Why do Brazilians separate spaces

The contribution of the Public Libraries Research Group in Brazil on teaching, research and library science practice

1 Introduction

Based on the assumptions that the world can be segmented into different areas, that knowledge can be classified into different categories such as scientific, empirical, theological, etc., and that individuals, groups, institutions, processes and practices produce different types of knowledge, 2013 the Research Group on Public Libraries in Brazil [Grupo de Pesquisa Bibliotecas Públicas no Brasil (GPBP)1, Translation by the authors] at the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO)2 founded. One of the goals of the GPBP is to create spaces for collective communication between the various individuals, groups, institutions, processes and practices of library science.

It should be remembered that the idea of ​​different spheres separating knowledge and its individuals goes back to modernity, when the boundaries between these areas of knowledge were drawn. Religious knowledge was almost exclusively to be found in temples, folk knowledge in communities of origin, and scientific knowledge in universities and research institutions.

However, this modern design of a segmented world no longer corresponds to reality and the boundaries between the spheres of knowledge, which were once strictly separated, have become permeable.3 Scientific knowledge, for example, transcends the walls of the universities and penetrates the everyday life of various social groups. For example, if we look at the public universities in Brazil today, it is noticeable that - although they are still the main place for the production and circulation of scientific knowledge - there are types of knowledge that transcend this definition.

In view of these circumstances, there is an urgent need to open channels for dialogue between the fields of knowledge. It also shows the importance of paying attention to the voices that echo in scientific spaces (and those that are not yet echoing).

In search of this listening exercise, the idea is defended that research groups potentially present themselves as well-suited spaces for approaching the areas of knowledge. In this context, the work of the Research Group Public Libraries in Brazil: Theory and Practice is to be seen, which brings together researchers and professionals from all over the country who are engaged in studies and research on public library science.

It is also important to capture the current information ecosystem in which Information Disorder supported by post-factuality is commonplace. This ecosystem offers the ideal framework for the emergence and spread of anti-scientific movements, for example. We live in a time in which scientific knowledge is not only questioned - which is desirable and useful, because doubt moves science - but almost daily with campaigns that are spread via the major media and digital social networks to be violently attacked. An example of this is the current anti-vaccination movement, which is gaining followers every day, or the situation in 2019 when it was necessary to explain that the earth is not flat. This is the frightening reality in Brazil.

Before we turn to the central subject of this article, the current situation in Brazil should be briefly presented.

2 Brazil today

Measured by its area (8,511,000 km²) and its population, Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world. In January 2020, the Brazilian population was estimated at 211,330,900 million people, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística - IBGE). Brazil consists of 5,570 municipalities spread over 5 regions: north, south, south-east, mid-west and north-east. The country is organized in a federal political system that includes 26 states and the federal district in which the capital Brasilia is located.

Most of the municipalities are located in the southeast, south and northeast regions, where most of the Brazilian population and thus the economic, social and cultural resources are also concentrated. The north and mid-west regions are home to large expanses of forest and a multitude of complex biomes and hydrographic basins, the Amazon and the Pantanal, resulting in a lower population density compared to the rest of the territory.

According to the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada - IPEA), the country experienced great economic expansion from 2003 to 2011 (LEVY, 2019), reaching sixth place in the ranking of the world's largest economies. From 2014, however, a process of recession and changes in the political constitution of the state began, which led to the relapse to 9th place. Currently (DOWBOR, 2019, authors' translation). According to the most recent surveys by the United Nations (UN), Brazil ranks second in the world in terms of income concentration, just behind Qatar (UN, 2019).

In particular with regard to literacy and literacy of the Brazilian population, according to the data of the indicator for functional literacy (Indicador de Alfabetismo Funcional - Inaf)4 from 2018 that three in ten adolescents and adults between the ages of 15 and 64 in the country are classified as functionally illiterate. So you are at the lowest level of skill and writing.5 It is 29% of the total population, which corresponds to around 38 million people.

Brazil is a country characterized by diversity and its continental dimension, rich in culture and natural resources, but also characterized by inequality in its various social, cultural, economic and educational contexts. In this complex universe, public libraries present strategies to address the lack of cultural spaces, quality education and access to information and reading for a large part of the population.

In Brazil, the conditions of access, the orientation of the collection a library has, and customer service qualify whether a library is public or not. In most cases they are established and maintained by local governments and designated as municipal and state public libraries. But there are also libraries that are created and maintained by non-profit organizations and youth collectives. In this case one speaks of community libraries.

