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Librarians without Borders – Guatemala Project

The student section of Librarians without Borders at McGill university has been working on a project involving a school library in Guatemala.  Since I’m friends with a couple of them, I decided to get involved too and eleven of us will be heading down to  Quetzaltenango, Guatemala for ten days on April 21st. We’ll be blogging about our trip and our efforts to help the Miguel Angel Astu­rias Aca­demy, a k-12 not-for-profit private school,  start a new library.

So what will we be up to? Well, here’s short run down of our itinerary:

We start off with a little cultural acclimatisation  (i.e. some fun &  touristy stuff) upon arrival in Guatemala we’ll be heading to San Marcos La Laguna, near Lake Atitlan for some kayaking, tours and volcano excursions.

On Saturday, April 24th we head out to Comunidad Nueva Alianza, an organic coffee and macadamia plantation for a couple days there before we reach our final destination of Quetzaltenango on  Sunday evening.

Monday through Friday we will be staying in Quetzaltenango and working with the teachers and students at the Academy. Every day we’ll have the opportunity to learn about the school, organize recess games, participate in library sessions, and visit local museums, families or artisans. I even see a “futból” match on the itinerary: LWB volunteers vs the school! (Note to self: pack running shoes.)

Our final weekend will be some more fun at an eco-park in the  Totonicapan region. And then, May 2nd it’s all over. Well for most of us, a few of the others are sending a few extra days in Guatemala on additional tours (alas, some of us have jobs we need to get back to!)

As for the library, I think we are all bursting with ideas. Public and school library systems are not as strong as they are here in Canada. The concept of a library may even be foreign to some! LWB will be helping not only to fundraise for books, but also with the planning and design of the library.

The McGill LWB group held a bake sale and also acquired other funds (such as a kind donation from the School of Information Studies) for the purchase of books. Tap Peques, a Canadian distributor for Spanish Children’s books,  has offered LWB a discount so we will be purchasing some titles from them to bring to Guatemala. We’ll also work with the school to select other materials for their library from a Guatemalan distributor. Selecting can be tricky since not only does the school teach from kindergarten through to grade 12, but besides Spanish, they also offer classes in K’iche (a Mayan language) and English.

The teachers and staff at the school do not have any library training, so some of us will have to give them a quick run-down of best practices in libraries and the key elements to running a school library successfully. We’ll be helping them decide on how to catalogue the books they have so far (and that we’re bringing) and teach them the basics of circulating books to students (and possibly the community).

I’m hoping to be able to hit a bookstore or two while there. The publishing industry in Guatemala isn’t very strong, but Spanish professors here at Concordia do have a small wish-list (I may have told them I was going to Guatemala). I’ll keep my eye open, though I’m not holding my breath that I’ll find much useful to bring back here.

Only 9 more days to go. Um, anyone have a suitcase I can borrow?


About Jen

An instructor, a reader, a dog-owner, and advocate; that's how I define myself and these aspects directly impact my interests and conversations.


5 thoughts on “Librarians without Borders – Guatemala Project

  1. Hello! I’m heading to Costa Rica with the UWO group of Librarians Without Borders on Saturday! We also purchased some books from Tap Peques in Oakville. They were super helpful and had a nice selection to choose from. We’ve made arrangements to purchase some locally published books by Costa Rican authors from a bookstore in San Jose. Do you have plans to collect Guatemalan literature for the school library? We wanted to purchase more locally, but have had difficulty getting in touch with local suppliers. Are you bringing any English books?

    Posted by Erin | 12 Apr 2010, 9:07 PM
    • Hi Erin! Yes, the student that contacted Tap Peques found they were really helpful; they provided a nice list of books that were in stock so we wouldn’t have to worry about ordering delays.

      The Guatemalan publishing industry is really not huge – there are only a few notable authors, and children’s literature is pretty much non-existant. We found out that the school already has a relationship with Piedra Santa, an educational publisher & distributor in Guatemala, so we should be able to get some Guatemalan literature from them. When reading about the situation, I realized that books from Spanish America in general would also be very good for the library since they are still relevant.

      I wasn’t at the meeting when we discussed how our book money was being spent, though I did express my opinion that we should bring some Canadian classics. I think consensus was that we should focus on Spanish language material, though I’m planning on bringing a couple. I’ve heard that they have some English books already.

      Looking forward to reading more on the UWO LWB blog!

      Posted by canucklibrarian | 12 Apr 2010, 9:56 PM
  2. Hi,

    Great project!
    I have a suitcase you can borrow – choice of sizes, and I live close to downtown Montreal.


    Posted by Jean | 16 Apr 2010, 6:57 AM
    • Thanks Jean! I managed to find another friend who will be able to loan me their suitcase. We had a meeting last night – I’m starting to get really excited!

      Posted by canucklibrarian | 16 Apr 2010, 2:22 PM


  1. Pingback: Library volunteer trip to Guatemala « Biblioblond's Blog - 15 Apr 2010

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