Guatemala Book Fair declared annual event

This August article from Criticas announces the organizers’ intentions of making the Guatemala book fair an annual event. Unger writes:

Guatemala suffers from the reputation of being “El país de no lectores” (“the country without readers”), so FILGUA set as its objective “Vamos por un país de lectores” (“Let’s become a country of readers”). Still reeling from 36 years of civil war, with the by-product of ensuing gang warfare, violent crime, and femicide, Guatemala is not an easy place to build readership. FILGUA, however, has provoked understanding of the need to address issues of literacy, the promotion of reading, and the paucity of public libraries in the country, while at the same time raising the importance of eliminating value-added taxes on books.

At an event held in the National Palace of Culture, honoring the more than 80 attending writers, host Jerónimo Lancerio, the Minister of Culture and Sports and a Sakapultec Maya, was presented with a petition signed by 154, mostly rural, library directors urging increased government spending and the creation of new libraries. Immediately after the fair, a bill addressing the promotion of reading was introduced in the Guatemalan Congress. Indeed, there was a sense during FILGUA that after years of neglect, the Guatemalan government would begin addressing literacy issues, this in a country ranking second to last in spending for education in Latin America.

Good signs for the future of reading and libraries in Guatemala.

The future of publishing in Guatemala

The interview in this month’s Criticas with Raul Figueroa moved me. It outlines why he started F & G Editores, one of the few publishers in Guatemala, and the struggles the publishing industry and reading culture face in his country. Here’s a note from the article:

This is a country where books and independent thinking were once considered crimes by the ruling military. Guatemalans are beginning to lose their fear of reading and having access to books.

Also featured in this month’s Criticas is a review of Linaje y racismo, which tells the history of the elite families that control Guatemala. A quote from the review:

Casaús shows that a fundamental aspect of the thinking and activities of these families was a racism that was used to justify suppression of the country’s indigenous majority population.

Guatemala is dear to my heart as I lived there for a short time. Salutaciones, compadres.

Online community

Because I work for an online community, I’m fascinated by the power of online communities for supporting and strengthening a project and engaging new people into your work. I recently learned about Social Edge, an online community for social entrepreneurs. Check out the video blog of Nick Talarico and Kjerstin Erickson talking about Library Boys.

Conflict and libraries

Violent conflict, such as war, can be devastating to cultural institutions such as libraries. When a society is in a post-conflict state, then where do libraries fit into the heirarchy of needs? What is the role of a resource-limited government in maintaining libraries when issues such as hunger, disease, violence, and other destabilizing phenomena are given higher priorities? Does only focusing on immediate needs create a vicious cycle that is difficult to break? Should education, preservation of history, and independent learning be supported as a path to bring greater peace and stability to a region that has experienced years of conflict?

These are questions that I will be trying to answer in the coming months as I prepare for my own work as a librarian in a post-conflict state.