Let's face it: we live in increasingly dehumanized societies.
In them we have less and less time to behave as social beings. Or directly as human beings. And instead of doing something to solve the problem, we put patches that look like "creative solutions" to us.
We no longer have time to cut some lettuce leaves and prepare a healthy and well-cooked meal. The supermarket offers us a "salad" in a plastic tray. We no longer have time to get to know a person that interests us, to make love or to spend a life with her. But we have cell phones that allow us even "cyber-sex". We no longer have time to talk to people we are interested in, or whose projects we are interested in participating in, or whose views we are interested in discussing. But, yes, we have software that "connects" us.
We no longer have time to read, to learn, to study, so the Internet gives us everything done: chewed and pre-digested. We no longer have time to walk, to look around, to take some time for us. We have GoogleEarth to walk around our neighborhood, and gyms where we run on a machine half an hour so the heart will not forget how it was to speed up.
We do not have much time to be human anymore. And the system, attentive to everything, continues to turn us into amoebas that soon will not need to move from their seats. Because they will be "connected" to the world...
...and disconnected from themselves, perhaps?
In societies whose fabrics are being slowly torn apart like that, libraries actively work to reverse that trend. They try to build a community feeling, providing spaces where people can interact, and reminding those people that there are many reasons to do so...
...which maybe is not a very "trendy" kind of work to do nowadays. But it is an important one: a sort of rebellion against an unbalanced panorama. Yes: a rebellion. Because after all, as Argentinean writer Alejandro Dolina said once, "it is always advisable to drive through life in reverse, especially if one suspects who has put the traffic arrows."
Recently, Greenpeace, along with iFixit (a collaborative web of electronic product repair manuals), published the results of a study which noted that Apple, Samsung and Microsoft are the champions of planned obsolescence.
Companies design products that are difficult or impossible to repair, with short lifetimes, or dependent on software that is never updated, among many other things. This way, they guarantee the continuity of the production & sales chain: durable products are not good for business. It is necessary that the wheel keeps moving, that people continue buying and throwing away stuff, so that there is employment, so that there is growth, so that there is development...
Old and well-known words...
...to which we may add "so that there is waste in every corner of the planet, so that there is unmanageable pollution, so that there are slaves working in half the world, so that humanity consumes increasingly scarce resources to make a small percentage of human beings feel 'happy'". Important reasons that are usually left out commercial ads (because it is necessary that the wheel keeps moving, that people keep buying and throwing away stuff, and all the rest).
Do we consider planned obsolescence in our libraries? Do we buy materials that we will soon have to discard, or do we focus on more sustainable, repairable, reusable elements? Do we opt for creative solutions, or we just go for the packages sold by advertising? Are we one more link in the chain of consumption & discard, or are we trying to slow down or break this chain, thinking about our future and the future of our planet?
Are we really committed to our "sustainability" discourse and statements? Or are those just... words?
The first time that the inexperienced young man I once was entered that indigenous community in northeastern Argentina —a community whose name I don't need to remember right now— and announced that he was bringing them "the library" (with the same tone with which a preacher announces to a group of poor sinners that he brings them the salvation of their souls), that young man received intrigued looks and a single answer:
—We do not need a library.
Everything I had learnt (or believed to learn) at the university was burnt in seconds by that statement. And I left the place eaten by doubts. How could anyone not want something as wonderful as a library?
The fact is that what the inhabitants of that community —and many others, as I would find out over the months— did not want, even if they could not express it too well, was the library model that I offered them. Our library. A library that had systematically left them off its shelves. One that, in some cases, prohibited them from entering its rooms. Because they were "indians." They were dirty, thieves, they could not behave properly, like educated people...
(Back then I thought this problem to be limited to Argentina. Then I started traveling and I found it in the rest of Latin America. And the world).
I solved the reticence of that community by creating a library model adapted to their needs (a number of small mobile sound libraries). But it was something I had to discover by force: nobody taught me that. Many of us were not taught that there is not a unique library model. Many of us were not taught that to be successful, any project (including a library) must be adapted to the needs and, above all, to the ideas and realities of its final users, even if we have to destroy all our preconceived structures and swallow up a bunch of our prejudices.
In short, many of us were never taught that a library is a place where a person (or a community) and knowledge meet. And that such a space and such an encounter can assume —what a wonderful thing!— thousands of different forms. As many as different perspectives exist in this diverse world of ours.
About the posts
Texts: Edgardo Civallero.
Las entradas pertenecientes a la serie de notas Conocimiento y biosfera pueden leerse aquí, junto a las de las series Apuntes críticos y Gotas de animación a la lectura. Asimismo pueden consultarse las distintas entradas de las columnas Palabras ancladas, Los muchos caminos, Palabras habitadas y Libros y lecturas indígenas.
Por último, las conferencias, los artículos académicos y otros trabajos similares pueden consultarse a través del listado completo de publicaciones, o bien revisando el archivo de Acta Académica (de acceso libre) o las plataformas Academia.edu, Issuu, Scribd y Calameo.