Book Café campaign (Kampanja Ktieb Kafè)
This is such a great idea: dig out your old, yellowing, paperbacks – classics, romantic novels, histories, biographies or whatever – that have not been touched since a holiday years ago, donate them to the National Library in Floriana, and see them distributed to be rehoused on book shelves in Malta’s cafes, all ready for new readers.
A wonderfully simple way to give a lot to so many: participating cafes gain an edge, probably more business, and an atmosphere while we get free reading material and something to do over a coffee other than fiddle with a mobile device. Even if you’re downing a quick nip of espresso at the counter, you can still pick up a book. Because the book cafe scheme lets you take a book home and away to read. Just pop it back to any participating cafe at a later date.
How did Book Café Malta start?
The scheme seems like something that should have happened long ago. Malta, and Valletta in particular, has developed a real cafe culture that now rivals any in continental Europe. In fact, the catalyst for the initiative comes from France, and one woman’s campaign to promote among a more widespread culture of enjoying books among the Maltese.
Nadia Mifsud Mutschler, a Maltese national who has been living near Lyon for the past 12 years, is the driving force for the scheme here. A similar scheme operates near her in France, but using letterbox-style drop off points. She was over here earlier this year for April’s book week, and suggested the idea to various entities like the National Book Council. The idea gained hold, and the scheme is now in soft-launch stage as books are donated and cafés signed up. So far around 70 books have been collected for the scheme in Valletta and more than 200 for Marsaskala (Nadia’s original home town).
Nadia says the campaign’s main aim is to promote reading by making books available to the general public in places where people hardly expect to find books: “Hopefully, this campaign will give the opportunity to people to simply grab a book and wind down in a pleasant setting. However, the campaign is not intended to cater for some kind of highbrow elite. We want everyone to be able to benefit from it.”
Reading for pleasure, and reading young
Another reason spurring Nadia into action is what she sees in Malta as the association of ‘reading’ with ‘studying’ and not reading with pleasure. “Many teenagers I know seem to associate reading with studying and exams. I know children who are only six yet are obliged to keep a ‘reading diary’ throughout the scholastic year, only to put it away with their school stuff when summer taps at the door. They then don’t pick up a single book for three months unless forced to.”
In France, Nadia has seen the enlightened way that libraries encourage children, even babies, to engage with books. “Story-telling sessions are held in public libraries every week for infants aged six months and over. In each short session, children are transported into a completely different world. At weekends, children go to their local library with their parents as if it were a family outing. They perceive books as being a natural part of their environment. Moreover, they perceive reading as a fun activity.”
Book Café aims also to make books available to those children whose parents cannot afford to buy books or who simply don’t like libraries.
The Book Cafés’ future?
Nadia sees the overall scheme as a first step to other projects such as literary nights (a kind of book club meeting in cafes), workshops in creative writing for young people and, most importantly, story-telling sessions for infants and children. The hope is that the book café idea will roll out in other localities, like Mdina, Vittoriosa and Sliema.
Will people simply nick the books?
Nadia says she’s asked that all the time, but since the idea has worked well in cities such as London, Paris and Lyon, with people not only returning but also adding books themselves, she says there’s no reason why the Maltese can’t respond to it in the same way, and make it a success.
How to donate, participate & help We can do our bit to help it along by dropping off our unwanted books (in English or Maltese) at the Customer Care Section of the Public Library in Floriana (Belt is-Sebh). Attach a note with your name, surname and the titles of the books (for inventory purposes) and address it to Kampanja Ktieb Kafè c/o Sergio Grech. Opening hours Monday – Friday: 8.30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Further info and to offer help: contact Nadia at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cafés participating so far:
Inspirations (St. James Cavalier, Valletta)
Ta’ Grabiel (Marsaskala)
Also of interest – The Malta Book Fair, 2009
The 25th edition of the Malta Book Fair, organised by the National Book Council and the Libraries Department of the Ministry of Education takes place 11 – 15 November at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Valletta. Details, see: www.ktieb.org.mt.
Useful info on all things to do with Malta Libraries on the Malta Library and Information Association (MaLIA) website.