A Library Success Story
The San Juan del Sur Biblioteca Móvil, located in the town of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, was established in November 2001 on the patio of Hotel Villa Isabella, by owner Jane Mirandette. While some books were originally provided for the patrons of the hotel, local people started coming in to look at and borrow the books. Jane quickly realized that there was an appalling lack of books and information in this community and was compelled to correct that lack and fulfill the need for books with a mobile library project. After months of research and after creating a borrowing system, Jane held an introductory meeting with 25 community leaders and educators and planned to start the mobile library project in December. The only public community building in most of the surrounding communities is the school, and since the “summer” vacation was about to begin, the plan was to initiate the mobile library project on the patio of the hotel. Patrons, primarily children, began filling the patio daily and all of the books were in circulation within the community before the mobile project could begin! In January 2002, the library moved down the street to its own building, four local employees were hired, and the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca Móvil became the first stationary public lending library in Nicaragua.
A year and a half later, on May 12th, 2003, Jane and her colleague Meghan Field were finally able to establish the Proyecto Móvil, the branch of the library that brings books to remote surrounding areas. Now in its second year, the program reaches 20 outlying and very poor communities, and is valued by all those who participate.
In 2002, Jane established a Colorado non-profit organization, the Hester J. Hodgdon Libraries For All Program, to provide a much-needed conduit to financial support for the library. She named this organization after her late grandmother who instilled in her a love of reading. In 2003, the foundation applied for and received 501(c)(3) charitable donation status from the IRS. Our supporters come from all over the U.S. and Canada and we depend on their support in order to continue our services.
Because the concept of lending libraries is unfamiliar in Nicaragua, and in Central America as a whole, the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca Móvil was not able to become a member of the Red Nacional de Bibliotecas Póblicas, Nicaragua’s network of national public libraries. The library did, however, become a member of the American Library Association (ALA) and their International Relations Round Table (IRRT). At the 2004 ALA annual convention, Jane presented a poster in the International Section under the heading of Global Solutions. Since 2003, Jane and various library volunteers have taken part in BookExpo America, the largest publishers convention in the U.S., primarily to attend the educational sessions and the Spanish Book Pavillion. Donations and significantly discounted books from these two conventions have become a major source of books in Spanish for our library, and Jane and other Hester J. Hodgdon members continue to attend these conventions annually.
During ALA’s annual convention in 2004, Jane made a connection with Denise Davis, Dean of Admissions at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. Starting in the summer of 2005, the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca Móvil will become an international site for students in the Simmons College Master’s program for Library and Information Science.
As of January 2005, there are currently nine libraries in Central America , seven of which are in Nicaragua, that are loaning books using the Hester J. Hodgdon Library in a Box protocols. Most are using the lending system initiated with the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca Móvil. This concept of circulating libraries and its recent successes have attracted the interst of the new directors of the Red Nacional de Bibliotecas Públicas. We have recently reapplied to become a part of the network, and this time, have been warmly welcomed by the directors and their staff. We have been assured of our inclusion with the other 142 national libraries throughout Nicaragua. Therefore, in recognition of our acceptance, we are in the process of changing our name from the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca Móvil to the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca Pública y Móvil.