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            Today, 24th of October, we celebrate the day of the libraries. To celebrate this day, which is very special for books and the community of readers, from Libros de las Malas Compañías we bring you an interview to Ana C. Herreros, in which she would tell us about our new project, the Canoe-library (bibliopiraguas in Spanish)!

            If you want to know what a Canoe-library is and what does the project consist of, don’t miss it!

            Question: What is a Canoe-library?

            Answer: A Canoe-library is a canoe in which we keep books, very well protected from humidity, of course, to give access to books for those children which live in the islands of the mangrove, where the only road which crosses the Casamance does not reach it. But a Canoe-library is not only that; it is a shared space, a door connected to other worlds. It is a creative way in which giving access to books to any corner of the world, even those which seem inaccessible. 

            Q. Where will the project take place?

            A.  We already have a project underway in Oussouye (Usuy), in the south of Senegal, in Casamance. We collaborate with the library of Oussouye, Teba Diatta, financing literacy classes for the women of the village with the profits from the sale of the book “El dragón que se comió el sol y otros cuentos de la Baja Casamance” (The dragon that ate the sun and other stories from Lower Casamance). And in the Haute Casamance, in Kolda, we support a cooperative of people with diversity, especially women with motor difficulties or deaf people, who have created a textile work cooperative in order to have access to money. These women sew our fabric book “El niño que siempre perdía el bastón” (The boy who always lost his cane). We have already sold 300 copies of this book. In the case of the Canoe-library project, it will also be carried out in Lower Casamance, as we know the place and we have the invaluable help of a very bad company, who took us to Africa and who lives there supporting the Teba Diatta library. She is Fina Hernández, who will also be in charge of managing this project. Without her none of this would be possible.

            Q. What does the project consist on?

            A.  The fundamental thing about this project are books, true, bring the library to the children, but not only that. We also want to offer them a secure travelling and transport, because, as I said before, there is no road which connects this area with the rest of the Casamance; they are almost isolated. For this reason we are going to buy a canoe, which is the most comfortable, quietest and ecological way of moving through the mangrove. We are also talking about an area whose land is still full of mines, and so moving through the water is much more secure. In the canoe, the librarian of the area will tell the stories of his oral tradition, accompanied by his ekontin, a stringed instrument similar to the guitar but with a pumpkin as a sounding board. We will also bring books, suitably protected from humidity in dry plastic barrels; silent books, as quiet as the mangrove, books with few words, books with their stories, those we have collected in their land, audio stories and everything that brings us closer to them and makes their access to the library possible. With the carpenter from Oussouye, we are building mini libraries like those used in the Montesori system, which we will leave on each of the islands which count with a primary school with books. Every two months, the canoe will go with the librarian and Fina and they will change the books so that the children on the islands of the Casamance river estuary have access to these books. At the beginning of December we will travel to Casamance with 15 people who will sew, together with the women of the village, books made of recycled denim trousers, collected by the children of the Trabenco school in Leganés. We will sew together two of their stories: "Yimulimuli y el dragon" and "Mariama y la serpiente pitón", which will be added to the collection of this Canoe-library.

            Q. Who is this project destined to?

            A.  This project is not only destined to the children who live in the islands of the mangrove, although it is specially done for them; everyone can enjoy the Canoe-library, from the eldest in the family to the oldest.

Q. Why did you decided to carry out this project?

            A.  We realised not everyone had access to the library in Oussouye, because mobility is very reduced in rural Africa. So, we decided to move the library from the library to the mangrove. If readers cannot go to the library, the library comes to them. 


              Q. Where did the idea for its creation come from?

            A.  There are a lot of library initiatives without buildings: the “bibliobuses” in the rural parts of Spain, the “biblioburro” (library-donkey) in Colombia... We have a friend, Alejandra Ardila, who has a “bibliobici” (bicylibrary) in Guajira (Colombia), which brings books to Wayu children. They have even read Don Quijote. And a friend in Colombia, Andrés Murillo, has a literary cart, a library in a cart. Everyone carries their books in the means of transport they have, and in Casamance the canoe (busana) is the most common means of transport. That's why we decided to do this Canoe-librarian project.

            Q. Is there anyone else collaborating?

            A.  We are in network with a Hispano-American project of “bibliobarcos” (library-boats). Marisa Negri weaves this network. She manages a “biblionave” in Tigre (Argentina) at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata. In this network there is also a “bibliobarco” on the island of Chiloé (in Chile) and a “bibliobarca” in Putumayo in Colombia. It is wonderful to work in a network. Now we are making a book together about aquatic terms that the children write and draw. And we are also going to collect mangrove stories. We never stop. And now with a canoe, less than ever.

Elsa Alcañiz Casas

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Happy library day anniversary. Thank you for sharing the story behind your interview with Ana C. Herreros. These stories have inspired me positively. flappy bird

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