By Elvia Murgueytio, Metropolitan Network of Libraries Quito, Ecuador
I have believed in phrases like “after the storm there is always calm”, or perhaps something more famous like “nothing is by chance, everything is always the product of chance”. From my personal experience, these sayings are related to all that has been experienced as a consequence of a global pandemic. Press headlines began to make visible the presence of a new deadly virus, which would decidedly change the lives of all the inhabitants of the planet.
Everyone’s daily life was disrupted, we were forced to change our face-to-face spaces for new and unknown virtual environments. The challenges were enormous and at first, everything was uncertain, but the latent hope that everything had to return to “normal” opened up the illusion of new alternatives, which soon became a light.
In my particular case, as a librarian of the Metropolitan Libraries Network, I found a way to reach the public in a very creative and dynamic way. From one moment to the next, the barriers and obstacles that the pandemic brought us were transformed into great opportunities, because from the virtual space we began to take the books to the homes of hundreds of families.
At first, we started with a romantic proposal of “Readings by phone” with users requesting a scheduled reading. It was magical to create this reading space, sweetly going back to a moment in history where love letters arrived in an envelope with a dedication, in a sublime special moment. This fantastic journey led us to the next moment, in which the calls became zoom meetings, scheduled for school groups to share selected readings in such a beautiful virtual space. The beneficiaries began to experience how a library could reach them without the need to travel long distances, it was our first strength.
Immediately a project was created to promote virtual reading with a special programme; a careful and loving selection of books -the best of children’s literature-; creating warm and welcoming virtual reading spaces; generating encounters of dialogue, creation, fun and above all, a great interest in reading.
The great welcome we received from various institutions in the city was our greatest strength. The spaces were cyclical, the programme managed to benefit almost seven thousand children and young people directly. I dare to compare it with a small reading factory, where a fantastic team of twelve librarians empowered by their mission managed to build more than three hundred and fifty monthly connections and, the most valuable thing, the youngsters came to read an average of eighteen books in just one school year.
The trips were incalculable, with monsters of all kinds and colours, rockets, dragons, rivers and mountains, flowers and valleys, happiness and sadness, houses, pencils, shapes, clouds and dreams. The reading meetings encompassed all sorts of things; the result can only be measured in the big smiles and the happy hearts of the shared faces.
Taking advantage of technology as my strength and incalculable gratitude to the woman who made this dream possible, I close this cycle of my life with the learning that a great sculpture can always be built from mud; it only requires love, commitment and dedication.
My heart lives with clarity. The virtual library will continue to break down borders, distances, oblivion, allowing a magical book to build bridges of encounter and passion. The program “Reading with migrants in the Middle of the World” opens new doors in my life; a book that travels, collects memories and welcomes them with love.