(MACHADO; CALIL JUNIOR, 2019, p. 212, author's translation).

In this context, the National System of Public Libraries (Sistema Nacional de Bibliotecas Públicas - SNBP)6 in 2015 the existence of 6,057 public libraries. These are distributed across the country, with 1,957 of the libraries concentrated in the southeast region, that is, in the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo. At the same time, the survey on basic municipal information carried out by the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística - IBGE) showed that the total number of Brazilian municipalities with public libraries fell by almost 10% in four years. The number fell from 97.7% in 2014 to 87.7% in 2018, so that there is currently about one library for every 34,000 inhabitants.

If you compare the data of the Library map of the world7that of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), there are fewer public libraries in Brazil, with a population of over 211 million, than in Italy, with a population of 60 million. So the country does not have a sufficient number of libraries to meet the information, reading and cultural needs of the population.

For the training of professionals for employment in public libraries in Brazil, as well as in libraries of other types such as school, university and specialized libraries, there are 57 undergraduate courses in library science with an average duration of 4 years offered by public and private higher education institutions Tobe offered.

It should be emphasized at this point that, in contrast to other countries, the practice of the profession of librarian in Brazil (CALIL JUNIOR; SILVEIRA; SILVA; ROSA, 2015, p. 4, author's translation). The vast majority of Brazilian state and city libraries have public employees (civil servants), i.e. specialist staff who have been admitted to permanent positions in public administration in a selection process - usually with examinations.

For this reason, it is imperative to widen the studies and debates on training critical librarians to work in public libraries. The country's undergraduate courses in library and information science can be described as generalist, as they do not place an emphasis in their curriculum on the specifics inherent in the different types of libraries. The lack of discussion and specific content in the undergraduate degree leads to the fact that, after graduation, the professionals look for specialization and postgraduate courses offered in public and private universities in order to deepen their knowledge and practical knowledge as well as gain further qualifications.

The number of professionals who earn a library science degree each year is insufficient to fill all the vacancies in libraries across Brazil.

Added to this are the setbacks in the area of Public policy in the country that have taken place since the coup against President Dilma Rousseff in 2016. In addition to the dissolution of the Ministry of Culture in January 2019, public institutions and key programs in the areas of culture, education, health and the environment have not only fallen victim to resource reductions and the dismantling of public administration, but have also been exposed to delegitimation campaigns by government authorities.

Starting from this perspective, it is of fundamental importance to discuss the theoretical and practical aspects that the education of library studies entails, especially those that affect the understanding of the public library as a cultural institution, and above all that through power and knowledge strategies influenced understanding that affects the society in which it is embedded (FOUCAULT, 2006).

It should be noted that the public libraries, albeit in insufficient numbers, are still the cultural institutions with the greatest presence in the Brazilian communities. In a Brazilian society characterized by inequalities, in which there are places with broad access to cultural, educational, political and consumer goods on the one hand, but which are on the other hand surrounded by large marginalized regions and population groups, cultural institutions such as public libraries can become pluralistic spaces of inclusion and social transformation.

After an overview of the situation in Brazil has been presented, it is now possible to structure the library science training system at UNIRIO and the research group Public Libraries in Brazil [port .: Grupo de Pesquisa Bibliotecas Públicas no Brasil (GPBP)] in their structure, their institutional Introduce connections and the activities developed.

3 The Public Libraries Research Group in Brazil (GPBP)

First of all, the study of library science at UNIRIO will be presented, which is one of the oldest and most traditional in the country8. The university currently offers two courses with the same content for the bachelor's degree, one in the morning and one in the evening and another for the evening.9 To get an idea: In the first semester of 2020 UNIRIO recorded 816 students who were enrolled in the three undergraduate courses. In addition, the advanced study program for library science with an application-oriented master’s course was launched in 2012. It is also the first in the country in this area of ​​science.

According to the coordination office for advanced training for people with a university degree [port .: Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoas de Nível Superior - CAPES], the application-oriented master's degree is designed differently than the research-oriented master's degree,

(CAPES, 2019, authors' translation).

The master’s degree in library science at UNIRIO, which had its first year in 2012, was created. (UNIRIO, 2013)

After the study of library science at UNIRIO has been presented, the work of the research group is now to be presented. In the Brazilian university structure, research groups form a potential framework that can contribute to the fulfillment of the mission of public universities, which is the inseparability of teaching, research and Extensão10 - to ensure the link between theory and practice, which we call library and information science practice11, a formulation developed by Paulo Freire12 was inspired.

