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Spain's culture minister, Miquel Iceta, is requiring public libraries to buy 50% of their books in the Castilian (Spanish) language if they want to receive assistance from European funds. The Spanish government is to set up a 10 million euro aid package for the acquisition of 450,000 books.

According to the newspaper Ara, this assistance is subject to the condition that a minimum of 50% of the total number of books bought are in Castilian. The remaining 50% can be in Catalan, or the other co-official languages in their respective territories (such as Basque or Galician). And within this 50%, up to 10% can also be in foreign languages or the co-official languages ​​of other parts of Spain. On the other hand, in the Spanish autonomous communities with no other co-official language, the books must be 90% in Castilian and only 10% in any other co-official or foreign language.

This manoeuvre is the first by the Spanish government to impose pressure on public libraries to choose the Spanish language. Until now, the choice of books had always been made by libraries in line with their own criteria.

Initial plan, even more restrictive 

However, initially, the Spanish culture ministry had made its plan even more restrictive: that the purchase of titles in Castilian should be 87% of the total, and Catalan (or other co-official language) would be left with only the remaining 13% because, according to ARA, "the starting point was the volume of publishing production in different languages". In addition, another of the criteria in which there was disagreement is in the distribution of the 10 million euros, which will be based on number of libraries in an area, regardless of the number of users per library, penalizing communities with higher and denser populations.

The distribution has been equal across the 4,604 libraries in the Spanish state, which would mean that each centre would receive about 2,170 euros, with a minimum of 1,500 euros to spend for each library. Catalonia has 430 libraries and will thus receive 916,394 euros, 9% of the total.

Crisis of Catalan in libraries

Meanwhile, for a different mix of reasons, the Catalan language is in crisis in public libraries. This is centred on the situation in which only one in four books is available in Catalan. This was revealed by the Catalan minister of culture, Natàlia Garriga, in a written parliamentary response published on 13th October in Catalonia's parliamentary gazette.

Thus, "according to the data in the Atena Public Library Catalogue, there are a total of 1,011,934 registered titles." Of these, only 25% are in Catalan. That is, the network of public libraries across the country has only 251,209 books in Catalonia's own language. On the other hand, the number of works in Castilian almost triples the aforementioned figure: 643,703 titles are available in Castilian, a number that represents around 64% of the books in the entire network, according to data released by the Catalan culture ministry.


Main image: A Catalan library