Chapter VI. Conservation science, local community, and a library in Galapagos

The sign at the entrance of the CDF Library, at Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz island. © Edgardo Civallero

This text was presented at the IFLA WLIC 2019 Meeting | Conference “Moving beyond traditional collections & services: Supporting science in innovative ways” organized by the Science & Technology Libraries Section joint with the Reference & Information Services Section and the Audio Visual & Multimedia Section. Athens, Greece, August 29th, 2019.

1. An archipelago in the Southern Seas

The Galapagos Islands or Archipiélago de Colón are a group of 19 islands, 42 islets and 26 rocks belonging to Ecuador, located in the Pacific Ocean, 563 miles away from the…

Chronicles of a librarian in Colombia (II)


It passes like an exhalation, almost without being seen. You have to try to follow it with your eyes, be lucky that it stops floating under the petals of a flower, and observe it carefully to understand that it is a bird. Its colors recall the rambunctious palette of an expressionist painter, all of it trapped inside a small, feathery flake that would fit loosely into the hollow of my fist if it were caught, and that threatens to fall apart at the slightest blow. I see it every day. And I’m never…

Chronicles of a librarian in Colombia (I)

The spider orb.

Breakfast time. I drink my tinto — that’s how they call “black coffee” in these lands — leaning out of the kitchen window. Shreds of mist drift down the mountainside, licking the deep green grass, and then falling apart. Those shreds replicate those that come out of my cup, which in the morning cold does not stop exhaling dense, whitish and aromatic wisps. …

Abya Yala.

Living in Latin America — actually, living anywhere in what has been called “the global South” — implies facing, on a daily basis, a long series of political, social, economic and cultural problems. Problems that affect us as individuals, as groups and as societies, both on a personal and a professional level.

The librarian community is no stranger to such barriers, gaps, setbacks and difficulties. The (fortunately increasingly obsolete) notion of “library neutrality” does not protect us from a reality that, whether we like it or not, surrounds us, affects us directly, intimidates us, leaves us without work, censors us…

Chapter V. About drizzles and droughts

Marine iguana in Santa Cruz Island. © Edgardo Civallero

In Galapagos, weather … is a topic of conversation. It is enough that a heavy downpour falls earlier than usual, towards November, for everyone to fear a year with El Niño phenomenon, or that in January the ocean is still cold, according to local criteria, and they have not been seen true rains at the end of the month, so that the farmers worry about their water reserves.

Christophe Grenier. From Conservación contra natura. Las islas Galápagos, 2007.

Being in Galapagos and not talking about wildlife is impossible. Or, as Grenier states in the…

Chapter IV. The sea that lulls the mangroves

Seabird in Isabela Island. © Edgardo Civallero

Neither will anyone be surprised at meeting these last [fragments of charred wood and mouldering ribs of wrecks], after observing the conflicting currents which eddy throughout nearly all the wide channels of the entire group [of islands].

Herman Melville. From “The Encantadas”. In The Piazza Tales, 1856.

Much has been written about Galapagos. Not only are they among the islands that have motivated a huge amount of scientific literature: they have also inspired a good number of works of fiction (like Melville’s The Encantadas), travel books, photo albums, documentaries…

…and even a…

Libraries under decolonization. Looking for a library model from Abya Yala

Street art in Medellín, Colombia.

Chapter V. Reasons

To implement any library-related system within a community, preliminary studies are usually carried out to determine what the response of that particular community will be, what the strengths and opportunities are, and what the weaknesses. Curiously, such kinds of questions are scarcely asked: it is usually assumed, from the very beginning, that libraries will be useful and well-received. The actual answer may be (to the surprise of many) quite different.

Why should we think about libraries from a regional and a local perspective? Because it is…

Libraries under decolonization. Looking for a library model from Abya Yala

“Sobre Vivencia”, by urban artists Libre and Decertor

Chapter IV. Libraries from Abya Yala

There is an urgent need to create a library proposal that takes Abya Yala as a reference. Abya Yala understood as a space — Latin America — occupied by everyone and in which we all fit, with all our stories and ideas, past and present. Abya Yala, hence, as a container of all our words and experiences, of all our paths. Of the written and the spoken stories. Of all our levels of reality and thought.

This idea of “containing all the identity…

Libraries under decolonization. Looking for a library model from Abya Yala

Las escuelitas de abajo, by Raúl Zibecki. Enredando.

Chapter III. Colonizations

In Latin America, we may speak of colonized and, at the same time, colonizing libraries.

Because they are rarely aware of either of the two processes –being occupied and colonized spaces, and acting as the executing arms of this colonization process within its community–, libraries urgently need a radical paradigm shift: a deep revision of their structures and a rudder stroke that urgently changes their course. …

Libraries under decolonization. Looking for a library model from Abya Yala

Image from Calle 13’s “Latinoamérica” video

Chapter II. Manipulation and voids

Although libraries play a role of undeniable relevance, sometimes even functioning as authentic trenches for resistance, activism, and socio-cultural militancy in Latin America, they also make countless mistakes, include in their structures a significant number of fallacies and contradictions, and suffer from many shortcomings. Whether they are aware of that fact or not, libraries exclude, omit, silence, ignore and / or discriminate certain realities, discourses, identities, and stories on a daily basis.

Traditionally, libraries have based their work on a model that favored the…

Edgardo Civallero

An Argentina-born, Colombia-based librarian, musician, citizen science, traveller and writer, working in the Galapagos Islands []

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