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Italy’s Smallest Library Posted by on Jan 10, 2019 in Culture, News

In our previous blog, A Positive Message For The New Year, we looked at 9 of the 33 individuals who were praised by il Presidente della Repubblica, Sergio Mattarella in his new year’s honours list. Today we’re going to focus on another fascinating individual who’s on that list: Antonio La Cava.

We’d been planning to write about Antonio La Cava for a while, but as he was recently named Commendatore dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (Knight Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic) for the huge commitment that he has made throughout his life in promoting cultural values, this seems like the perfect opportunity.

La Cava, 73, is a former primary school teacher from Ferrandina, a small village 35 km from Matera in the heart of Basilicata. In October 1999, of his own initiative, he began travelling around the sparsely inhabited region of Basilicata in order to take books to children living in remote areas. Initially, he did this at weekends and during the school holidays, but since his retirement 8 years ago, La Cava has enthusiastically been making the rounds every day.

In 2003 he bought himself a second hand Ape, the ubiquitous little three wheeled truck made by Piaggio, and transformed it into a mobile library able to carry up to  700 books which he baptised il Bibliomotocarro. La Cava’s arrival in the remote villages is heralded by loud music emanating from the Ape. He parks up in the main piazza or the playing field, where most of the children are likely to be.

La Cava explains:
Io ero figlio di contadini,  abitavo in un sottano, in fondo c’era la stalla dell’asino e quando la mamma spegneva l’unica  lampadina di casa,  io,  appassionato lettore di fumetti, accendevo una candela che con la sua luce fioca  mi confortava e riscaldava profondamente.
I was the son of peasants, I lived in a small underground habitation with the donkey’s stable down at the end, and when my mother turned out the only light bulb in the house, I, who was a passionate reader of comic books, lit a candle, which comforted and profoundly warmed me with its dim light.

He goes on to talk about his aims:
L’idea del Bibliomotocarro è nata molti anni fa con l’intento  di richiamare l’attenzione sulla crescente disaffezione nei confronti del libro da parte, soprattutto, delle nuove generazioni, affascinate ed attratte sempre più dai nuovi mezzi di comunicazione di massa.
I came up with the idea of the Bibliomotocarro many years ago. My intent was to draw attention to the fact that the younger generation, who are ever more fascinated by and attracted to modern mass media, were becoming increasingly alienated from books.

La Cava chose to use il motocarro due to its three main characteristics: popularity, humility, simplicity. Il Bibliomotocarro, he says, is just the right size for children, its humility puts them at their ease, and because of its reduced dimensions it’s able to bring the books right into the heart of the community, creating a sense of familiarity and friendship for children who live in villages without a library or a bookshop. On average La Cava lends out around 450 books a week.

Giro i centotrenta comuni della provincia di Matera, ma anche quelli della Puglia e della Campania. Ci vado con il bibliomotocarro, facendo anche cinque o sei ore di viaggio. Nel corso di questi anni ho percorso 170mila chilometri a bordo di questo motocarro.
I travel around the one hundred and thirty municipalities of the province of Matera, and also those of Puglia and Campania. I go with my bibliomotocarro, sometimes travelling for five or six hours. Over the course of these years I’ve travelled 170 thousand kilometres aboard this motocarro.

Here’s a longer video without English subtitles … and without the silly American cowboy music that for some bizarre reason they chose to use in the first video!

As if his extensive road trips weren’t enough, Antonio La Cava is also invited by schools around the region to hold creative workshops. Here’s his official website: Il Bibliomotocarro

Dear readers, ever since I was a child I’ve loved going to the library. I’m fascinated by all those shelves brimming with facts and fantasy. Do you use your local library, or have a mobile library that comes to visit you?

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Comments:

  1. Chippy:

    Bravissimo Signor La Cava e bravi Serena e Geoff!!
    Si`, nel un paesino vicino a me, c’e un ‘box di telefono publicco’ che era trasformato a un biblioteca!

    • Sharon:

      @Chippy Ciao Chippy! Sì, è una buona idea per il defunto box di telefono publicco!

  2. Florence:

    This was particularly wonderful to read as I have spent my working life as a school librarian. Hats off to senor La Cava.

  3. Phil:

    Da bambino, miei genitori ha comprato un enciclopedia e hanno messo nelle mensole del piano di sopra nella nostra casa. Avevo avuto un passatempo de leggendo l’encyclopedia e passavo molte ore come questo!

    Phil

  4. Stephanie:

    Che bel uomo!

    Ho amato le biblioteche da bambina. Magari che i nostri capi non passato piu di tempo alle biblioteche e meno al Twitter!

    Grazie di nuovo, Serena & Geoff

  5. Jacqui:

    Che bravo quest’uomo

  6. Rosalind:

    Una bella storia. Fortunatamente ci sono in questo mondo brutto quantunque persone come il Maestro La Cava.

  7. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia:

    I loved going to the library when I was a child too! I like this small library! I live in Cosenza and we have a free library on the main Corso where you can take a book or leave a book for others.

    • Geoff:

      @LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia Ciao LuLu B, abbiamo lo stesso sistema qua a Pontremoli. Si chiama ‘La Libraria Degli Onesti’.

      Saluti da Geoff 🙂

  8. NANCY DEVINCENZI:

    What a heart warming beautiful story! He’s an amazing man!!! So caring and giving!!

  9. Lynn Minshall:

    Che un uomo fantastico!
    Sarò in Puglia per 14 giorni dal 18 giugno, mi piacerebbe incontrarlo. Andrò in giro per la zona di Matera. Signore La Cava un percorso regolare ogni settimana?
    Se no, cercherò la sua Ape, il Bibliomotocarro


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