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National Library Week: 6 Mobile Libraries Bring Books to the World

Americans like me who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s (in other words–old!) are likely to fondly remember bookmobiles. In some small or rural communities, they were the only way to borrow books. Today, there are less than 1,000 bookmobiles in use in the U.S. That could be because more than 306 million people in the U.S. lived within a public library service area in 2014. And anyone with a computer or smartphone can get free access to e-books and audiobooks, as well as the printed versions, from their local library.

But in other parts of the world, it’s not so easy. In many countries, there are very few public libraries, and in some, even schools don’t have books or libraries. And with only 35 percent of the world’s population connected to the internet, there are vast numbers of people–especially children–who have no way to gain access to books. In honor of National Library Week, this post explores six visionary mobile libraries that go to great lengths to promote the love of reading and literacy throughout their little part of the globe.

Argentina: Arma de Instruccion Masiva

In Argentina, the artist Raul Lemesoff converted a green 1979 Ford Falcon purchased from the Argentine armed forces into a tank-like vehicle with enough shelf space for 900 books, offering everything from novels to poetry. Lemesoff was inspired to build his Arma de Instruccion Masiva (Weapon of Mass Instruction) as a way of counteracting fear with education. On World Book Day in March 2015, he drove around the urban centers and rural communities of Argentina, offering free books to people on the street, as long as they promised to read them.

Colombia: Biblioburro

In 1990, a primary school teacher in Colombia named Luis Soriano Bohorquez was inspired to save rural children in Colombia’s Magdalena province from illiteracy. Every Saturday at dawn, Luis sets out to 15 select villages with his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto (their names combined translate to “alphabet”). Luis rides Alfa up to four hours each way, with Beto following behind carrying a sitting blanket and more books. Children get homework help, learn to read or listen to stories and geography lessons that he prepares. Soriano started his library with just 70 books from his own collection. Thanks to donations, he now has some 4,800 books piled up in his little house in the small town of La Gloria. In 2011, PBS made a documentary film about his work, Biblioburro: The Donkey Library.

Biblioburro, Traveling Library in Colombia
By Acción Visual/Diana Arias [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Italy: Bibliomotocarro

In 2003, retired teacher Antonio La Cava realized that children in the local villages of the Basilicata region in southern Italy didn’t have easy access to books. He bought a used Piaggio Ape motorbike van and modified it, creating the Bibliomotocarro (the Library Motor Car). The small, bright blue vehicle resembles a tiny house–including a Spanish-tiled roof, a chimney, and large glass windows that display the over 1,200 books inside. There are also built-in speakers to play the organ music he uses to announce his arrival. Each month, he travels over 500 kilometers (about 300 miles) to eight different villages, where children gather in the squares to wait for him.

Mongolia: Children’s Mobile Library

Dashdondog Jamba is a children’s book writer and publisher and has translated more than fifty children’s books by foreign writers into Mongolian. His Children’s Mobile Library transports books to children in the remote regions of the Gobi desert, and throughout every province of Mongolia. Since the early 1990’s, he has faced the challenges of mountainous terrain and severe weather conditions to travel over 50,000 miles by camel, on horseback, on carts pulled by horses or oxen, and more recently, with a van. Assisted by his wife and son, they often remain in one place for several days to allow as many children as possible to read the books.

Norway: Bokbaten Epos

In a coastal country that includes many islands and islets, with remote hamlets located along the fjords, the sea is often the easiest way to reach some communities. In 1959, a group of librarians in Hordaland pioneered the concept of a floating library. At first, a refurbished tobacco cutter was used, and it was an immediate success. In 1963, a larger 85-foot boat was specially built to serve as the seafaring mobile library. The new vessel also offers cultural programs such as films, plays, puppet shows and visits with authors. Bokbaten Epos (the Library Boat) carries about 6,000 books to the residents of 150 small communities in three counties along the West coast of Norway who don’t have their own libraries.

Bokbåten Epos

Bokbåten Epos by Andrva (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Pakistan: Bright Star Mobile Library

When Saeed Malik returned to his home country of Pakistan in 2004 after working for the United Nations World Food Program for 35 years, he learned that most government and private elementary schools in the rural areas of the Islamabad Capital Territory did not have library services or books of their own. He founded the Bright Star Mobile Library in 2011 to introduce young Pakistanis to the world of reading and books. Four refurbished U.N. jeeps make weekly visits to about 20 elementary schools in the outskirts of the capital city, carrying over 1,000 books and serving nearly 6,000 young students.

 

Libraries Transform. Whether a library is on land, sea, or even donkey, those who bring books and resources to their local community are truly agents of transformation.

How are you celebrating National Library Week? Let us know in the comments below or Tweet us at #ProQuest.

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Lucie Iuzzolino: A CultureGrams Contributor

One of the main things that makes CultureGrams such an accurate and unique source is our worldwide network of contacts. These natives and in-country experts give us additional cultural content, review the accuracy of our reports, and—my favorite—supply us with photos and videos that bring global cultures to life.

As you might imagine, CultureGrams contributors are a unique set of people, with a wide range of backgrounds, interests, and global experiences. Today I’d like to introduce one of them: Lucie Iuzzolino.

LucieIuzzolino

Lucie and her cousins hike to “U Uattënnierë” waterfalls in San Fele, Italy.

When she was nine-years old, Lucie left her native USA for the first time to travel to the Italian village where her grandparents had grown up. The trip sparked in her a love of travel that prompted her to participate in exchange trips to Spain and France in high school and then travel to Pune, India, as part of the World Conference of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides at age 17. This traveling only whetted Lucie’s appetite to see more of the world, and she went on to study for a year at an Argentine university and spend about 18 months in Peru and elsewhere in South America.

It was then that she filmed the footage for several videos that have recently been released in CultureGrams, including one featuring a traditional Argentine asado (barbecue) and another the man-made islands on Lake Titicaca and the people who live on them. Other videos invite us into a rural Peruvian kitchen, show us alpaca and llama wool is dyed in the Andes, and showcase traditional Andean dancing.

CultureGrams also benefitted from Lucie’s subsequent time in Italy, where she filmed a traditional dish being cooked. During the six months she was there, she studied at l’Università per Stranieri di Perugia, taught English in Italian schools, and visited with her extended family in Rome and the southern province of Potenza.

Lucie is similar to many of our contributors in her passion for all things global, even when she’s not travelling. As New York-based teacher, her interest in immigration and family history has led her to organize field trips to the city’s Tenement Museum and Ellis Island, one of two locations where she currently volunteers (the other is at the National Archives). As a legal assistant, Lucie witnessed the sacrifices that immigrants continue to make as they come to the US today.  In her current position as a Visitor Services Host at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, she loves interacting with thousands of visitors from around the country and the world each day.

Thanks to people like Lucie, CultureGrams’ collection of multimedia continues to grow. Keep an eye out for more Contributor profiles, and if you have material you would like to submit to CultureGrams, email us at cgeditors@proquest.com.