Sunday, March 18, 2007

Helping to establish a village library

A friend of libraries writes about advice for a school in a remote village in Panama, picture attached. How might they go about setting up a library? While there are some great resources online (see the short documents linked on the FAVL website) my single most important piece of advice is to think through the question of who will run the library: who will have an interest in running the library? And how will they be monitored? A lot of volunteers think that because they themselves are full of goodwill that so will everyone in a village. And they think that if they have two weeks of time to devote to a poor village, why should the villagers (or teachers), who are often just sitting around anyway, not take the time to run the library, as volunteers? I am not being cynical or sarcastic here… often there is a profound misunderstanding of the nature of village societies… one wants a romantic vision of a community in solidarity… one gets a real community of hard lives, petty jealousies, and serious politics often involving violence. A community library can serve as a point of transcendence, but can just as easily become a locus of contention. So a lot of local knowledge and careful attention, with a commitment to years of support, is needed. There are more cautionary tales than 1001 nights... But go at it with gusto and dedication, please!

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