Children living in provinces as far afield as Thrace, Macedonia, Crete and the Cyclades are at risk of losing what has become a lifeline to knowledge and wider horizons – a network of 28 children’s and teenagers’ libraries established as a result of a worldwide effort envisioned by Anne Schlumberger, a Frenchwoman who was a philhellene and a frequent visitor to Greece, to bring books to children in the countryside. The board of directors has decided to disband the libraries due to financial difficulties and has referred the issue to the Education Ministry. Realistic proposals At a press conference this week, the head of the Friends of Children’s and Teenagers’ Libraries, Emilia Geroulanou, talked about the proposals the group had made to the Education Ministry to keep the libraries going. «We hope that the Education Ministry will not want to close these libraries. No one believes that there are people who would make such a decision,» said Geroulanou. Staff have not been paid since June, and although the libraries have formally closed, some municipalities have been exhausting all efforts to keep them going, and hopes have not faded that the 1 million euros needed for the annual budget will be found. However, the Education Ministry’s delay in appointing a new board has led to a massive accumulation of debts to the Social Security Foundation. The libraries were visited daily by a total average of 2,400 children who had a selection of 700 books to choose from and were guided by a team of trained facilitators. «We have seen at first hand how the children develop critical thinking,» said Elga Kavvadia, coordinator of the educational program. «There is a real need there.» Added Geroulanou, «We worked out a realistic budget and have asked the ministry for 700,000 euros a year to cover the operation of our Research Center in Athens (that has 37,000 book titles), wages, the purchase of books, wages of teaching personnel and the operation of 16 libraries.» Some libraries have found sponsors and it is hoped that more private individuals and firms will show an interest. Meanwhile, cooperation with local authorities can also be expanded. If a building could be offered to the center, which is the lifeline of the other libraries, it would drastically reduce regular expenditures, the program officials said.