(Post by CARMEN HO)
LWB’s partnership with Miguel Angel Asturias Academy is alive and well. This year’s trip (May 3-13, 2012) to Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala was proof positive of that.
The Librarians Without Border (LWB) collaboration with Miguel Angel Asturias Academy began in 2009 and has grown each year since. The purpose? To promote literacy and learning by supporting the development of their school library. The thirteen trip participants for 2012 included: a University of Illinois student (Library and Information Science program); LWB students from the University of Toronto, McGill University, Ottawa University and Western University; and professionals from academic and public libraries across Canada.
The Miguel Angel Asturias Academy (founded in 1994) is a private, non-profit Pre K-12 school in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. The academy currently serves approximately 300 students from varying backgrounds: indigenous, non-indigenous, poor, working, and middle class. The Asturias library opened its doors to students, staff and the public on January 17, 2011. They hope to use the library to foster a love of reading, shift societal attitudes toward literacy and ultimately improve their standard of living.
This year, Librarians Without Borders established the Asturias Librarian Stipend Fund in December 2011, a financial resource that helped to bring a professionally trained librarian to the Asturias Academy Library. LWB also began to work on year-long projects prior to their trip to Guatemala. The projects included the library-lending project and programming/curriculum support for Asturias. Alongside these projects, while on site, participants planned a library day, started a library inventory of Asturias’ collection, furthered the K’iche’ Audiobook project, and catalogued and processed over 100 new books purchased by LWB. In addition to bringing over new books and book repair supplies for Asturias, LWB visited Piedra Santa a Guatemalan publisher, bookstore and educational centre in Guatemala City to purchase new books for Asturias. During their visit, the group focused on collection development in the four areas: human rights, science, biographies, and Mayan history and culture.
Service Learning and International Librarianship
LWB embodies the service learning model which allows participants to engage in service activities that address real community needs while developing knowledge-base and skills related to academic, professional and civic responsibilities goals.
During this year’s trip, the participants gained perspective on and learned about issues and problems facing the development of libraries, library services and the library profession within the Guatemala socio-economic and cultural contexts. In addition to learning about Asturias Library, the group had the opportunity to tour two different libraries in Xela: Biblioteca RP Juan Antonio Sáenz at the Universidad Rafael Landivar which is a small university campus library and the Casa de la Cultura deOccidente y Biblioteca Municipal, a public library located close to the city center.
It was important to visit these libraries because it provided us a better understanding of the role of libraries in Guatemala. We spoke with the library staff at these libraries and we gained a better insight on the history and library operations of the libraries in Xela. Following the library visits, the group reflected on and discussed issues pertaining to the role of information and access (or lack of) to information and development in Guatemala. Since all the participants are familiar with the issues pertaining to North American librarianship, it was interesting to learn about the same issues from another perspective.
Continuing the dialogue with the students and staff at Asturias Academy was critical. Before implementing any of the library projects, we collaborated with the Asturias staff in order to work effectively in their cultural context. Based on this exchange, we were able to learn from each other and share perspectives to further our mutual goals.
International librarianship is not, after all, about charity. Rather, it’s about sharing and learning from each other. It’s about building sustainable global relationships and partnerships. It’s about library cooperation through open dialogue.
On the last day at Asturias Academy, the students, staff and Jorge Chojolan (founder and principal of the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy) talked about the positive and lasting impact that we (as LWB members) have made. In return, we expressed our gratitude for allowing us to experience living in Xela and to learn from and share perspectives with the Asturias community.
Carmen Ho, Toronto, Ontario
Carmen is a recent graduate of the Master of Information program at the Faculty of Information (iSchool) at the University of Toronto. She currently works for the Toronto Public Library and is deeply interested in public and international librarianship. Carmen truly believes that the spread of information is a service to humanity, and libraries and librarians contribute great services to societies that make a difference in the lives of individuals and communities. This was Carmen’s second service learning trip to Guatemala with LWB. For more information about Librarians Without Borders (LWB), please visit the website: http://lwb-online.org/. For more information about Miguel Angel Asturias Academy, please visit the website: http://www.asturiasacademy.org/Tweet