Congratulations to Venezuelan reading promotion organisation Banco del Libro, this year celebrating its 55th birthday! Founded in 1960, the Banco del Libro’s initial, basic objective was formally adopted: to support the reconstruction of the country’s educational system after the fall of the dictatorship, to improve the standard of teaching materials and to promote reading among children and young people.
Over the following decade, the Banco del Libro made extensive efforts to develop better text books: they organised seminars, catalogued textbooks and formed evaluation criteria; they built up school libraries in Caracas and other parts of Venezuela and also designed the public library Mariano Pícon Salas in Caracas, which was to become a model for the Venezuelan public library system.
The Banco del Libro works in numerous different ways to create reading environments and bring together people and books. In the seventies, they initiated home-based libraries such as “La Urbina” in barrio Petare, and in 1968 they started a mobile library bus service for low-income areas such as Caracas’ huge shanty towns. Banco del Libro’s activities have changed since its start-up fiftyfive years ago. For example, teaching materials are no longer part of the agenda. However stimulating an appetite for reading and improving children’s accessibility to books are, of course, still the main concerns. During the first five years of the 21st century, initiatives by the Banco del Libro have substantially increased the number of children’s libraries in Venezuela: 33 new libraries in 24 states.
In a true pioneering spirit, with ingenuity and a sheer determination, the Banco del Libro has constantly sought new ways of disseminating books and promoting reading among children in Venezuela. Enthusiasm, professionalism, closeness to the children and a refreshing lack of bureaucracy are the hallmarks of the Banco del Libro’s work, whether in shanty towns, mountain villages, universities or out in cyberspace.
Banco del Libro has received numerous awards, a proof of their winning concept. Experiments with new methods, the construction of models and the dissemination of skills and expertise are at the core and are the strength. The institution’s impact on the entire field of children’s literature in Venezuela and its significance for the development and spread of methods of stimulating reading in Latin America spring from the diversity of their activities and innovative approach, from the ability with which they implement their projects in the structure of society. And, not least, from their capacity to arouse enthusiasm and inspire people both in their own projects and in organisations for the promotion of reading all round the World.
Editor and chairman of the Hans Christian Andersen Award Patricia Aldana about Banco del Libros work here (in Spanish).