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The five library parks in Medellín, Colombia are amazing and not just because of their architecture.

Included in the network are five library parks, known as “hearts of knowledge.” Located throughout the city in some of Medellin’s most marginalized communities, the library parks have become cultural centers, providing broad, community access to information and educational resources. The network’s libraries offer a range of training programs, including how to use the computer and access information online, and English for the Internet.

“Libraries have become spaces to not only access knowledge and learning, but also areas of community action and pride,” said Clara Patricia Restrepo, executive director of the EPM Foundation. “By continuing to bring new information and resources to our users, libraries are now perceived as dynamic centers that offer accessible, relevant learning opportunities.”

library park

The organization behind them, the Fundación Empresas Públicas de Medellín was recently awarded the 2009 Access to Learning Award by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

NPL has shifted people’s perceptions of libraries from traditional “bookshelves” to dynamic centers—places that offer tools for personal development and economic improvement, places that create a sense of local community and provide a connection to the global community.

By bringing citizens together in a communal setting, libraries are encouraging unity and learning. Historian and library coordinator Gabriel Jaime Vanegas said, “We believe that you can learn better if you’re part of a community.” Now, according to Gabriel, the young people of his district have a place where they can interact with the rest of the world, and that place is their library.

I highly recommend looking at more photos of the libraries at Parque Biblioteca León de Grieff / Giancarlo Mazzanti
[thanks, Erica!]