Guatemala Bound!

LWB Volunteers travel to Guatemala April 20 – May 1

Photo from garryknight on flickr.

Our LWB volunteers will be blogging regularly throughout the service trip (April 20th to May 1st) so check in daily to see the latest news!

12 dedicated Librarians Without Borders volunteers will be travelling to Guatemala this April, where they will work with our Guatemalan partners the Asturias Academy and Limitless Horizons Ixil to promote and support strong community libraries, education and lifelong learning. Our volunteers include LIS students and professionals from North America and Europe, who bring a range of skills and expertise in the areas of school and community libraries, international development and community capacity building.

LWB has partnered with the Asturias Academy since 2009 to support the Academy’s vision to build a sustainable school library. The Asturias Academy Library aims to support the school curriculum and learning objectives for the school’s population of K-12 students and teachers. This year’s on-site work will focus on developing programming initiatives, organizing a ‘Library Day’ celebration for students, assisting with library organization and cataloguing and supporting the newly developed lending system.

As in years past, LWB and the Asturias Academy library staff will take time to discuss the current trends in libraries, how to engage students and promote literacy within the community.

In the second half of the trip, LWB volunteers will travel to San Gaspar Chajul, a remote town located in the mountainous region of Ixil Community, Quiché. The group will visit the Saber Sin Límites Community Library, established by Limitless Horizons Ixil in 2010. The library is the only resource of its kind in the community and serves a population of over 1,400 users of all ages. It is particularly known for its helpful and engaged local librarians, who offer homework help, cultivate students’ literacy and research skills, and create a fun and open learning space for all. While in Chajul, LWB volunteers will take time to learn about the community and its local history, meet with library staff to share ideas related to literacy development and facilitate story time activities for children in the community.


Guatemala Trip Information Meeting: Sunday March 9

Join Librarians Without Borders this Sunday, March 9 from 6 – 7 pm EST for an online informational meeting about our upcoming service trip to Guatemala. This is an open meeting — all are welcome!

A recording of the meeting will be posted afterward for those who cannot attend. For more information contact:

Trip Description: Participants will travel to Guatemala, visiting school and community libraries in Quetzaltenango and Chajul. Volunteers will complete seven days of work with two partner organizations: the Asturias Academy and Limitless Horizons Ixil. Other trip activities include sightseeing, cultural visits and workshops designed to give participants a comprehensive understanding of libraries, education and culture in Guatemala. This highly immersive experience allows volunteers to provide much needed on-the ground support. Learn more at

2014 Guatemala Service Trip

guatemala trip banner

Application deadline extended to March 16!

Trip Description
Trip Participants will travel to Guatemala, visiting school and community libraries in Quetzaltenango and Chajul. Volunteers will complete seven days of work with two partner organizations: the Asturias Academy and Limitless Horizons Ixil. Other trip activities include sightseeing, cultural visits and workshops designed to give participants a comprehensive understanding of libraries, education and culture in Guatemala. This highly immersive experience allows volunteers to provide much needed on-the ground support.

How to apply: submit completed application form to by March 13, 2014. March 16. Successful applicants will by notified by the week of March 17.

About our Partner Organizations
The Miguel Angel Asturias Academy is a K-12 non-profit private school in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. The Academy was founded in 1994 with a goal to eliminate education disparities through subsidized tuition. The Academy’s curriculum is based on the popular education theory of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, in which systems of injustice are confronted and transformed on the basis of all as teachers and learners.

The Asturias Academy has been working with Librarians Without Borders since 2010, to envision and develop a library within the school. Today, the library is open to students and staff and has just begun lending books for use outside school hours. During the 2014 trip, volunteers will work with library staff to assist with library-related work activities including cataloguing, programming and library maintenance. LWB volunteers will also plan and deliver a series of activities and programs for the Academy students and staff during the annual “Library Day” celebration.

The Saber Sin Límites Chajul Community Library is the first and only community library in the town of Chajul, located in the rural mountainous region of Quiche, Guatemala. With a membership of 1,400 users—ranging in age from four to forty—and counting, 3,783 titles, two librarians, and many helping hands, the library is making reading fun and popular in Chajul. During the service trip, LWB volunteers will have the opportunity to learn about issues related to education and literacy and provide assistance with the children’s library fair.

Housing and Food
Lodging and meals are included in the trip fees. While in Xela, participants will stay at the COFA Catholic Retreat Centre. In Chajul, participants will stay at accommodations provided by Limitless Horizons. Meals will be provided by a local family, or at local restaurants or eateries. Vegetarian options will be available.

Duration April 20 – May 1, 2014

Trip Fees

Program fee* : $800 CAD
Fundraising** : $200 CAD
Total : $1000 CAD

*Program fee includes: lodging, most meals, entrance to all activities and transportation within Guatemala. Volunteers are responsible for cost of flights to and from Guatemala. You are expected to bring extra spending money for additional purchases such as souvenirs and snacks and occasional meals while in Guatemala.
**Fundraising fee will go towards funding projects at the Asturias Academy and Chajul Community Library. This portion is a non-refundable deposit.

