Between September 17 and 21, the VI National Congress of Public Libraries took place in Bogotá, Colombia.
Our brother Alfredo Mires Ortiz was invited to give the inaugural lecture and hold meetings and workshops.There were more than 1,300 participants linked to public libraries from all corners of this country. The conference entitled "From librarians: books, reading and community processes", left deep reflections among the attending public.
Alfredo referred to the catastrophes that today, he said, "end up being one: on the one hand, what we could call environmental climate change and, on the other, the terrible mental climate change"; "It is not only the tree that falls," he said, "but the spirit that collapses; it is not only the forest that burns, but the soul that is shaken; it is not only the river that is contaminated, but also the dream that is mutilated."
He called us to the challenge of "reviewing deeply in order to transmute the insanity of destruction and violence, in the midst of the madness to re-read the world and embrace it. To believe in the rarity of the impossible and in the ability to put ourselves in the skin of the other."
He made important interjections from different vantage points, for different audiences: he spoke to the public official, to those who run the libraries and to those who work in them day to day; to those who read and those who encourage others to do so. He asked after what is valued, for what is believed, he questioned those who have forgotten and the colonized; he spoke to the submissive and the uncritical.
He inquired about "the principles we evoke in our work" and asked: "What is the role of the public library with the people? With whom is your obligation: with the building or with the community where the building is located? Put another way: is your commitment to the area of the building or the building of the area? And if so, does the librarian know the people and needs of their community, or are they just customs officers of information and knowledge? What is their promise with their own culture? In short, why and for what is done what is done?
Without reservations he mentioned the tricks of the prevailing system: "Because the hegemonic power is also responsible for rocking us the cradle of forgetfulness and erase the traces of memory. Proof of this may be the history we give through our libraries: the mere fact that the subjects never act as authors, reveals the political manipulation of the past, especially in our continent where, for more than five hundred years, the colonial has forged different forms of internal despotism."
Likewise, Alfredo did not fail to mention his wise teachers, such as Don Antonio Vílchez and Mama Santos.He spoke of the importance of seeking and restoring ties: "Recognizing and distinguishing the marrow of the people could wake us; and re-coupling the bones of our native land is vital to begin walking."
He shared his brilliant idea about librarians: "he who makes books and reading a source so energetic and pleasant that it gives out a scent and attracts those who want to feed themselves to keep flying. (...) inspire the passion of reading books to see the world clearly. Because the action of the librarian is pollinating: it fertilizes both the one who gives and the one who receives. The library is not a cage: it is a space in which the social function is reinvented in a community consecration,"
To end his presentation, he said:
"We can go to the library to learn a thousand careers independent of grades, with emancipated appetite and with the certainty that the lesson is joyful and solidary, regardless of the pecuniary benefit.
That is why we also have to create our own writings. And with greater reason we must look to the lineage that has kept us alive: the invisibility and forbidden knowledge of our peoples; the unburied memory that does not appear in books; the oral tradition of muted mouths; the unsubmissive stories; the perennial memory; the negated knowledge; the stubborn survival of the barefoot letter. In the end, it is not to rescue the past: it is to recover the future."