There was an interest in what we were going to take with us, but also ignorance, because they had not had a computer, had not seen a movie outdoors, did not really know what a library is. If you do not know a library, you do not need it, but when it arrives, people realize how important it is. We arrived with a mobile infrastructure and those same communities have been in charge of building fixed spaces. It was with the help of the communities that we could do it, because they themselves generated the resources to build a library.

Why can't a library have borders?
A public library should not have borders or barriers because it is a space for everyone, one that should not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, culture or social status. Public libraries in Colombia are some of the spaces that best represent the country's Political Constitution because they are plural, multicultural and open, and they are ready for any Colombian to benefit from everything that happens there.

The new phase of the project is "Public Libraries through the Paths and Veredas of Peace."
We arrived with 20 libraries to a few villages belonging to municipalities that had been strongly affected by the conflict. When we inaugurated them, the president of the nearby library would arrive to ask why the new library was in that place, if they had also been affected by the conflict. What we did was start making visits and advance community extension services. We managed to reach 176 places last year, by mule, by boat, by motorcycle, by bicycle or by walking.

How have libraries changed communities?
Whenever we talk about culture, we have very nice anecdotal stories. But before entering the territories, we contracted an impact evaluation with the National Consulting Center to compare how the veredas change in terms of social capital when a library arrives, that is, how the relationships between the people who live in those areas are strengthened. We find that a library contributes substantially to strengthening and better recovering the social fabric of these communities that were fractured by the conflict.

What is the difference between the needs of a library within the city and one that is immersed in a rural area?
There are differences in terms of infrastructure, but the main one is based on what you should do. A library in the city like the EPM can work in the development of more specialized services for different publics such as university students or cultural collectives. In the countryside, the service focus changes because the level of literacy is different. Libraries are called to connect rurality with the urban world in order to meet the needs of the countryside, and that sometimes makes it difficult for them to advance due to the way the field has been.

Managing the prizes

In October 2017, the Mobile Public Libraries for Peace project received significant international recognition when it was awarded the 2017 ACLEBIM Award in Spain. The award recognized that this project "transcends the pretense of any cultural facility, by positioning mobile libraries in the center of the effort to build a new country, through development, through knowledge, through harmony and, in sum, through all the values inherent in public libraries that inevitably enhance such democratic values as equal opportunities, the critical spirit, life in plurality and, above all, understanding and peace".

On December 5, 2017, the Mobile Public Libraries for Peace project won one of the most important awards in Colombia: the 2017 National Award for Senior Management.

This important recognition filled the entire team with pride and, as Henry said: "This is a prize for peace, it is a prize for the communities where peace agreements are implemented today, and it is a prize for library work in the areas of most difficult access accross the country that were historically affected by the conflict and that today we are reconstructing through the cultural processes that are implemented from public libraries."

Here the complete team: Congratulations!!

Top left to right::
Luis Narváez, Giovanni Simbaña, Karina Celis, Gilberto Pabon, Ruby Caballero, Ángel Molano, Henry García, Julián García, Dayana Bohórquez, Pablo Iván Galvis, Andrés Pérez, Esteban Castañeda, Víctor Solís
y Luis Montenegro

Down from left to right:
Sandra Orejuela, Astrid López, José Mejía, Lucely Narváez, Andrea Saavedra, Mariana Posada, Jenny Salcedo, Gloria Nupán y Diana Pérez

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