Patto di Milano per la Lettura is an alliance among libraries, publishers, bookstores, authors and readers, offering opportunities for contact and understanding between readers and writers, and aiming to promote and restore value to the act of reading as an essential part of a new idea of citizenship. This project is a relevant example of convergence between subjects with different culture and perspectives for a common aim.
Città che legge is a qualification given by the Centre for Books and Reading (an institute of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism), in agreement with the National Association of Italian Municipalities, recognizing those municipal administrations committed to continuing to carry out public policies in their territory to promote reading. A Città che legge (Reading City) guarantees its inhabitants access to books and reading through libraries and bookshops; hosts festivals, exhibitions or fairs that mobilize readers and arouse the curiosity of non-readers; participates in joint initiatives to promote reading through libraries, schools, bookshops and associations; and joins one or more national projects.
Milan is the home of great authors. Some of them were born in Milan and were able to share their love for their hometown; others, coming from different parts of Italy, found their place in a lively literary scene: Bonvesin de la Riva, who described the beauty of Medieval Milan; Enlightenment thinkers such as Beccaria and Verri; poets like Porta and Parini; writers such as Alessandro Manzoni; in the 20th Century Gadda, Testori and Eco; and Nobel laureates Montale and Fo. Milan welcomed writers from all over Italy, from Petrarca and Leonardo to Vittorini, Quasimodo (another Nobel laureate), and Scerbanenco. Many foreign writers wrote about their visit to Milan: Stendhal, Shelley, Wilde, Kafka, and Sebald. The urban landscape is full of iconic buildings associated with the publishing and news industries, designed by great architects. With Manzoni’s House and Archivio Storico Ricordi, these buildings narrate a tradition of mingling political and social engagement, literary and artistic activity, and economic relevance. Archives and research centres, including Centro Apice (Unimi) and Laboratorio Formentini per l’Editoria (LabForm), contribute to the study and enhancement of the literary heritage.
The Municipal Public Library System links 24 branch libraries, the bookmobile Bibliobus and the central library Sormani, with its Stendhal Center. The Public Library System offers a collection of 1,350,000 books, 23,000 journals, and 80,000 audiovisual records and it also promotes social inclusion through culture with several programs. In 2014 it launched a program with some associations to create a library network in San Vittore prison, granting them the ability to work with city libraries; the prison’s internal libraries are now part of the library system and actively promote reading. In greater Milan, 5 other Library Networks link more than 200 public libraries. University libraries have state of the art specialized collections; private libraries complement the network.
Over 500 publishers (13% of all publishers in Italy, with prominent editorial groups), book chains and bookstores and the biggest wholesalers (12% of the Italian total) are the economic backbone of the Milan book industry. Milan hosts 51% of employees in Italian publishing firms, 41% of content industries-related designers, and 30% of artistic and literary creators. According to underestimated statistics, they represent 2% of the working population (national level 0.4%). Milan hosts 35 literary agencies, and over 20 professional associations. With 2.23% of the total population, Milan represents 15% of the Italian book market. The network of over 400 bookstores, independent or owned by chains, is rooted in the city and its distribution shows a pervasive presence.
CITIES OF LITERATURE AT BOOK CITY
The first project of collaboration is an ongoing project related to the festival BookCity: Cities of Literature at BookCity Milano. The BookCity festival aims to involve the UNESCO Cities of Literature by inviting, every year, five authors, poets, translators and professionals from the Cities of Literature, and including in its programme opportunities for dialogue between them and their Italian counterparts. At the same time the festival would like to engage the foreign communities living in Milan through the involvement of the cultural institutes and consulates active in the city—in particular foreign and language schools—and with initiatives aimed to stimulate their participation in the event.
BookCity Milano is an event that has been held in Milan since 2012 involving the entire supply chain of the publishing, book and library world, as well as requiring the active participation of the cultural world of Milan, offering events spread throughout the city. BookCity Milano is a three-day event (plus one day dedicated to schools), which sees the promotion of meetings, presentations, dialogues, readings, exhibitions, shows, and seminars on new reading practices, starting with old, new and brand new books, from collections and historical libraries—public and private—and considering the practice of reading as an event which is not only individual but also collective.
La Milanesiana was founded in 2000 in Milan and since its inception it has been a great ‘laboratory of excellence’ for literature, cinema, music, art, science and philosophy. The project aims to bring together different arts and knowledge, both from cultural and disciplinary origins, bringing to Milan and Italy the greatest talents of the various fields of culture. Over the years, it has expanded more and more in its areas of intervention: in the beginning La Milanesiana was concerned only with Literature, Music, and Cinema, and it now also includes other topics such as Science, Art, Theatre, and Video Games.
Hai visto un re? is a literature festival for children and teenagers, for parents, for teachers, and for all those who want to find, or find again, the pleasure of choosing and reading books together.
The festival was conceived and is organized by a network of independent Milanese bookstores, together with local libraries and a group of editors who believe that reading education is a tool for personal and civil growth and that strong relationships are essential across the sector.
In bookstores and independent libraries in Milan there are readings, workshops, games, programmes and free exhibitions for all ages, with meetings and discussions to help adults choose books to read at home and at school.