La Boca is certainly the most colorful of all of Buenos Aires’ barrios. Fiercely independent, residents of the area seceded in 1882 and formed La Republica Independiente de la Boca. Though the president himself immediately quashed any notions of autonomy, Boca obviously retains a symbolic attachment to this idea. Vibrant murals proclaim that you are in the Republic of Boca while the multihued buildings and effervescent riverfront atmosphere hint of its strong Genoese roots.
Though I missed the opportunity to visit a larger location of the 26 Buenos Aires Ciudad Bibliotecas, I did get a chance to stop by La Boca’s Biblioteca Publico Joaquin Victor González.
Just inside, there’s a display of children’s artwork from various groups thanking the library for their visits.
Library staffer, Graciela Ibarra and her coworker were incredibly welcoming. My husband and I had a lovely chat with them despite our halting Spanish.
Graciela was quite informative about the library and the area. She was excited when she found out where we live, as Dean Reed, a wonderful singer and activist who was very popular in Argentina, was also from Colorado. (I’d never heard of him and was very impressed by his accomplishments.) She even let us hear her lovely, lilting voice as she sung one of his tunes.
The library has a number of Eyewitness style titles with lots of pictures on a variety of subjects for school children as well as novelas and other items for them.
For secondary school students and adults there are magazines, a reference section and many titles on engineering, filosofia, historia, psicologia, geografia, farmacia, … and of course, musica and Tango (our experience of Argentina seemed to be a nonstop festival of music and dance).
There’s also a suggestion box and a pretty outdoor area for reading on nice days.
All of the 26 public libraries in the system are free. Seven of the locations have children’s annexes and there are two children’s libraries. One library has a bilingual area and there’s a women’s library, a poetry library and one dedicated to the modern narrative. The system’s website also mentions La Biblioteca Tesoro Circe with 5,600 historical volumes from the past four centuries, as well as photos, maps, letters and old documents.
Porteños can choose from a number of library events. There are five weekly Clubes de Lectura (reading clubs) and El coro Trilce, which if I’m interpreting correctly, is an actual choir, affiliated with (perhaps the music section of?) the library. The Fundación Tomás Eloy Martínez holds an annual literary competition to encourage young authors. La Casa de la Lectura also promotes writing and literature and has visiting writers. Their events include poetry readings, book presentations, literary films, open mic nights etc.
Though the public computers at the Boca location were removed, there is still a computer in the office…
…so you can use the branch’s card catalog, or staff can look up materials in the citywide computerized catalog for you and place a hold. Residents can access the system from home and request items be sent to the Boca branch for them to pick up. Materials can be checked out for two weeks and renewed if necessary.
What a pleasant place to visit!
Just a small footnote on Argentinian libraries. In the train station in nearby Tigre, the main town in the Venice-like Paraná Delta, I encountered a combination tourist office/library branch. There’s a much bigger library in the town, but how ingenious to have a small location at the train station so people can borrow a book to read before setting off on a long journey.