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Colombia: Solidarity With Hiperbarrio After Library Robbery

This post was originally published on Global Voices by Catalina Restrepo.

Historically, libraries have been characterized as spaces for the free access to knowledge in the fields of literature, art, and culture, as well as becoming gathering places for the community. In this spirit, two years ago the Public Pilot Library of Medellín, Colombia at the La Loma site welcomed the participants of Hiperbarrio [es], one of the initial Rising Voices projects, where citizen journalism workshops have been taking place.

Photo of La Loma Library by Convergentes and used with permission. Click on photo to see a larger version of photo.

Photo of La Loma Library by Convergentes and used with permission. Click on photo to see a larger version of photo.

It is noteworthy that this library was created more than 50 years ago, as an initiative of the residents of La Loma, and throughout its service to the community it has offered classes in literature, painting, and music. The importance of its social role was described by Rezwan at the Rising Voices blog, who notes that that librarian's responsibility goes beyond the simple lending of books.

It is with those reasons that there were united voices of indignation surrounding the events that took place on October 13, which is described by @blueandtanit:

Ladrones robaron el equipo administrativo con información de La Loma, caja menor y El nica de Hiperbarrio en un asalto a la bpp de La Loma.

Thieves stole the administrative equipment with information of the La Loma library, petty cash, and the Nica (prize) during a robbery of the bpp (public library) of La Loma.

The director of Hiperbarrio, Álvaro Ramírez described his reaction upon hearing the news. He writes about the consequences of the robbery in his blog Ojo al Texto [es]:

Estoy un poco aturdido. Me concentro y trato de visualizar la modesta y hermosa Biblioteca de La Loma, sus estantes, las mesas y las sillas donde niños y grandes se sientan a diario a leer, a consultar libros, y a conversar.

Alcanzo a imaginar los computadores apagados y en la noche. Un par de intrusos llegan y logran penetrar por el techo. Entran con linternas y comienzan a sacar cosas

(…)

A la mañana siguiente llegan Gabriel Jaime y los otros empleados y encuentran el desastre. Un robo consumado. Un asalto a la comunidad de La Loma y un golpe duro para la Biblioteca Pública Piloto que ha venido dotando, con gran voluntad y paciencia a la filial más antigua de su extendida red de bibliotecas públicas: es decir gratuitas y abiertas para que todos podamos acceder a sus servicios.

(…)

Pienso en el daño que eso representa. En las personas que se van a perjudicar por no poder acceder gratis a los computadores.

I am a bit stunned. I concentrate and try to visualize the modest and beautiful La Loma Library, its shelves, the tables and chairs where children and adults sit to read on a daily basis, to read books, and to talk.

I am able to imagine the computers turned off at night. A couple of intruders arrive and are able to enter through the roof. They enter with flashlights and start to take things.

(…)

The next morning, (the library's coordinator) Gabriel Jaime and other employees arrive and find the disaster. A completed robbery. An assault on the community of La Loma and a hard blow for the Public Pilot Library, which has been providing, with a strong will and patience to the oldest branch in the extended network of public libraries: free and open services so that everyone can access its services.

(…)

I think about the damage that this represents. In the people that will be hurt and will not be able to have free access to computers.

Photo of La Loma library by blueandtanit and used under a Creative Commons license. Click on photo to see a larger version of the photo.

Photo of La Loma library by blueandtanit and used under a Creative Commons license. Click on photo to see a larger version of the photo.

News of the robbery soon spread throughout different online networks, and the community also received notes from those who expressed their solidarity during the incident, showing that there is a strong network across the internet. For example, from Chile, Enzo Abbagliati sent a message of support on his blog Cadaunadas [es] after reading the post written by Ramírez:

Cadaunadas varias veces ha sido espacio para la alegría que desde una barriada de Medellín hemos recibido cotidianamente quienes creemos en las bibliotecas públicas como espacio de equidad y construcción de sociedades más democráticas. Reproduzco ahora una triste nota publicada por Álvaro Ramírez en ConVerGentes, quien desde el aturdimiento inicial nos avisa que han robado en la Biblioteca de La Loma. En Chile, en nuestras bibliotecas públicas, a veces sufrimos la misma suerte, la misma frustrante suerte.

¡Animo, amigos de La Loma! Sé que la comunidad estará con ustedes.

On many occasions, (the blog) Cadaunadas has been a space for daily joy received from a neighborhood in Medellín for those of us who believe in public libraries as a place for equality and the building of more democratic societies. I am now republishing the sad news written by Álvaro Ramírez from ConVerGentes, who tells us of the stunning news about the robbery of the La Loma Library. In Chile, our public libraries sometimes suffers the same luck, the same frustrating luck.

Cheer up, friends from La Loma! Know that the community stands with you.

Locally, the Colombian digital magazine Equinoxio [es] became one of the first sites to publish news about the acts of vandalism and wrote about the efforts to investigate the crime:

El director de la biblioteca se reunió con las autoridades y con efectivos de la Policía Nacional a fin de coordinar esfuerzos para recuperar los bienes que se llevaron los asaltantes y capturar a los responsables.

The library's director met with authorities and officers from the National Police to coordinate efforts to recuperate the items taken by the burglars and to capture those responsible.

Fortunately, the Golden Nicca prize was recovered, as it was found nearby, but the other objects remain missing. A member of Hiperbarrio, Catalina Urquijo of the blog $ujetate (Unknown II) [es] thanked those who sent messages through the different social networking sites:

Ofrecemos nuestros más sinceros agradecimientos a todos aquellos que nos acompañaron por diversos sitios de la red dándonos su apoyo tanto cuando creímos que nos habían robado el nica como ahora.

We would like to offer our most sincere gratitude to all those who have accompanied us through various online sites giving us their support, especially when we thought that they had stolen the Nicca (prize).

Finally, Libary Coordinator Gabriel Vanegas of the blog Esas Voces que Nos Llegan [es] summarizes the shock in which, as a public employee, he had to find out about the incident:

Duele ver la ignorancia de quienes perpetúan este delito contra el patrimonio de la comunidad, pero preocupa pensar en quienes dieron la orden de hacerlo y quienes sabiendo y viendo que se hacia no procedieron de manera correcta y oportuna ante las autoridades.

It hurts to see the ignorance from those that committed this crime against the community's patrimony, and it also is worrisome to think about those who gave the order to do it and those who knew about it, who did not do the right thing and go to the authorities.
Translation by Eduardo Ávila

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