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Turin, Italy

Turin: Bibliomigra brings the library to the people

March 8, 2011

A mobile lending library brings its multilingual collections to the streets and heart of the city

Once a week, a book-laden three-wheeler arrives at the Balon Flea Market in the Porta Palazzo, Europe’s largest open-air market. This is the Bibliomigra, a mobile lending library with 2,000 books circulating in 14 languages. Anyone can get a ‘library card’ – identity documents are unnecessary – and books can be loaned for two weeks.

The Bibliomigra caravan rolled forward in 2007 and stopped across six neighbourhood routes in Turin. Its collection contains books, newspapers and magazines in languages such as Chinese, Arabic, Albanian, Romanian, Hungarian, Russian, Italian, as well as in the Sicilian and Piedmont dialects.  The project is a collaboration between the municipal library of Turin and the Associazione Arteria.

The Turin Library sees the Bibliomigra as one of its many ways to target migrant readers and describes it as a way to “facilitate active citizenship, intercultural encounter and exchange.”  For residents interviewed by the Bibiomigra’s staff, the project’s success is about more than books:

“The first time I discovered Bibliomigra two years ago, I was really impressed – the people were so kind, open, no discrimination, no racial prejudice -they treated me like a Frenchman, like an Italian, with respect.

At home in Senegal, I have hundreds of books, I ‘ve always been a big reader, but I have not had a lot of formal education, Everything I’ve learned is through reading. These open, smiling people make it easy.”

Watch the video (in Italian):

More than books

Immigrant integration is particularly important in Turin. In inner city, historic districts like Borgo Dora / Porta Palazzo, the proportion of migrants has been reported to be as high as 50%.  Launched in 2007 with support from the Campagnia di San Paolo, the project was originally designed to encourage the social use of public space and promote intercultural dialogue.

While regeneration activities redevelop play areas in neighbourhood parks and gardens elsewhere in the city, Bibliomigra is also creating public spaces to integrate the city’s youngest residents. In addition to its travelling bookshelves, the colourful caravan makes a natural backdrop for plays, puppet shows and dance performances.

Working solutions

Last year, a change in city government led to a cutback in services that have recently begun to be reversed. Arteria  has revamped the Bibliomigra and now uses volunteers to keep the program going.

Despite such pressures, they also have new plans for the mobile lending library, including going carbon-free by using bike trailers and starting smaller “street libraries” led by community members.

This is another project that comes out of Turin’s The Gate economic development strategy which we profiled as a Good Idea, the Porta Palazzo and the Balon Flea Market.  A Good Idea we will follow with interest.

For more information about the Bibliomigra:

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