A library in Barcelona named after the Colombian Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, has been chosen as the best public library in the world at the Rotterdam Congress. It competed against other libraries from around the world, such as the Janez Vajkard Valvasor Library in Slovenia located in a former Capuchin monastery, the City of Parramatta Library in Australia, and the Shanghai Library East in China, a colossal structure spanning 115,000 square meters.
In total, over 100 libraries from around the world entered the competition. The prize awarded to the winner is a modest sum of 4,000 euros. However, the international prestige and the recognition of facilities that are just over a year old far exceed the monetary reward.
A Library in a Popular Neighborhood
The Gabriel Garcia Marquez Library in Barcelona covers 4,000 square meters, distributed across a new 6-story building. The interior construction stands out due to its use of wood, which creates a welcoming atmosphere. Additionally, its exterior design resembles a pile of books.
It holds a collection of over 40,000 items, specializing in Latin American literature. In May 2022, it was inaugurated in Verneda, a popular neighborhood in the Sant Marti district.
The interior combines open spaces with more intimate corners, separated by gauzy curtains, creating an environment conducive to peaceful reading. In total, there are 140 spaces designed to encourage reading and contemplation. The library welcomes around 1,000 visitors each day, although since its international recognition, some tourists have also been drawn to its premises.
Neus Castellano, the library’s director, expressed great satisfaction with the international acknowledgment. “A popular neighborhood that once had a space of just 300 square meters now has a facility that’s ten times larger. It’s a source of pride that the library provides essential services to citizens, such as internet access and cultural engagement,” said Castellano, who has been leading the library for a year.
Radio Maconda, the Library’s Radio Station
The library complex also houses a radio station, Radio Maconda, making it the only library in the city with this cultural broadcasting resource. It’s a project of Barcelona’s community radio network, which not only covers library information but also local news, and has strong community involvement, particularly in an area with a significant immigrant population.
Gabo in Barcelona
Gabriel Garcia Marquez had a significant connection with the Catalan capital during his lifetime. The Nobel laureate lived in Barcelona from 1967 to 1975, in the Sarria neighborhood. His literary agent, Carme Balcells, a native of Barcelona, was responsible for bringing the leading figures of the Latin American literary boom to the city at that time. Among them, the Colombian writer occupies a special place. In Barcelona, Gabo wrote “The Autumn of the Patriarch” and left a profound impression that is still remembered today.
“Barcelona, for mysterious reasons, is the best city to write in, apart from being, in my opinion, the best city in the world,” said Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In that city, he interacted with Vargas Llosa, Donoso, and many other representatives of Latin American literature. “We all came to Barcelona due to the attraction that Carme exerted over us, but we already knew many Catalans, like my teacher Ramon Vinyes,” the Nobel laureate acknowledged in a 2005 interview.
The footprint of Garcia Marquez, nine years after his death, remains very present in Barcelona, both in his personal connection and, of course, through his magnificent literary legacy. Today, a popular library bearing his name has been recognized as the best public library in the world.