Biblioteca Nacional de El Salvador (BINAES)

The Biblioteca Nacional de El Salvador, or the National Library of El Salvador, abbreviated as BINAES, is the national library of El Salvador that was opened in November 2023. It is conveniently located in the heart of the city, just steps away from the Metropolitan Cathedral. Given that the current president Nayib Bukele had announced the construction of the library back in late 2019 in partnership with the Chinese government, this library is also seen as a symbol of El Salvador’s rebirth to many. The library is also meant to be seen as a way to “buy” El Salvador’s support of China and ultimately not to recognize Taiwan as its own country, but that’s another story for another day.

The library appears very impressive from the outside and the inside. But probably what astounded me the most was the first floor and exactly how child-friendly it was. There are multiple zones on the enormous first floor, all separated by target age group, where babies, toddlers, and young children can play and explore. Everything is bright and multi-colored. There are sensory bins, areas for building puzzles and different block structures. There are sensory books for feeling and smelling, as well as books in not just Spanish but English and other romance languages. There are climbing play structures; ball pits, endless cars and trucks; nature-like play areas that resemble forests and the outdoors, and comfy cushioned and pillowed reading areas for littles. When I walked around the first floor, I wasn’t quite sure if this was meant to be a library or a children’s fun/play center.

Kaia flipped through a number of the books. She loved climbing on the play structures, pushing the toy trucks and cars around, and of course, giggled with glee while in the ball pit. The toys and books selection was really large, and all were in excellent condition. The condition of almost all the books we touched seemed nearly brand new. Pookster could have easily spent the whole day in this play and reading area. The touches were extremely thoughtful. There’s even a lactation room for nursing and pumping, and every bathroom has a clean changing station.

And of course, my child decided to poop while running around the library.

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