Monday, August 06, 2007

Venezuela's Mule Bookmobiles

We've all heard of Kenya's camel bookmobile library that was used by Masha Hamilton as the basis of her novel of the same name. Now, from the BBC, comes word of a similar program that is being run in Venezuela by a university there. Only, the camels have been replaced by mules.

They are known as bibliomulas (book mules) and they are helping to spread the benefits of reading to people who are isolated from much of the world around them.
The idea of loading mules with books and taking them into the mountain villages was started by the University of Momboy, a small institution that prides itself on its community-based initiatives and on doing far more than universities in Venezuela are required to do by law.
Anyone who was not out working the fields - tending the celery that is the main crop here - was waiting for our arrival. The 23 children at the little school were very excited.

"Bibilomu-u-u-u-las," they shouted as the bags of books were unstrapped. They dived in eagerly, keen to grab the best titles and within minutes were being read to by Christina and Juana, two of the project leaders.

"Spreading the joy of reading is our main aim," Christina Vieras told me.

"But it's more than that. We're helping educate people about other important things like the environment. All the children are planting trees. Anything to improve the quality of life and connect these communities."

As the project grows, it is using the latest technology.

Somehow there is already a limited mobile phone signal here, so the organisers are taking advantage of that and equipping the mules with laptops and projectors.

The book mules are becoming cyber mules and cine mules.

"We want to install wireless modems under the banana plants so the villagers can use the internet," says Robert Ramirez, the co-ordinator of the university's Network of Enterprising Rural Schools.
And the world gets smaller every day. You just have to love this combination of old tech and new tech and wonder what's next.


  1. The picture really makes the post for me. That's fantastic. Oh and that they're equipping the mules with laptops.

  2. "High-tech mules" is what made me smile, too, Matt. I'm constantly surprised with how drastically all of this new technology is changing even the remote corners of the world. Who would have guessed that a mobile phone signal would reach that area?

  3. Oh, that's so cool! What a great way to share the written word with those who can't normally get access to it!

  4. Heather, it's good to see people take this kind of idea and run with the way these folks are doing. This could actually change the lives of some of the children who are exposed to the outside world this way...for the better, of course. :-)

  5. I love that they're called bibliomulas. So awesome! When I'm not in the States, the thing I miss most is access to a free, well-stocked, English-language library. I'm constantly amazed at how many great books libraries have-even the small ones in small towns that you wouldn't expect to have anything. What an awesome job!

  6. That's very true, Eva...the contents of small town libraries has often surprised me and kept me sane when I was living in the small communities. The love of reading is universal, thank goodness. :-)