| Carolin Gissibl |
Buenos Aires (dpa) – When Susana arrived for her morning appointment at the salon in Recoleta, a well-to-do area of Buenos Aires, she immediately noticed her hairdresser’s latest acquisition – a white bookcase.
The “intelligent piece of furniture”, as owner Gabriel humorously refers to it, has had pride of place in the brightly lit waiting area of the Gabriel Oyhanarte Style & Beauty salon for a week now.
“The bookcase gives the room warmth,” says Gabriel. “Customers keep asking whose idea it was.”
In fact, “Leyendo Espero” (“I read while I wait”) is an initiative of the city of Buenos Aires aimed at getting more people to read.
Twelve hairdressers in the Argentine capital are already taking part and it is hoped that up to a hundred will eventually get on board.
The city gives every participating salon a square bookcase on wheels containing 150 titles, ranging from world literature to poetry.
Depending on their cliental, salon owners can choose whether to ask for more books on sport, culture, or current affairs, or more thrillers, love stories or comics.
In the salon Georgeo, located in the quiet family-friendly neighbourhood of Nunez, for example, there are lots of children’s books.
Parents can read their children fairytales such as Cinderella and Rapunzel as they get their hair cut.
Visitors are also invited to leave their own books behind on the shelves.
“That way books are not just shared among friends, but also among strangers who perhaps have the same taste. The goal is to inspire an active exchange with strangers,” says Mateo Niro, who is in charge of the project.
The desire to provoke discussion also explains the decision to place the bookshelves in hairdressers, where gossiping and intimate conversation is something of a tradition. “Why not get them talking about books?” says Niro.
A city employee, he leads the “Bibliotecas para Armar” project, which attempts to get books
out of traditional places
such as museums and libraries and integrate them into everyday life – though not always successfully, it has to be said. In one football stadium, spectators used the books to throw at the referee.
By contrast, hairdressers are the ideal place to set up the mini libraries, according to Culture Minister Hernan Lombardi: “People have time at the hairdressers and they can use this time to read.” In addition, pretty much every target audience can be reached, he says.
But 69-year-old Susana is sceptical about whether the project can really encourage young people to read. “I don’t think anything can tear young people away from their smart phones these days,” she says.
Hair stylist Miguel Mallorca at the Transitions salon in the San Telmo neighbourhood is inclined to say the same thing. The salon’s bookcase has remained untouched, he says, gossip magazines remain the only well-read literature.
But the 28-year-old is still enthusiastic about the project and says he is continuing to point clients in the direction of the bookcase.