Mobile Libraries for Peace

On February 20, the Mobile Library of Puerto Asís will be presented in the department of Putumayo, and with it the Mobile Libraries for Peace strategy will begin. This will be part of the 20 mobile libraries that will be taken to the Transitory Normalization Zones (ZVTN) within the framework of the implementation of the Final Agreement for the termination of the conflict and the construction of a stable and lasting peace in Colombia.

This strategy seeks, through libraries and library services, to promote a meeting space that stimulates dialogue, democracy, reconciliation, citizen participation and the construction of trust between members of the rural communities and ex-combatants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC by the name in spanish) through media of cultural content and reading. These spaces can be used for the communities to have access to various other institutional, educational and employment offers that facilitate the transition to civilian life of the ex-combatants.

The Mobile Public Libraries (Ideas Box) are a librarian model, an initiative of the French NGO Libraries without Borders, which has been developed in various crisis contexts such as the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon, and the refugee crisis in Europe. Colombia will be a pioneer in applying this model in Latin America.

The Mobile Public Libraries Project was designed by the Ministry of Culture and the National Library of Colombia and is financed with resources received from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the implementation of the project “Use and Appropriation of ICT in Public Libraries”, which seeks to promote innovative services in the Public Libraries Network of the country. Within the framework of the National Reading and Writing Plan Leer es mi Cuento, the Ministry of Culture announced the purchase of these 20 Mobile Public Libraries and also hired a team of seven experts from Libraries without Borders that will accompany the work of the Librarians for Peace and will contribute with their work experience in different contexts of conflict.

MAKAIA is the organization in charge of representing Crown Agents in Colombia, who are the contracting and purchasing agents of this project for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and who support the follow-up of the execution of the processes with suppliers of the same.

The mobile libraries are designed as a multimedia center with space between 50 and 100 meters, which is deployed in less than 20 minutes and can accommodate up to 50 people. This space will be like any other public library in the country; They will have reading, computer, audiovisual and administrative areas. Each library will carry with it 380 physical books and more than 200 digital books, as well as 17 tablets, 15 digital book readers, 5 computers and 3 video cameras; audio and projection system and more than 50 movies; board games, information reporting systems and loan of materials for administrative management and elements for the provision of the service such as a power plant, an internal wireless network server to connect the devices and access to the internet. The reading contents that the libraries will carry are focused on the needs of the population, and offer topics such as rural development, alternative crops, history of Colombia and Latin America, among others and will be complemented with aspects such as local memory recovery, film forums, photographic memory of the territories and reading in digital media, among others.

Together with the libraries, the 20 Librarians of Peace chosen will accompany the implementation of this strategy. They have the mission of converting Mobile Public Libraries into living spaces, in which culture is fostered, access to knowledge and information, and to make libraries strategic scenarios for mediation, reconciliation, trust generation and social cohesion They will depend on the promotion in the community for participation in reading projects, film clubs, among others. To strengthen their work, the librarians participated in a special training in Bogotá, where they received training from the Ministry of Culture and specific knowledge about the Peace Agreements, offered by the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace, allied in the project execution and training by Libraries without Borders.

It should be noted that mobile libraries will be located in the limits of access to the ZVTN, areas that have historically been hit by the conflict and have had little State intervention, and that in most cases have never had a library. In each of the spaces provided for the installation of the libraries there will be an expert librarian and a local assistant serving the community and taking out extension services to the ex-combatants of the FARC that are in the ZVTN.

Information and images taken from the National Library of Colombia and Arcadia Magazine.

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