Minerve-se: Building a remote library
Kimberly grew up in Aragarças, Brasil. She loved to read from a young age but noticed that reading was not as accessible to others. She grew interested in finding out why and discovered that the issue is not just about access to libraries or books, but also about language and reading skills. Many of her peers did not enjoy reading because they did not have the language skills that allow them to read in their native Portuguese. Yet their language skills are not improving because they do not read or have access to books. Upon researching the problem, she realized that the problem isn’t just access to books. Rather, it's circular. Some of her peers haven’t developed her level of language skills in their native Portuguese, so they don’t find joy in reading. But because they don’t read or can’t access books, they don’t develop language skills. It seemed like a chicken and egg situation and an idea started to form in her head.
The issue Kimberly wanted to tackle spread well beyond Aragarcas and across Brazil. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2021 Indicators, education outcomes in Brazil depend on socioeconomic status. The dividing line between wealthy and poor students is quite evident: Twice as many wealthy students score above PISA (a standardized global education test) level 2 reading as underprivileged students. That means that for every 10 young people from wealthier backgrounds who can read above that level, only 5 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds can do so. According to the OECD, this is one of the largest performance gaps for developed countries. (1)
In Kimberly’s home state, Goias, books are especially hard to find in public schools because of the lack of government funding.. At the same time, many Goias residents have books and textbooks that they no longer use. This gave Kimberly an idea - create a community library in a public school and fill it with books donated by local residents and institutions that they no longer use. Kimberly devised The library would democratize access to reading and facilitate students’ learning experiences.
Then the pandemic hit. Kimberly’s dream library no longer made sense if students would not be going to school. She waited for a few months, but by 2021 she realized it was time to adapt her project to the new reality. Resilience was going to be the key to making this a success. With the support of Peace First, the project was transformed into a fully remote, socially distanced library. Minerve-se was finally launched in 2021 as a virtual space where people can donate and request books. Due to its fast growth, Kimberly onboarded a group of peers to be her Minerve-se team. Today, you can even sign up to be a Minerve Ambassador.
With the support of a Peace First mini grant, Minerve-se has been able to cover initial shipping costs for donors and beneficiaries of the library. Knowing her age group, Kimberly and her team manage everything online. A person can reach the team on Whatsapp to donate a book, review their catalog on Google Sheets or fill out a Google Form to request a text. The team at Minerve-se handles all the logistics. By early 2022, they have been able to collect over 900 books and have matched over 750 of those to 250 happy recipients in 65 different communities. They’ve also assembled a team of 17 volunteer ambassadors who are spreading Minerve-se’s reach throughout 14 states in Brazil. Their goal for this year is to continue growing and increase their reach within marginalized groups like Afro-brazilians and the LGBTQ+ community, democratizing access to knowledge one book at a time.
You can join Minerve-se on Instagram at @minerve_se, where they are making reading cool again with their creative content and unique voice.
(1) Education at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators. Brazil. https://bit.ly/3gkgnVT