Friday, 25 February 2011

Peru: National Library to Close

This may seem off-topic, but I was astonished to see this story that Peru's national library is to be closed for three months following the discovery of hundreds of thefts.

When I was in Peru in 2005, the national library was housed on Avenida Abancay, in the centre of town. The building was quite beautiful inside, with the colonial-style inner courtyard, tall columns, etc. Sadly there was a considerable amount of street noise still audible from the reading rooms. Still more unfortunately, some facilities were really not adequate; newspapers were stored in boxes in the basement, they were sorted, but ultimately the papers for one day were all piled in a box, they could be bent, folded, crushed... If you checked the press for a significant day in history (for example, the day after Abimael Guzman's capture in 1992), the pages were tattered, torn, and in some cases completely missing - and that was from a date less than fifteen years previously! It was a real shame.

Anyway, construction was already underway for a new, purpose-built library on a large site in San Borja, which has since been completed. How sad that apparently the security system there isn't working - over 600 items have been found to be missing. Peru21 is even reporting that some of the pages from the original manuscript of Jose Maria Arguedas' El zorro de arriba y el zorro de abaja have gone. But the exact number of losses cannot really be quantified because the works are not fully catalogued, and that is apparently what the library staff are going to be doing during its three-month closure. It's pretty vital for Peru's intellectual and cultural heritage.

"Biblioteca Nacional no tiene seguridad" (Peru21)
La Biblioteca Nacional cierra por 90 dias (Peru21)
Robo en la BNP: desaparecieron hasta libros grabados en oro (El Comercio)

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