All trip volunteers are expected to attend 3 briefing meetings (held online) to discuss projects and receive training on trip projects, prior to departure.

Questions? Contact:

Reading, literacy and beyond: library use takes off at the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy Library

The library at the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy is buzzing away with a variety of events. The brand new tables (acquired from funds contributed by the LWB volunteers who visited the library in April 2013) , are being used for multiple activities.

Student chess tournament

Student chess tournament

Students of all grades enjoy the board games lent out during recess, and the library even houses various chess competitions. We have had ”skype” sessions with our sister school in Pennsylvania, and of course students pop in for pleasure reading. Throughout the week every grade level comes to the library for reading and literacy activities.

Lending Library Development
The size of the library’s collection is increasing, and the development of a lending system is well underway. Presently each item on the shelf is being verified with a Master Inventory List, prepared by LWB volunteers, and is being assigned a barcode and scanned onto the inventory list. Once the master list has been completed with each item in the library catalogue, the information will be transferred onto the new Library Integrated System Software, BookCat. This all means we will be one step closer to letting Asturias Academy students take books home using a computerized lending system.

Bookcat lending system

Bookcat lending system

Literacy Development
Reading comprehension classes have been ongoing in the library. We are in the process of creating new reading cards or “fichas de lectura” with various questions related to fiction and non-fiction books.
Each month the library displays books related to the “Generative theme” or “Tema generador” for students to read and discuss in class. In this respect the library is integral to the school curriculum.

A display of library materials featuring the monthly generative theme

A display of library materials featuring the monthly generative theme

Librarian Dorita helps students with their homework

Librarian Dorita helps students with their homework

It has been a pleasure to work with LWB at the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy Library. We are thankful for your ongoing professional support.

The library team: Dora Araceli, Laura Chojolán and Shanoor Gulamali (July 2013)

Dora Domínguez is a retired teacher, she worked at Miguel Angel Asturias Academy as a grade 3 teacher since 2006 and has been the librarian since 2012. Presently she teachers literacy to all the primary level students who come to the library. Her grandson attends the Asturias Academy.

Laura Chojolan has been teaching Physics and Chemistry at the school since 2010. She started to work at the library in 2013 teaching literacy to grades 7 to 12. She also taught adult literacy in the community and initiated the first reading club at the school in 2006. She is a medical student at “la universidad Mesoamericana”.

Shanoor Gulamali is a recent graduate from the ischool at the University of Toronto and began working at the Asturias Academy in May 2013. She teaches English to grades 11 and 12 and is presently cataloguing the Asturias library books and helping to develop the lending system. She is teaching some literacy classes while Laura is presently doing her practicum. Shanoor is the recipient of the 2013 – 2014 LWB Librarian stipend.

Guatemala Trip Info Meeting: Sunday Feb 10

Join us for an online informational meeting about the upcoming service trip to Guatemala. There will be a presentation on the trip plans and opportunity to ask questions. Anyone who is interested in applying for the trip can come to the meeting. LWB will be in Guatemala from April 13 – 28. Learn more about the trip, and access the trip application form on our website:

Access the meeting:
Audio info: +16465837415 or VoIP using a USB headset. Please note: there is a max of 100 participants, but the audio recording of the meeting will be posted afterward for anyone who is not able to attend.

RSVP by ‘joining’ this event on Facebook:

Date and time(zones):
Saskatoon (Canada – Saskatchewan) Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 7:00:00 PM CST UTC-6 hours
Ottawa (Canada – Ontario) Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 8:00:00 PM EST UTC-5 hours
Vancouver (Canada – British Columbia) Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 5:00:00 PM PST UTC-8 hours
Corresponding UTC (GMT) Monday, February 11, 2013 at 01:00:00

Call for Volunteers: Guatemala Service Trip

guatemala banner

Trip Description
Trip Participants will travel to Guatemala to volunteer at the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (known locally as Xela). Work at the Academy will include cataloguing, processing, programming, organization and teaching English, in addition to other library related work. Other activities include sight-seeing, cultural visits, and workshops designed to give participants a comprehensive understanding of libraries, education and culture in Guatemala. Trip participants will also have the option to choose a weekend activity (visit scenic Lake Atitlan, trek to one of Guatemala’s volcanic peaks, or visit the mountainous Ixil region).

Primary Projects

  • Implementation of a working ILS and lending system at the Asturias Academy.
  • Information literacy, collaboration with Asturias teachers and integration into curriculum.

Housing and Food
While in Xela, participants will stay at the COFA Catholic Retreat Centre. Most meals will be provided by a local family, or at local restaurants or eateries. Vegetarian options will be available.

All trip volunteers are expected to…

  • attend briefing meetings (held online) to discuss projects and receive training on Asturias Library systems. These meetings are mandatory for all volunteers.
  • join and contribute to a working team before the trip.
  • participate in pre and post trip assessments (e.g. evaluation survey).

