My first introduction to the Tarabuco Library was last Monday. First impressions are of the colourful entrance seen in the photo above. Unfortunately this is the Casa Cultura not the library. The library is hidden down the pathway to the left of the Casa Cultura, past the public toilets with their drums of water on the path outside. The library is a much smaller building, probably only 6m x 4m inside. My first thoughts were it was a nice small space for a small library. But as I spent more time there I found that it is much too small a space for the number of children using it.
I have been going to the library from 2pm to 5 or 6pm each week day. The younger primary school age children start arriving when school finishes about 2.30pm and the older secondary school age children about 3.30 – 4pm. The children come in ones and twos and at first there’s time to talk and start an activity. But soon there’s 25 to 30 children sharing this very small space and the noise level increases and it seems very chaotic.
There are library books on the shelves at the far end of the room. The majority of them are textbooks some of which the older students ask to use for their homework. But I have found that there are very few books for recreational reading and the few that I do find are on a shelf behind the librarian’s desk. The children are required to ask the librarian for the book that they want. They are not allowed to browse the shelves and select material for themselves.
I have had a brief look at the book collection and I’ve discovered that most of the books are very old and that there are very few titles that I would consider recreational reading. The librarian, Jhovana, is friendly and helpful, and seems to have a good rapport with the children. Unfortunately people employed as librarians have very little training in library work and Jhovana’s role seems to be more about opening and shutting the library and keeping the kids from being too rowdy. She does seem to be very keen to try new things and already has agreed to move the small collection of recreational reading to a shelf where the children can reach them and select a book for themselves.
After a brief look at the collection I selected about 35 fiction for this shelf. Most of them are younger children’s picture books and as yet I haven’t discovered any fiction for older students. There is an order for new books in the pipeline but as yet it has to be signed off by the council and then the books ordered and delivered. I have noticed that the children are only interested in playing with the game sin the library and that apart from older students using the library for doing their homework, there is no actual reading of books happening.
This week I’ve come back to Sucre for a night to catch up with Biblioworks staff. It’s been very helpful to talk to them about the challenges of Tarabuco Library and we’ve come up with a few ideas and strategies that may help increase the reading activity in the library.
Obtaining new and appropriate reading material for the library would be my first priority as without books that are suitable and look inviting to read it is doubtful that a culture of reading for fun can be built up. I have discovered that the younger children love to draw and giving them a drawing activity has been a wonderful way to get to know them.
It’s been a busy first week. On my second day in Tarabuco I went by trufi (minivan with 16 or 17 passengers) back towards Sucre to the town of Yamaperez where Biblioworks held a display as part of an event for Dia el Nino (Day of the Child). This was followed that afternoon by an event held in Tarabuco for the children there. It was a wonderful clown and magic show held in the central plaza. Great fun for all!
Apart from that I’ve been able to walk in the surrounding countryside for a couple of hours each day as the library doesn’t open until 2pm. The walking has been wonderful. despite the altitude of Tarabuco is 3,200m so it’s quite high up. Apart from puffing a fair bit when walking uphill I’ve found the walking to be really enjoyable. It’s been a great way to see a bit of the lifestyle of the people living in the countryside around the town.