The Public Libraries Research Group in Brazil started its activities in 2013. It was created out of concern about the conditions of the Brazilian public libraries, in particular the growing need for qualified staff to work in the libraries, the need to encourage and strengthen reflection on library practice in public spaces and, as already mentioned, the search for a dialogue between different knowledge carriers.

The GPBP is made up of professors from UNIRIO and lecturers who work at other Brazilian universities and institutions in various regions of the country, such as the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and the Luiz Freire Cultural Center (CCLF) in Pernambuco. Undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as specialist staff from public and community libraries are also members. Everyone participates directly or indirectly in research, teaching and Extensão-Take part in projects that revolve around the topic of public libraries.

The GPBP projects concern constitutive questions of public library science in Brazil. Public library science refers to

(MACHADO; CALIL JUNIOR, 2019, p. 211, free translation by the author).

In this context, the GPBP (MACHADO; CALIL JUNIOR, 2019, p. 216, translation by the author).

With regard to teaching, the GPBP introduced the subject at UNIRIO. Students in the bachelor's and master’s degree will find a place in the GPBP to approach and deepen their knowledge of all aspects of public library science.

Activities in this subject include excursions to public and community libraries, where students have the opportunity to move around the city, come into contact with the localities and write a report on their experience. From one of these reports, written by one of the former ExtensãoScholarship holders from one of the GPBP projects, a scientific article was created that expresses this experience. These visits make it possible to establish contacts with professional staff from public libraries and to learn about the respective practices of the libraries. On the basis of these established contacts, people outside the university were invited to take part in university activities. For example, a literary mediator held a workshop on literary mediation for UNIRIO students. This event was not only helpful and instructive for the students and professors, but also for the speakers, who had the opportunity to learn from the students and get to know other perspectives - this resulted in an exchange of knowledge.

The research and projects of the GPBP include the following topics: Citizen information services in public libraries, creation of indicators for reading and reading behavior, communication and reading promotion, green and sustainable libraries, sustainability, cultural policy, terms and concepts of public libraries, development of collections , Teaching about public libraries, services, cultural activities, access to information, and actions with public libraries and community libraries.

The activities of the GPBP open many doors, but mainly they build connections and create relationships between actors with different knowledge and different understandings of the world. Such relationships made it possible, for example, to organize various GPBP events. Thanks to these partnerships, the group was able to organize around two editions of the Public Libraries Forum and the meeting [port .:, authors' translation], attended by researchers, literary educators, local leaders and public representatives. At both events everyone had the opportunity to participate and to be heard. These experiences were of great importance for bringing the university and community libraries closer together, and both sides benefited from the newly acquired information and contacts. Another example of the activities of the GPBP is the research on the influence of community libraries on the education of readers in Brazil, in which the members of the GPBP were involved in both planning and implementation. This research deepened the understanding of how community libraries contribute to reader education. These experiences led to the publication of the book. It includes a comprehensive mapping and inventory of community libraries in Brazil (143 libraries in 16 states have been researched) and is freely available.

It should be emphasized that the results of this research also emerged from an interplay between scientific knowledge and the knowledge of the people working in community libraries. Silvia Castrillon (2018) points out that research on community libraries opens up the possibility of viewing the library as a place from other perspectives.

In this context, it makes sense to mention a voice that addresses the relationship between the library and its spatial environment:

(FERNANDEZ; MACHADO; ROSA, 2018, p. 45, translation by the author).

In relation to Extensão GPBP has been working on the project since 2014, in which students and researchers work in public libraries. Its activities include cultural activities, the mediation of literature, the organization and technical processing of collections and a range of courses for people who work in this type of library. Part of the results of these activities are recorded in the article [port .:, translation by the authors] published in the UNIRIO magazine Raízes e Rumos (English: Roots and Paths, translation by the authors) (CALIL JUNIOR; MACHADO; KLEIN; SANTOS, 2018). Overall, it can be seen that the research and the extensive projects developed in and by the GPBP open channels of communication and discussion in which different individuals and competencies meet, which enables a rapprochement and interaction between the university and society.

4 concluding remarks

In a time of political, economic and social crisis, when disinformation is commonplace and attempts to silence minorities are echoing in Brazilian society, there is an urgent need to maintain such pluralistic spaces. The importance of the public library to the population is therefore indisputably as important as the importance of creating better conditions for the professionals who work in these places to be able to carry out their daily tasks.

