The Archipelago was the only autonomous community without any law on libraries in the Spanish territory until the year 2019 when the Law 7/2019 on Reading and Libraries in the Canary Islands. The long-awaited regulation was made to be asked, but its implementation in the last decade has given it the opportunity to incorporate a vision in which these infrastructures are not mere spaces for exchanging books and concentrating during exam times, but that they guarantee access to knowledge and, also, to social transformation. This is one of the first conclusions of the report Study of the situation of libraries and reading in the Canary Islandsby the consultant and librarian Alicia Sellés Carot, by the Vice-Ministry of Culture and Cultural Heritage of the Government of the Canary Islands.
«There is a bittersweet taste in the photo that makes up this study. However, it should be noted that it collects the perception of citizens and the use and impact of users, which is why it is a pioneering strategy that has already interested other communities, such as Valencia”, declares the author. The figures are illuminating: the document/inhabitant ratio is 1.5 while the document/inhabitant ratio drops to 0.5. To get an idea, of the more than 2 million people who inhabit the Islands, only 66,448 people have an active card, from which it can be deduced that 3.6% are in the province of Las Palmas and 2.8% in the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife -It is surprising that, in the specific case of El Hierro, it is zero-.
With a total of 173, the number of libraries per island -according to public ownership and can be consulted in the directory on the Biblioteca de Canarias website- is as follows: on the western side, La Palma has 22, while La Gomera has 3 and El Hierro only 2 and Tenerife ahead with 68; As for the eastern slope, La Graciosa has none, Lanzarote has 10, Fuerteventura has 12 and, finally, Gran Canaria has 56. «This difference between capital and non-capital cities is based on two issues: the sociodemographic distribution itself, since, as there is more territory, there are more municipalities and there is also a greater fabric in which universities participate and, on the other hand, the policies of the town councils in this matter”, explains Sellés.
When studying the characteristics of the collections, only 10% host local collections, however, the implementation of video games or games does not reach 1% and, on the reserved funds to groups with special needs, it remains at 0.10%. Regarding the population that uses these resources, it is mostly adult reaching 77%while the public youth is 11% and children 12%. The study reflects that women account for 66% and men 37% of the total.
"We are in a process of transition between nothing normative and the lack of coordination towards a more modern, transforming, accessible and coordinated model among all administrations," he points out. Juan Márquez, Deputy Minister of Culture and Cultural Heritage. The first objective of this plan is to prepare the Map of Libraries of the Canary Islands, a broad vision that reflects the deficiencies and strengths of each island neighborhood. "In the absence of the maps of La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera, we hope that this proposal will be ready by the end of summer in order to build the regional map, which will indicate the path to follow," he says.
Path to innovate: the Biblioguagua
The competences of the Library Law have three institutional stages: the Canarian Government, the island councils and the town councils. The deputy minister recalls the need to distribute responsibilities and actions, although his area has taken the lead by proposing yesterday, in the Parliamentary Commission, the creation of a Canary Islands Reading Promotion Plan 2030 in order to encourage reading. Parallel to the initiative, work is being done along different lines: the establishment of the Social Pact for Reading, the budget increase in items for library services, a continuous training plan for workers that includes dynamization in social networks and, also, the inclusion of an unusual transport in the usual routes: the Biblioguagua.
"We hope to have good news in the summer," explains Márquez, "the biblioguaguas will tour the areas with a deficit and, in addition to bringing the works from the BICA network catalog, they will organize cultural activities to revitalize these places." Mobility will be able to bring the most distant neighborhoods closer to the possibility of impregnating themselves with culture. «We want libraries to be cultural spaces and citizens recognize them not only as something essential but as something everyday». In this sense, the spaces Makers they will make a difference: «Most users take libraries as a mere service to transact books and loans, and miss the opportunity to transform it into a space for civic participation. There are some libraries that have workshops, 3D printers or the like, but there is no joint concept of a creation laboratory”, Alicia Sellés points out.
The guideline is to involve society in the future model of Canarian libraries to ensure that it contributes to their development, as an ally in the Social Agreement on Reading. «Cultural rights are fundamental in the construction of democracy, freedoms, dignity and individual and collective development, so this is a term of consolidation», commits the deputy minister Juan Márquez.
The digitization of space
Canary Islands Library is one of the commitments of the public body. It includes the registry of collections and programs in the style of Escritores desvelados, Spelling the Canary Islands or the podcast Nada como un libro, apart from the Canary Islands Libraries Directory. His work has been recognized with the 2021 Library Cooperation Council Seal Distinction from the Ministry of Culture. The study intuits that the renewal of the system will be an ally for the Canarian Digital Agenda. In addition, digital narratives are a turning point, says Sellés: «The concept of information resources in the 21st century is a very wide spectrum. For example, digital fiction, which often goes through the video game, is a source of information and narration that must be selected, offered and disseminated, as we do with books. | CR