There is no exact Italian equivalent for National Library Lovers’ Month. There is something similar, but it’s a little more specific: As in many other countries, October is Mese internazionale delle biblioteche scolastiche (International School Libraries Month) in Italy. During this month, school libraries promote and advocate for their role by organizing events and hosting activities open to the general public. The month is followed in November by #ioleggoperché (#Ireadbecause), a project which, since 2016, has brought more than two million new books to school libraries. During a one-week window, people can purchase a book at a bookstore, picking the title from among selections made by primary and secondary schools. The book will be given to those schools and participating publishers will then match the donation.
February might not be National Library Lovers’ Month in Italy, but there are still many ways to show appreciation to one’s favorite and/or local library: by donating and volunteering, for instance, or more simply by just borrowing books and participating in the often-numerous activities offered there.
Italian libraries are never short of reading lists, but the combination of cold, grey winter months and New Year’s resolutions makes January and February particularly rich with reading suggestions. Salaborsa , an amazing, yet chill library in the very center of Bologna, always offers reading, viewing, and listening suggestions. It currently offers a reading list called Leggere a colori. This is, indeed, a selection of books organized by colors. The color code is not related to book covers, although that might be fascinating and revealing too. Instead, in Italy, two super popular genres, crime novels and romance, are known by color: giallo (yellow) and rosa (pink), respectively. However, reality is rightfully being perceived as more and more complex, and so Salaborsa offers a wide selection of titles that adds, combines, or twists existing colors—for instance, there’s fuchsia for contemporary romance, green for sci-fi, and rainbow for everything concerning identity.
Book Clubs & Challenges
I circoli or gruppi di lettura (book clubs) never get old. Small and big libraries all over the country offer their own book clubs. After the pandemic’s online meetings, people are back meeting in person, usually once a month, to discuss a specific book. Most libraries foster inclusion by also offering an online link to participate—one of the few good practices left over from the pandemic. Every genre, theme, author, and trend is covered; in Rome alone, there are 65 book clubs and a website to find out when and where the next one is.
Reading challenges are also very popular. The Biblioteca Panizzi in Reggio Emilia is currently hosting a reading challenge: If you can read twelve titles (picked from a curated selection) in seven months, the library will give you a prize. There’s the school version too; eight books in seven months. Some challenges leave more freedom and creativity to the readers: Salaborsa, for instance, sets a goal in terms of number, but does not give you any title list. It instead establishes some criteria, like a book that takes place at sea, one set in Australia, or one whose cover features a woman’s face, among others.
Classes, Presentations, and Just Being There
Many libraries host a great variety of events, from language classes to language exchanges, story times, public readings, and book presentations. Many libraries in Italy are also located in astonishing historical buildings, where guided tours are organized.
But the real point with libraries is … to just be there. For many small communities, the local library is one of the few places—if not the only one—where you can hang out for free, meet new people or your friends, do your homework, and, of course, read. Just borrow a book, spend some time in the library, ask a librarian for a suggestion … these activities make the very existence of libraries relevant and precious. Italy is in pretty good shape as far as number of libraries per resident, but there’s always room for improvement. If you happen to spend some time in Italy, remember to pay a visit to one of the historic libraries, or to one of the cute local ones. And from a distance, why don’t you check out some of their reading suggestions? You may discover something curious or find some inspiration. Buona lettura!
By Claudia Quesito