Since 2016, targeted - often successful - attempts to redefine the right of access to public institutions have been observed in Brazil. From editorials in newspapers in large media groups to resource cuts by the current government, there are a variety of strategies to dismantle the public sector and devalue its institutions and services. These measures are popular with the less informed sections of the population. In view of this scenario, there is an urgent need to create spaces for communication between the various areas of knowledge that allow scientific knowledge to approach the various spaces of daily life. Here research groups appear as potential actors for the promotion of dialogues between the different areas of knowledge that are constitutive for daily life.

The Brazilian public universities play in this context - through teaching, research and Extensão - a fundamental role. The GPBP tries to create spaces for encounter and dialogue, discussion and library training by organizing meetings of social groups of different origins.

In line with its objectives, the group advocates the expansion of research on public libraries and the increase in this type of basic cultural service in Brazil, and seeks to contribute to the training of staff who are looking for solutions to the real problems of access to information, reading and culture in the Country seeks. The research results of the GPBP are also used in everyday public and municipal libraries.

It is hoped that the Brazilian teaching, research and teaching experience presented in this article Extensão in the field of public libraries, especially the scale of the challenges Brazil is facing, and motivating other researchers to invest in research on the subject.

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  1. Available online at: http://culturadigital.br/gpbp (07.01.2020) .↩︎

  2. The Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO) is one of 24 public higher education institutions offering courses in library science in Brazil. There are . (CALIL JUNIOR; SILVEIRA; SILVA; ROSA, 2015, p. 5, translation by the authors)

  3. The transformations experienced in the past centuries have made it possible to relativize these limits

  4. Inaf is a study carried out by two Brazilian institutions (Instituto Paulo Montenegro and the NGO Ação Educativa) in collaboration with the aim of measuring the literacy level of the Brazilian population between the ages of 15 and 64 and their reading, writing and math skills and assess everyday practices. Further information available at: https://ipm.org.br/inaf (January 17, 2020) .↩︎

  5. The Inaf classifies the literacy level into five groups: illiterate (8% who cannot read words and sentences); rudimentary (21% who cannot find information in a calendar, for example); elementary (34%), medium / intermediate (25%) and competent (12%, who are in the literacy ranking)

  6. Available online at: http://snbp.cultura.gov.br (07.01.2020) .↩︎

  7. Available online at: https://librarymap.ifla.org/map (January 17, 2020) .↩︎

  8. The library science course at UNIRIO is the oldest in the country and Latin America and is considered the third oldest in the world. Article 34 of Decree No. 8.835 of July 11, 1911 structured the first course, the activities of which officially began on April 10, 1915 in the National Library. In 1969 he was integrated into the association of independent federal schools of the state of Guanabara (Fefieg), from which UNIRIO later emerged

  9. The Brazilian course [port .: curso de licenciatura] enables the graduate to work as a teacher in the field of knowledge in which he graduated, both in early childhood education and in elementary school as well as in high school

  10. In the Extensão it is part of the university education in Brazil. As part of the Extensão During their studies, students receive a university scholarship and work on projects outside the university that deal with the application of theoretical knowledge in society. The extension projects are the practical connection of scientific knowledge from teaching and research with the needs of the community in which the university is embedded, interacting with and changing social reality. , Translation and highlighting of the authors, available online at: https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extens%C3%A3o_universit%C3%A1ria (02/10/2020) .↩︎

  11. The term library-informational practice used here is inspired by the concept of practice advocated by authors such as Marx, Gramsci and Paulo Freire. This practice is understood as a dialectical relationship between theory and practice that creates social change

  12. Paulo Freie (1921–1997) was a Brazilian educator and philosopher who introduced a method of adult literacy in the 1960s that made farm workers literate in 40 days. Based on this experience, a pilot project for the National Adult Literacy Program was launched, which was interrupted by the 1964 coup. Freire received 43 honorary doctorates and is considered one of the greatest Brazilian intellectuals. His work is one of the most cited works worldwide (FREIRE, 2019) .↩︎


Nathalice Bezerra Cardoso Scholarship holder - Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Federal Chancellor Fellowship (BUKA) 2019–2020. Master in Library Science. Email: [email protected]

Alberto Calil Elias Junior Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO) - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. University Professor - Department of Library Science (UNIRIO). Doctorate in Social Sciences (UERJ). Email: [email protected]

Elisa Campos Machado Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO) - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. University Professor - Department of Library Science (UNIRIO). Doctor of Information Science (USP). Email: [email protected]