Librarians promote literacy in Guatemala

You have probably heard of Doctors Without Borders. But Librarians Without Borders?

Thanks to the volunteer group of librarians and library science students, some youngsters in Guatemala will soon be able to borrow books for the first time.

The organization visited the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in Guatemala’s highlands in 2009, helping to establish a library. Each year since then, volunteers have returned to help build the library’s capacity.

This month, 18 volunteers – including CSU Monterey Bay librarian Sarah Dahlen – will visit for two weeks.

Guatemala“We’ll be introducing a circulation system that will allow students and teachers to check books out and read them at home,” Dahlen said. Until now, books could only be used in the library.

Many of the volunteers will work on the technical side of the project, getting the books cataloged in the new system and ready for check out.

Dahlen will work with the information literacy side of the project. Lending libraries are uncommon in Guatemala, she said, “and there is not a culture of borrowing and returning books. I will be providing instruction to the students of Asturias on how the lending system will work and what it will enable them to do.

“I’ve been trying to brush up my Spanish in preparation,” she added.

The volunteers will have the opportunity to visit other libraries in the country and do some sightseeing.

Getting an education is difficult for many Guatemalans, in part due to a lack of access to books. In a country where books are taxed beyond the reach of the 75 percent of the population who live in poverty, it’s almost impossible to get children excited about reading because they can’t get books in their hands.

“This year, we plan to change that,” Librarians Without Borders said in a news release.

Learn more about the Librarians Without Borders service trip to Guatemala.

Learn about CSUMB's Tanimura & Antle Family Memorial Library.