By Julieta Lionetti
Each year since 2005, librarians are the stars of the Buenos Aires Book Fair (BABF) for three days. They arrive from every corner of the country to buy books directly from publishers, who offer a 50% discount over their list prices through a program called Libro %, organized by the National Committee for Popular Libraries (CoNaBiP), which is dependent on the Secretary of Culture of the Federal Government.
Popular libraries are autonomous civil associations that grow out from their communities and serve those by encouraging reading habits and promoting other cultural activities. They’ve been around for almost 150 years and their creation was inspired in the book clubs that Benjamin Franklin instituted in Philadelphia in 1727 and other American grassroots projects of the Founding Fathers.
More than 2,000 popular librarians stroll the fair armed with a subsidy of US$1,100, their trolleys closely watched by the gluttonous stare of sales reps. And it’s no wonder: collectively they will spend some $2.2 million dollars in what seems like the blink of an eye. Popular libraries benefit from two annual centralized purchases, but during the Fair, the money funded by the CoNaBiP (which also pays travel expenses) allows each librarian to let their imagination fly and choose books appropriate to the tastes of their community. “We come with our wish list, but while walking the aisles and visiting the stands something new can catch your eye,” explains one of the participants.
The fair also hosts three days of library training, organized by the Library Association, during the Professional Conferences previous to the opening of the premises to the general public.