Transparency and Public Libraries


Last week the Gates Foundation awarded the 2009 Access to Learning Award to the Fundación Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM Foundation) for its network of public libraries in the Medellin district of Colombia. By sheer coincidence – since this award is a closely guarded secret – a team of CIS researchers was in Colombia at the same time, conducting interviews for a project on ICTs, youth, and employability in Latin America. We were also drawn to Medellin because for its innovative programs.

But this post is about transparency and public libraries.  During her acceptance speech the EPM executive director mentioned on two occasions how they will be completely transparent in how they spend the $1.0 million award, a reflection of its overall values and commitment as an organization. This speech reminded me of a visit I made last year to a rural library in Guatemala supported by the Riecken Foundation. As I walked through the library I was struck by this poster and asked the library manager what it was about. The answer – “This is our transparency corner. Every month we post the budget of the library for our patrons to see, and if they wish, comment on. For instance, we’ve received suggestions to spend more money on books, or on community events, or whatever. It’s a way to get the community engaged in how the library can best serve their needs.”  How cool is that?

Translation: Transparency Corner. March Report

Translation: Transparency Corner. March Report


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