Transforming Community Libraries
In rural Guatemala where children’s books are rare, even the smallest library can have a transformative effect. We help local organizations and indigenous communities create and improve libraries for children. By building the capacity of local people, stocking shelves with great books, connecting libraries and schools and providing afterschool and summer reading programs, libraries become dynamic hubs for reading promotion and literacy education.
Because books are so rare, most libraries don’t lend. Libraries become a depository of books that users typically don’t have free access to, let alone being able to borrow them. The books are kept in a secure place, and, if the library is lucky to have a copier, photo copies of a page are two may be handed out. Our training promotes book-lending programs so that children take books home to their parents and siblings.
When a community approaches us with a desire to establish or improve a library, a needs assessment is developed. The need for high-quality children’s books is always a given, but often there is also a need for tables, chairs, building repairs, and cataloging. We leverage local interests and resources with additional financial and expertise support.
We believe a library is successful if it serves as a hub for literacy. The key to this is a well-trained librarian. Through group and individualized sessions, we help librarians learn everything they need know to run a small library. Topics covered are:
- Library Environment/Physical Characteristics
- Administration and Management
- Literacy Promotion Program Management
Each librarian in our program attends two workshops per year for three years. These days are filled with information about how to create specialized areas with the library that focus on writing, young children and educational games. Librarians learn how to develop a needs assessment, galvanize community support, recruit and manage volunteers, fundraise and develop budgets. They become active literacy promoters by hosting events and contests and by providing after school and summer reading programs. Partnerships are developed with local schools and regular baskets of books begin showing up, ready for teachers to incorporate into the day’s activities.