“In a book we can find cities, cultures, rights, duties. A child that we educate today with the Biblioburro is a child to whom we are teaching rights, duties and commitments. And a child who knows his rights, duties and commitments, is a child informed to say no to war. We are building Columbians of the future.”
– Luis Soriano
Biblioburro is a mobile library in La Gloria, Columbia consisting of two burros named Alfa and Beto and Luis Soriano, an elementary school teacher. For over a decade Soriano has brought his traveling library to remote towns and villages, loaning books to children and teaching in open-air classrooms. When Soriano started his mobile library he had just 70 books; now he has nearly 5,000 books, most of them donated. Up until recently, these books were stored in his house and the homes of friends. Now the books are housed next door in the largest free library in the Magdalena Province (and the only library in La Gloria), built by Soriano and his wife.
Last summer PBS aired Carlos Rendón Zipagauta’s documentary, Biblioburro: The Donkey Library. It’s not out on DVD yet, but when it is, I encourage you to watch it. The documentary follows Soriano on one of his weekend rounds, providing a glimpse into the passion, tenacity, and profound belief in the power of education and literacy that drives Soriano to travel for hours on the back of a burro every week.
Hearing Soriano’s story restores my faith in humanity. Yes, the world is filled with war and poverty and injustice and pollution and pettiness and greed. But it is also filled with people who firmly believe it is possible to change all that, people who strive every day to improve the quality of their corner of the world. When I think of Soriano and his Biblioburro I am reminded of why I work as a children’s library assistant. It isn’t just because of my boundless love of books. It is because I, too, believe in the power and necessity of education and literacy. It’s easy to get distracted by details and by little everyday chores, but I need to remember to keep those little things from completely taking over my life.
As I mentioned earlier, the PBS documentary is not available on DVD yet. In the meantime, however, you can watch this short film produced by Ayoka:
Know a great library? Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know! I’d love to feature it here.
EDIT: See Library Love: The Fine Print. (edited 3/11/12)