Does it matter how many books there are in the library if no one is reading them?

I recently visited one of the school libraries supported by BiblioWorks and was again reminded of how lucky teacher-librarians in international schools are to have budgets that allow them to chose books that fit their curriculum as well as the interests of their students. They have access to a variety of suppliers from whom they can order quality books from a wide-range of publishers by amazing authors. They can weed books that students are not interested in, that are out-of-date or that are not in good condition. (Not all of them do this weeding but they should!) They are not reliant on donations. International teacher-librarians can engage in discussions about how best to arrange and catalogue their books to suit the needs of their students. They can (and should attend) PD by people like Kevin Hennah about library design, displays, signage, layout and more.

When BiblioWorks sets up a library, they purchase new books for the library. Last week books for a new library in Villa Abecia arrived in the office. And when Silvia and I went to Presto, we took books that had been purchased on behalf of the municipal government for the library there. 



Books are donated as well. Quite a few books on this shelf were donated by the US Embassy in Bolivia. And while many of them are Spanish translations of some great books, I don’t know if any of the students have the reading level or interest to read them. Also as the books must be used in the library (ie not borrowed), I can’t see that anyone would be keen to read a novel.

IMG_9080 I suspect these Enid Blyton books were also donated. Do they have any appeal for the students using this library?


Seeing them reminded me of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story”.

And who knows how these relics ended up in this library (or the last time someone opened them). And who thought a primary school library was a good place for them? 




Even if this one does mention educating children…


Someone has carefully covered these books, I assume to protect them, but if you can’t see the title, why would you take them off the shelf? 


(Other than the old religion books, I didn’t look at the non-fiction books that make up most of the collection. I suspect many were text books.)

The challenge taken up by BiblioWorks to spread the love of reading in rural Bolivia should be made easier by having libraries full of books but as teacher-librarians know, it doesn’t matter how many books you have if no one wants to read them. And if you have good books but they are hidden among old, boring ones, will anyone find them?

Thankfully BiblioWorks has some excellent employees and volunteers who spend time in the libraries sharing good books with the children they serve and hopefully inspiring the librarians and teachers of those communities to do the same. 

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