The National Library of Peru and the challenges of the pandemic

With the arrival of COVID-19, many institutions closed and the National Library of Peru was no exception. Though physical distance separated us, we looked for renewed ways to meet.

By National Library of Peru

The National Library of Peru is the first cultural institution of the Republic. Like our country, this year we celebrate 200 years of creation, through which we have gone through times of growth and others of fatality.

Old facade of the National Library of Peru, Anonymous, Mid 19th century - 1943, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Courtyard of the National Library after the fire has been put out, Anonymous, 1943, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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New National Library of Peru completes reconstruction work, Anonymous, 1944, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Side facade of the new headquarters of the National Library of Peru, National Library of Perú, 2020, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Closing statement for the COVID-19 pandemic (2020) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

In the framework of our anniversary, in 2020 we began the implementation of a plan for the modernization of BNP and its headquarters, where we contemplated, among other aspects, improvements in infrastructure and services of the institution.

On this path, we find ourselves in the unforgettable year 2020: dozens of countries decreed quarantines and many of us keep ourselves in our homes due to the pandemic caused by the new COVID-19 virus.

Reducing contact was the task. For BNP, this meant keeping physical distance, but not social distance, since we discovered new ways to stay together from virtuality, and we learned to implement health protocols for when we meet again.

Collections before and after virtuality
As an institution with 200 years on its shoulders, heir to a great viceregal library, various administrations have worked extensive catalogs. From the direction of Jorge Basadre, in 1943, a clear and firm policy was applied regarding the cataloging of the collections. A cataloging card was made for each bibliographic or documentary material, which were kept in drawers maintaining a strict order.

Students of the School of Librarians of Peru, Anonymous, 1944, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Library BNP staff working, National Library of Perú, 2000, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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BNP staff digitizing photographs (1994 - 1996) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

After many efforts, in 1995-97 a first online catalog was launched for consultation by users within the institution. Then, in 2000, we managed to launch our catalog into the virtual world. It was a big step and look forward to finding more services on the web.

Request for inquiries at the GBPL (2015 - 2016) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

Although a virtual catalog allowed our users to know our volumes and collections, they always depended on the physical presence in one of our offices to be able to read them.

Digital BNP (2020) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

For this reason, and in order to spread the national cultural legacy beyond the venue, BNP Digital was born in 2018. Initially, this tool made it possible to consult around 65,000 bibliographic documents from the Library's Old Collection, from anywhere in the world.

During 2020, we were able to update this figure, presenting 54,684 images, 4,166 books, 534 newspapers and magazines, 10,609 manuscripts, 418 scores and 631 nitrate films.

Digital Public Library (2020) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

And in July 2020 we launched the Digital Public Library, a tool for remote access to a wide variety of contemporary books, just a few clicks away.

The platform works as a face-to-face library where copies are finite and a limited number of users can access them at the same time. In addition, it has accessibility functions for inclusive reading.

Cultural activities 
The pandemic presented us new challenges, which led us to move from almost complete presence to an online cultural programming.

First, we set the goal of being support and company for the confinement, isolation and loneliness in the difficult moments that many people were going through. Under this idea, Voces que unen (Voices that unite) initiative was born, a daily meeting within the framework of a month during quarantine, where 31 guests shared and accompanied the public with the reading of literary works from their homes.

BNP Cultural Program: History Program (2020) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

Then, around exchange, culture and knowledge, academic programs, talks, workshops and other artistic and cultural activities were increased and virtualized.

Transcripton BNP (2020) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

We launched La Transcriptón, group sessions for the teaching of palaeography and the transcription of manuscripts protected by the BNP, from the 16th to the 19th centuries. To do this, we set up a website where users can learn about the documents and transcribe them for readers.

Reading Club (2020) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

Another of our once in-person services, now digitized, was the Reading Club. In 2020, we had 12,940 participants, who shared their passion for literature remotely. The clubs were held through social networks and virtual meetings.

We also launched the BNP tips, advice through short videos, on taking care of your personal library and recommendations to stimulate reading in children. And we get closer to pre-college youth through the More Than Numbers counseling program.

BNP tips - enjoy reading, National Library of Perú, 2020, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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BNP tips - book care, National Library of Perú, 2020, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Pre-university counseling "More than numbers", National Library of Perú, 2020, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Aló BNP (Hello BNP) (2020) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

A new way of accompanying us at times when we had to keep a greater distance was ALO BNP. This service was specially designed for the elderly or people with reading, mobility or Internet access limitations.

By registering our loved one for free, he received a call through which one of our announcers gave him a telephone reading. In January 2021, the program received the Innovation Award from the EIFL organization.

Departmental meetings of libraries in Moquegua (2020) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

In September, the Departmental Library Meetings were launched, an initiative that seeks to generate spaces for cooperation and exchange of experiences on library services in our country.

We launched the podcast Pages of Time and Voces of Peru. In the first, we recall episodes in the history of our institution and in the second, we make visible the experiences of Peruvians who promote reading.


And we promoted More Books More Freedom, a campaign to promote reading, which reminds us that through it we can travel to distant and imaginary worlds, keeping the health recommendations to stay at home.

More books, more free, National Library of Perú, 2020, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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"More books, more free" campaing, National Library of Perú, 2020, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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GBPL workers selecting books for home loan service (2020) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

Face-to-face services

Looking to get closer and expand the services of access to information during a pandemic, the loan of books by delivery or by pick up was enabled, from the GBPL and its stations. This was especially thought for people with difficulty to move.

GBPL workers transporting books for loan service, National Library of Perú, 2020, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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GBPL deliverymen transporting the books of the home delivery service, National Library of Perú, 2020, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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GBPL delivery men delivering the books of the home delivery service, National Library of Perú, 2020, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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COVID-19 protocols for entering the National Library of Peru (2020) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

And when times allowed, we reopened the doors to the public. On July 21, 2020, after months in quarantine and the reduction of public services, the BNP reopened its headquarters in San Borja, by appointment of the user.

First, we opened the newspaper library, as well as enabled the document digitization service at the San Borja Headquarters, with which our users would receive the materials they need at home.

Conservation of photographic material, National Library of Perú, 2020, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Library staff moving bibliographic material, National Library of Perú, 2020, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Library staff working at the BNP applying biosafety protocols, National Library of Perú, 2020, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Reader at the BNP newspaper and magazines room, National Library of Perú, 2020, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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BNP Terrace (2021) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

In December 2020, we expanded our opening by implementing an outdoor reading room.

For all spaces, biosafety protocols were established for the care and development of users within the library.

Services during a pandemic at the "Carmen Checa de Silva" Public Library Station (2021) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

We also enable our services at Public Library Stations. We remodeled and modernized four of the five EBPs, starting with the El Agustino and La Victoria stations, which have already been reopened.

Reopening of the "Ricardo Arbulú" Public Library Station, National Library of Perú, 2020, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Reopening of the Public Library Station "Carmen Checa de Silva", National Library of Perú, 2021, From the collection of: National Library of Peru
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Bibliomovil (Mobile Library) (2021) by National Library of PerúNational Library of Peru

And we implemented the Bibliomóvil, a library extension service of the GBPL, in order to bring information and knowledge to the citizens of the entire country that do not have public libraries.

Day by day, we continue to strive to reach our bicentennial ever closer to citizens, aiming to carry out more decentralized services, and with a diverse and inclusive offer, working to give greater access to information and culture.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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