By William Jones and Claire Rivé, Contributing Reporters

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Biblioteca Parque Estadual do Rio (BPE, Library State Park of Rio), which reopened on March 29th after four years of renovation does its part for doing away with any outdated perceptions one might have of traditional dusty libraries. Offering the public access to a space that looks more like a modern art museum than a library, the BPE is a welcome and architecturally impressive addition to the city center.

Brazil News, Rio de Janeiro, Libraries in Rio, Centro
The State Library Park offers cool, open spaces for the public to enjoy, photo courtesy of Bibliotecários Sem Fronteiras.

The library, originally built by Emperor Don Pedro II in 1873, is in Centro and boasts a collection of over 200,000 books in its 15,000 square meter space. Early estimates suggest that the public space will receive approximately 5,000 visitors every day, amounting to 1.5 million per year.

The main building houses a ninety person capacity auditorium, named after anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro who held the position of Secretary of Culture in the 1980s, and oversaw the construction of the original edifice – the brainchild of an architecture competition chaired by the renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.

In keeping with its hope of becoming a reference in the area of environmental awareness and sustainability, photovoltaic (solar) cells which enhance energy efficiency were integrated into the BPE’s design, along with other environmentally minded design elements, such as the use of PET bottles and certified wood to construct furniture.

The State Secretariat of Culture wants BPE to be the first unit in Latin America to achieve LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold in the category. This certification is given to buildings whose design ensures high performance of the building and internal systems in terms of healthy, productive workplaces, low cost of maintenance and operation and reducing environmental impacts environment, reported the press office of the agency.

Brazil News, Rio de Janeiro, Libraries in Rio, Centro
The library design integrates technology and design to create effective work spaces, photo courtesy of Secretaria de Cultura RJ.

The BPE now has a range of facilities available to its visitors, including a 140 seat theater, named after the author and theater director Alcione Araújo. In addition to this there is a leisure area with lounge chairs, various exhibitions, a café, a children’s library, multipurpose rooms such as laboratories and sound studios, and a restaurant.

Guests will also have access to 20,000 films, three million digital songs, and a large collection of comics and art books. The library also offers free use of two hundred computers and internet access.

Adriana Rattes, the State Secretary for Culture said, “The name of the library comes from the idea that we want families to come and wander around it as though it was a park. In the same way they do with their children, parents and siblings at the weekend. This is the idea of a library park. It is not only a study and research center but also a place to meet, spend time, relax and enjoy yourself.”

The government is currently building a network across the state with projects under consideration in Paracambi, Teresópolis, Paraty, and Cidade de Deus. Vera Saboya, Superintendent of Literature and Information for the Secretary of Culture said that this is the most important library in the state, “Because it is the head of the library park network that is geared to a particular territory.”

Libraries already included in the organized state network include Manguinhos, Niterói and Rocinha. Later this year, the goal is to open one in Complexo do Alemão as well.


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