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New state library second biggest in Mexico

October 15, 2012

Upon inaugurating the Juan Jose Arreola library in Guadalajara last week, President Felipe Calderon called it “the most important state public library in the country.”

Located in the new University of Guadalajara (UdeG) Cultural Center, the library opened to the general public on Monday.

Built on a 200-hectare plot of land, the 43,000-square-meter structure is modern and striking, with a jagged exterior and large slanted windows. Originally scheduled to open in 2008, the library was hampered by delays and ended up costing 570 million pesos – 60 percent more than estimated.

With a capacity for up to two million books, the library currently holds one million, including 20,000 children’s titles; eight million digital images; over 5,000 Mexican films; and 500,000 archival records. Eclipsing Mexico City’s Jose Vasconcelos library, which holds 580,000 books, it is home to the nation’s second largest literary collection, behind the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) National Library, which houses 1.25 million books.

“This library is the model 21st century library,” said Calderon last week, describing its opening as “a real cultural milestone in Guadalajara and Jalisco.”

Touring three of the six floors, Calderon was accompanied by the president of the University Cultural Center, Raul Padilla, who described it as one of the most important libraries in Latin America, because it “not only preserves the history of Jalisco, but also the 300 years of the history of western and northern Mexico and the southwestern United States of America.”

Founded in 1861, the state public library has now existed in four different locations across the city. The new building is named after Jalisco-born writer Juan Jose Arreola, who served as director of the library from 1991 to 2001.

On every floor there are large seating areas and computers with access to the internet and the library’s digital catalogue. Among the archives are newspapers dating as far back as 1809 and books written in 17 indigenous languages for evangelization purposes, which were published between the 16th and 20th centuries and recently accepted in UNESCO’s Memory of the World program.

There is also an area dedicated to the visually impaired, with audio books and over 700 texts in Braille. The fifth floor houses international titles, in English, French, German and Chinese. The English-language works come from the former Benjamin Franklin library, previously donated to the UdeG by the U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara.

The library is expected to draw around 50,000 visitors per month. It is not yet possible to borrow books from the premises, but Director Juan Manuel Duran Juarez said they hope to operate a loan service next year, when at least three copies of each title should be available for loan.

The library is situated on the northern Periferico ring road at the intersection with Camino a Los Belenes, across from the UdeG Center for Economic and Administrative Sciences (CUCEA).

It is open from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. Floors one and two of the contemporary collection are open until 8 p.m., but floors three, four and five currently close at 3 p.m. due to staff shortages. The historical collection closes at 4 p.m. For more information visit  http://www.bpej.udg.mx.

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