Central American Lending Libraries Are a Growing Reality: Collaboration is the Key
Beginning with its roots as supporter of the first public lending library in Nicaragua in 2001, the Hester J. Hodgdon (HJH) Libraries For All program has become a potent catalyst for the development of lending library and mobile lending library services in Central America. With its outreach emphasis on collaboration and sustainable leadership, HJH has provided access to information, seed collections of 100 books, training programs and a simple model for sustainable lending. In 2001, there were no lending libraries. Today, there are twenty five.
The first was the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca Móvil – supported by the HJH program as its original mandate as a 501-C3 charity in the United States. The mobile program started providing services to surrounding communities in 2003. There are now 31 communities being served on a rotating basis once a month.
Biblioteca Emmanuel Mongalo y Rubio High School, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Established in the year 2000, this high school library is supported by the Giesen Sister City program in Giesen, Germany. They successfully initiated lending books to high school students in October of 2002.
Quetzalwakie Library, Quetzalwakie Nicaragua. A library building and community center were built by members of the Brookline Sister City program in 2002. A full lending program was recently established with a small mobile project using local taxis to deliver books to schools.
Coordinators visited the SJDS site in January 2008.
Wisconsin Nicaragua Partners of the Americas have 19 Learning Centers and to date six have libraries using the Library in a Box system.
- Tipitapa Lending Library, April 06.
- Chinandega/Appleton Lending Library, Aug 06
- Puerto Cabezas/Fort Atkinson Lending Library, October 06
- Juigalpa Lending Library, March 07
- Ometepe Island Lending Library, February 08
- Los Cedros/Madison Lending Library, May 08
Several Church organizations also use our Library in a Box system and received their 100 Books including:
- Messiah Project, Waspam, Nicaragua
- Biblioteca Josue 1:8 Las Brasilles, Nicaragua with Somoto Public Library, Somoto, Nicaragua with Trinity Lutheran Church, Loveland, Colorado
- Project Hope, Managua, Nicaragua with Hope International
- Managua Youth Center Library with Manna International
North Americans living abroad in Central America have initiated seven more libraries since 2001:
- Rural Literacy Project Parqueo Ecológico Nueva Juventud, San Andres, Peten, Guatemala
- Camino de Saber – Tilleran Public Library, Tilleran, Costa Rica
- Lake Arenal Public Library, Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
- Tortuga Public Library, Tortuga, Nicaragua
- Se Puede Leer – Granada public library and school reading program
- Esquina que Aprendeze, San Juan de Oriente, public library and art programs
- RB Gladstone Library – Concepción, Nicaragua, The RB Gladstone Fund for Progress in Rural Central America: The RB Gladstone (Centro Educativo)
Four Nicaraguan Communities Initiating Lending Libraries:
- La Reforma
- Cardenas – Library Vocational School
- Solentiname – John Breitlinger Memorial Public Library established with Boston-based Friends of Solentiname
All are functioning and loaning books. These are still the ONLY libraries throughout Nicaragua we are aware of that have formal free lending programs.
Two more libraries were initiated by Peace Corp Volunteers in Honduras and Nicaragua, and have been receiving book donations since 2001. Unfortunately, we lost touch with these programs. However, the last we heard was that they were building their collections and loaning books.
The most exciting news involves the four libraries started recently by Nicaraguan community members. These libraries are striving to be independently self-supporting and are currently requesting leadership training, professional development, access to technology, and increased collaboration as they grow and expand.
The HJH Program together with the Nicaraguan Library Association (ANIBIPA) brought the ALA/IFLA worldwide campaign, En Tu Biblioteca, to Nicaragua in 2005 and continues to work with the forty-five, government-based, non-lending libraries that joined the campaign. Together with ANIBIPA, Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science Volunteer Program and the HJH Program host a series of workshops and leadership events that are held annually for librarians in Central America. The Simmons Library Science Graduate Program and their student group SIR (Simmons International Relations) make two trips a year to the San Juan del Sur Mobile Library Project to volunteer in January and August.
(This paper was first presented at the ALA Convention in Anaheim California June 26, 2008 by Jane Mirandette.)