The Gabriel García Márquez Library in Barcelona: Best Public Library of the Year, 2023

Awards. The Gabriel García Márquez Library is the winner of the Best Public Library of 2023 Award from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and Systematic.

During the World Library and Information Congress (21-25/08/2023) organised by IFLA in Rotterdam, the 2023 Best Public Library Award was presented to the Gabriel García Márquez Library. The library was named after the Janez Vajkard Valvasor Krškov Public Library (Slovenia), the City of Parramatta Library (Australia) and the Shanghai Library East (China).

The event was attended by the library director, Neus Castellano, and the manager of the Barcelona Libraries, Ferran Burguillos.

Gabriel García Márquez Library joins the prestigious list of libraries that have received this recognition. It is the first time that a library in southern Europe has been nominated for this international award. It is also the first time that a library with almost 4,000 m² has been nominated for the award. Previous libraries have a larger surface area, such as the Missoula Public Library (USA) with 10,000 m², Deichman Bjørvika (Norway) with 13,500 m² and the Oodi Helsinki Central Library (Finland), with 18,000 m².

The library received a good evaluation of the following points: the interaction with the environment and local culture, the architectural quality of the building, the flexibility of the spaces and services, the sustainability, the commitment to learning and social connection, the digitalisation and technical solutions of the services, the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations and the global vision of the service established by IFLA.

Opened on May 28, 2022, Gabriel García Márquez is the central library of the Sant Martí district. It is a magnificent six-story building with an exposed wood structure of almost 4,000 m². It is a local cultural facility for the district’s residents, noted for the tremendous vitality and activity of civil society, organised in the area’s social, cultural and educational associations.

The facility incorporates sustainable strategies that have made it possible to obtain the Gold LEED certification, the international certification system for sustainable buildings that is based on the incorporation into the project of aspects related to energy efficiency, the use of alternative energies, the improvement of indoor environmental quality, the efficiency of water consumption, the selection of materials, etc.

Architects Elena Orte and Guillermo Sevillano, at the head of SUMA Arquitectura, are responsible for the design of the building, which has been awarded the 2022 Ciutat de Barcelona Architecture Prize.

The library, specialised in Latin American literature, is named after the Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Gabriel García Márquez. This is Barcelona’s tribute to the Colombian writer and journalist who lived in the city from 1967 to 1975. Given the collaboration between the Libraries of Barcelona and Casa America Catalunya, together with other entities, cultural promotion proposals are organised such as the KM America. Latin American Literature Festival, which held its second edition in June.

The figures for this new facility are staggering: as of July 2023, the library has received more than 300,000 visits, an average of more than a thousand people a day, and has carried out almost 200,000 loans. During the first year, more than 6,000 new cards were issued, and more than a hundred activities and workshops were held.

Its collection consists of more than 40,000 documents. Among the usual thematic sections in a library (children and young people, fiction and non-fiction, comics, newspaper archives, essays, cinema and music, etc.), a space expressly dedicated to one of the illustrious members of the community of Sant Martí stands out: Francisco Ibáñez, who died last July. From the legendary comic book artist, a background of comics of all his characters and the history of the Bruguera publishing house has been gathered. Since his death, the titles with a book of condolences and homage.

Since its inauguration, which is the third largest library of the 40 in Barcelona (after Jaume Fuster and Ignasi Iglésias – Can Fabra), it has a radio studio, the first platform open to the Biblioteques de Barcelona network through a podcast called Ràdio Maconda, and has a function room, several technological, meeting, study and reading spaces, and a children’s sensory space.
The Barcelona Library Network is the leader of the public library system in Catalonia and Spain and the second most valued municipal service by citizens. Of the population, 47% has a card (over 760,000 cards), which provides access to more than 3.5 million documents.

Annually, the 40 libraries of the municipal network receive almost 5 million visits, and they set a benchmark for the culture of proximity, reading, digital literacy and lifelong learning. The Biblioteques de Barcelona 2030 Master Plan establishes the central pillars of work for the coming years (reading, education, technology, knowledge, culture and community) and the expansion of the network in 45 libraries, including the new location in Sarrià, scheduled to open in 2024, and the Barcelona Central Library.

At the Biblioteques de Barcelona, we would like to congratulate the other finalist libraries. It has been an honour to share this selection with such extraordinary facilities.

We would also like to make a special mention to the Gabriel García Márquez Library team—congratulations on the award!