Libraries have become an essential part of urban and rural communities around the world. They are quintessential places of access to information, community development, and social inclusion. Patrons in every country embrace libraries as part of their daily lives — as spaces of learning, growth, and a source of pride for their communities.
And that’s why it’s imperative that local governments actively participate in and fully support the work that libraries do — especially on issues of access to information and strengthening the appropriation of information and communications technologies (ICTs). This will ensure that libraries can continue contributing to people’s civic development, something that benefits both patrons and local governments.
One recent example of such a partnership is in Uruguay where, with the support of the Canelones local government and Antel, the national telecommunications company, the Manuel Rosé Municipal Public Library unveiled a new digital inclusion space. This digital space provides computers and internet access to the community of Las Piedras, ensuring access to information and tools for education and digital literacy. The library will also offer ICT courses for senior citizens and other marginalized populations.
Similarly, in Peru, the municipal libraries in Miraflores are an example of how governments are embracing libraries and generating opportunities through their work. The community submitted a proposal to renew and improve local libraries, and now these renovations will be among the seven projects to receive participatory budgeting from the Miraflores municipality in 2014. The project presented to the local authorities includes the renovation of the entire infrastructure and services of the three libraries in the Miraflores municipality. The updates include the implementation of an open shelf system; 24-hour service; the improvement of ICT facilities for employees and users; and finally, making libraries accessible for people with disabilities. The library now offers wheelchair ramps, spaces for people with visual disabilities, books in Braille, audio books, assisted reading programs, audio-assisted movies, and music and books in electronic format.
Collaborations like these lead to healthy communities, in which local governments support libraries, libraries strengthen the community, and a strengthened community supports and works better with local authorities.