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Building bridges: International Youth Library in Munich celebrates 70 years
When German writer Hellmut von Cube first conceived the idea of the International Children’s Library (IJB) in the wake of Second World War, he imagined a “school of humanity” that would become a “a seeding ground for peace.” The library opened its doors in an enchanting Munich villa in 1949 and offered 8,000 books for children and young adults. The books came from 14 countries, a significant achievement during those ravaged early postwar years. “The hunger for books from abroad was enormous,” said IJB director Christiane Raabe.Even more impressive was the fact that a Jewish author and journalist, Jella Lepman, herself founded the library in the immediate wake of the Holocaust as a place of tolerance for other cultures on German soil.Read more: The digitized future: How libraries are pioneering a cultural transformationBooks to promote international understanding After the war, children and young adults in Germany hardly had any books left for their age group as the Nazis had destroyed and banned a good part of children’s and youth literature. The buildings of many educational institutions had also been destroyed.When the IJB first moved into a villa in Munich’s Schwabing neighborhood with the support of the US occupiers, Lepman, who had previously put on an international youth book exhibition in 1946, could develop her vision of education and cross-cultural understanding.If Germany was to become a peaceful and democratic nation, Lepman believed that Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, among many other childrens books, could make a difference.Fourteen countries including Japan, the US and France, donated books for children and young adults. “Jella Lepman contacted publishers and outlined the idea of building a ‘children’s book bridge’,” Raabe said.Intellectuals, journalists, scientists and, of course children and young people, came to the library in droves to read. It was, Raabe says, “an island of peace in the midst of the ruins.”Photos from the IJB of the time show children lying barefoot on the floor and leafing through books. They were allowed to shape their library and also painted and rehearsed plays — and were directed, among others, by Erich Kästner, the popular children’s book author.Manifesto for the library That same year, and inspired by Jella Lepman, Kästner published a book that was to become a classic: The Animals’ Conference. The story of children ruling the world with their animal friends because adults couldn’t be trusted was a virtual manifesto for the new library.Jella Lepman was deeply convinced of the idea that children and young adults educated in peace and freedom would build a free and better world. She felt books would serve as “messengers of peace.”Suspicious of Lepman, who worked as an adviser for the reeducation program initiated by the US occupiers in Germany, the Soviet Union initially did not contribute any literature until the late 1950s when literature from Eastern European countries first made its way onto the library shelves.650,000 booksIn 1969, UNESCO gave the Munich library 25,000 historic volumes from the former League of Nations library in Geneva. A Hamburg citizen, Karl-Heinz Schulz, bequeathed his collection of 12,000 adventure books to the library in 1984.Read more: Egypt reopens ancient monastic library in Sinai after renovationsThe number of books expanded as more writers left their collections to the library. To this very day, publishers donate new children’s and young adult books. The archive now contains 650,000 books in their original language from 28 countries. Most of them, however, can only be taken out by researchers and exhibition organizers.Focus on research In the late 1980s, the IJB moved to Blutenburg Castle on the outskirts of Munich. Publisher Christa Spangenberg initiated a foundation that gave the library a new direction, with research becoming a key aspect. While books in 28 languages can be borrowed from the international children’s library section, Raabe makes it clear the IJB is “a specialist library, not a municipal library — the books are collected as part of the world cultural heritage.”Ever active, the IJB stages literary events, readings and festivals. “We recommend books, encourage translations, invite authors,” said Raabe, adding that extracurricular education is another important task that involves cooperation with kindergartens, schools and universities.A major challenge today is how to keep children and young adults interested in reading books in the digital media era. There is no recipe for success, Raabe says. But it helps that a visit to the castle is supposed to be fun for the kids, not work linked to school, and therefore “a form of exploring the world.”這篇文章 Building bridges: International Youth Library in Munich celebrates 70 years 最早出現於 The China Post。
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