Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lack of Libraries in Peru Leads to Low Literacy

I didn't miss food so much as I missed libraries when I lived in Peru. I guess I was spoiled to grow up near one of the best libraries in the state. Peruvian libraries just can't hold a candle to US ones. In an early post I wrote about the low literacy rates in Peru and how the government was fighting against illiteracy, but in my opinion, is making some big mistakes.

First off, I used to live across the street from the National Library. One day I decided to go visit and I didn't even get to see one book. Getting into the building is hard enough due to the lack of signs and security guards asking you what you're doing (Um, trying to get books?). So I went into a massive hall and went to the desk and asked to go in. Nope, I was refused entry. (Remind me again WHY I pay taxes if I can't even use the library). They said that I needed two reference letters and a letter from my university saying I was studying. There were fees, but since I was technically a student, I was exempt. I couldn't believe it! Sometimes Peruvian culture really ticks me off.

To make things worse, I later found out that you couldn't even TAKE the books out of the library. Kind of defeats the point of a LENDING library, doesn't it? Needless to say, I left, extremely pissed off, yet completely understanding why so many Peruvians are illiterate.

So I decided to go to Britanico and ICPNA and buy a membership to their libraries. I never actually used the Britanico one, but I did use the ICPNA one: I wasn't impressed.

You could borrow 2 (TWO: whoop-dee-doo) books and they had to be returned in prestine condition. I was slapped with a 30 soles fine and banned for two months when one of the pages bent on a 40 year old book. Seriously? I'd hate to think of the poor kids who check out kids' books. To make things worse, I had joined so I could research for my thesis and none of the books I needed could be checked out. Of course there was no copy machine either; you had to request copies: max of 10 and it took 2 days to get them. Again: seriously?! Oh, and you had to check your bags, they were so afraid you'd steal something.

And don't get me started on the toilets there. No soap and no TP was the norm. I went to complain once, it was a Saturday morning. I was told that the kids from the children's classes must have used up all the soap and TP for the day. They weren't allowed to use more than the quota for the day. Once again: seriously?! That's gross. Peru's not exactly a clean country, I can't believe they don't care about all the germs that would get on their precious 40 year old books.

Britanico's library is supposed to be nicer. I know it's bigger since I had a tour. Though I lived farther away. I guess there's always a next time!



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