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Got Culture? Reflections on Bus Stop Libraries and Urban Innovation

Craig Zelizer

April 8, 2016

Over the past 16 years I have been fortunate to travel to the country of Colombia many times. I still remember my first trip when I only spoke a word or two of Spanish and had many stereotypical images of the country about drugs, violence, danger and much more. Colombia has had a civil conflict for more than 50 years, and has many challenges, including the highest # of internally displaced people in the Western Hemisphere due to the conflict, high inequality an poverty, etc. The good news is there has been a major peace process taking place between the Colombian Government and FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and many are hopeful an agreement will be signed and implemented in 2016. While this will not bring full peace to Colombia, the agreement would be a major step forward. For more on the peace process see El Tiempo's or WOLA's Colombia Peace monitor sites.

While Colombia has many challenges, One of the thing I love about the country  is the incredible creativity, resilience and innovation I've seen over the years. For example, Bogota has had for over 40 years something called the Ciclovia in which every Sunday and most major holidays over 70 miles of roads are closed from 7 am to 2 pm and over a million people come out and bike and walk the city (we have a forthcoming PCDN video about this coming later in 2016).

Another amazing innovation that has popped up in Bogota are a series of over 50 mini-libraries in public parks, grocery stores and other unique spaces. The Paraderos Paralibros Para Parques libraries serve as a place where the community can come and read, engage in cultural activities and connect. They are sponsored by the organization Fundlectura and I know from my visits to city we have certainly made use of PPP and also seen the tremendous positive impact they have on people.

Below please find a short video interview about the PPP. Would welcome your comments and also sharing of other creative innovations you've seen that make a direct, creative and positive impact on communities.


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