La Biblioteca de San Miguel de Allende is, first and foremost, a public library providing traditional lending services and reading rooms. As well, it’s a centre of the city’s educational and cultural life. With more than 60,000 volumes, equally divided between Spanish and English books, it’s the second largest bilingual library in Mexico.
And it is very much more …..
The Biblioteca Education Department offers an extensive series of free classes for Mexican children and adolescents. Teaching is by both staff and volunteers, the latter including many people from the international community who have a wealth of talent and experience to bring to the classroom. Among the many subjects covered are instruction in piano and guitar, theatre, drawing and painting, English, handicrafts and science. A class in pre-hispanic music and instruments introduces children to their own history. A performing orchestra and a choir have been developed. Over 300 young Mexicans participated in these classes in 2010.
Biblioteca scholarships allow many Mexican children from needy families, in both San Miguel and rural communities surrounding it, to continue their education well beyond what would otherwise be possible for them. The scholarship program started by helping students to complete middle- and high-school programs. Given the costs of school fees, uniforms and books that must be covered by the student’s family, many children have had to leave school early due to poverty. This problem continues for many families today.
The scholarship program now also includes grants for university attendance, though even those who receive them have to depend also on part-time jobs and financial sacrifices from their families.
In 2010 the Biblioteca provided a total of 290 students with school and university scholarships.
La Biblioteca’s colonial building includes a central courtyard, a café, a gift shop, a small theatre outfitted for both films and live productions and an attractive large room, containing a dramatic wall mural, that is used for meetings and concerts.
The library is an inviting and warm place, a space in which the Mexican and international communities in San Miguel come together.
Afternoons at the library are especially lively. Tables in the courtyard are filled with students doing their homework and preparing for Biblioteca classes; and some with adults doing language-practice, as Spanish and English speakers share tables and practice in both languages. People congregate in the café, waiting for the start of a film or a lecture. Others browse in the book-stacks or sit quietly reading.
LA BIBLIOTECA opened in 1954 as a children`s library in the home of a Canadian, Helen Wale. It moved to its present location in 1958 and first employed a professional librarian in 1960. It currently has a full-time library staff of eight, including two professional librarians. Their work is supplemented by more than a dozen dedicated volunteers.
LA BIBLIOTECA receives no government funding. It is financed by a range of services – including the cinema, popular Sunday-house-tours, the café, a thrift store, publication of a very successful weekly bilingual newspaper, Atención – and by donations.