Program Fees
The program fee includes: lodging, food, entrance to all activities and transportation within Guatemala. $150 of the program fee is paid as a non-refundable deposit. The fundraising fee will go towards funding the Librarians Without Borders program at the Asturias Academy. Trip participants are responsible for paying for their own airfare. All fees are in US Dollars.

Trip Length Program Fee Fundraising Fee Total
Short Trip – April 13 to 23 $605 $150 $755
Long Trip – April 13 to 28 $880 $150 $1030

Important Dates

How to apply: submit application form to

Call for Applications: School Librarian

Reading for Change: Build a love of reading in Guatemalan children

Position title: School Librarian

Job description:
The Miguel Angel Asturias Academy is an innovative Pre K-12 school in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. We are seeking a librarian to begin work immediately.

Volunteering at the Asturias Academy is an ideal experience for any person with a passion for education and for building a love of reading in Guatemalan children, eager to support the development of the Guatemalan society. In addition to the educational experience, this opportunity allows volunteers to see firsthand, our transformative model.

Working alongside the school’s permanent librarian, the volunteer librarian will be responsible for planning library activities for students ages 4-18, in addition to maintaining the library. Duties include: keeping records of books borrowed and returned, building a collection “wish list” for further expansion, leading library instruction sessions for students, working with Librarians Without Borders to set up a circulation system, and working with teachers to incorporate the library into classroom activities. The volunteer librarian will also help train the permanent librarian to lead the management and operations of the library.

Outside of the library, the librarian is expected to attend weekly staff meetings, participate in school field trips and other school activities (such as recess). The librarian is also required to submit a monthly blog post that describes the activities of the school and library. The librarian will have a close relationship with and support of Librarians Without Borders on a number of library initiatives.

Requirements: Spanish language fluency (reading, written and oral), library experience.

Desirable skills: This position is very rewarding, as you will work directly with students, but can also be challenging. We are a private nonprofit school serving very low income families. As such, our resources and staffing are limited. Experience working with low-literacy youth is highly desirable. This position requires you to be friendly, outgoing, patient, a quick learner and culturally sensitive.

Location: Job is on site at 13 Calle 24-43 Zona 3, Quetzaltenango, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, CA

Duration: January 2013 – October 31, 2013. Monday to Friday, mornings and afternoons.

Compensation: This is a volunteer position. A stipend of up to $2400 is available to the successful candidate to help cover living costs in Guatemala, provided by Librarians Without Borders (LWB).
Asturias will help the successful candidate find a home stay family if so desired.

How to apply: Please send cover letter, resume and contacts for 3-5 references to Karla Chojolán at

To learn more about the Asturias Academy, visit:

The Asturias Library as a place of learning, discovery and reading enjoyment.

This guest post comes to us from Nicholas Newlin, the LWB-funded Librarian at the Asturias Academy Library in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. As part of his 8 month contract at the Academy in 2012, Nicholas worked with students at the school to teach literacy and reading skills. In this post, Nicholas reflects on how student have grown to discover and enjoy the Library.

A lot of students have come through the Library in this first complete year of library service here at Colegio Miguel Angel Asturias. Students are required to have reading class three periods per week, which means almost 2 hours of studying or reading and discussing books with classmates. From the attendance numbers I have been keeping for the last several months, in the period with least students, there are about 12 student visitors each week, while in the highest there are just less than 60. Between Primaria and Básico students there are at least 80 students who visit the library each weekday (the student body is about 250). Each primaria student has read at least 3 books, and recess brings an average of 20 students who do puzzles or tangrams, play Scrabble, chess, and various other learning-centered activities, apart from selecting books not read in class.

This year I have seen an increase in student interest in reading. Some students have moved from being able to read little, and not staying in a chair for more than five minutes, to picking out their own books and reading with interest for a whole 35 minute period. Of course, there are many students find it more difficult to concentrate and talk with their friends, but for the most part they are talking about photographs or diagrams in books. In any case, every student from kindergarten through the last grades of high school have been exposed to books – good books in Spanish and in English – and recognize that reading can be a great help in their studies. We have taught them how to use dictionaries, atlases, encyclopedias; we have done activities that test comprehension and reading speed, as well as asked for writing assignments based on their reading.

The library is an active place where students read on their own as well as in class activities, and also acts as a learning environment when teachers are absent or need materials for a class. And since it is the inaugural year, we’re only getting started. The ILS system we are implementing this year is intended to make resource discovery and match the varied abilities of students and other visitors. Hopefully it will be extended to other libraries as Asturias continues to expand and offer alternatives to public or charter education here in Guatemala.

Speaking Tour: LWB Presents Jorge Chojolan

John Abernathy Photography

Speaking Tour Announcement

It is our pleasure to announce that LWB will be hosting our Guatemalan partner, Jorge Chojolan, from November 11 – 29, as part of a North American speaking tour. Jorge is the founder and director of the Asturias Academy, a progressive k-12 school that offers education for students from low-income and indigenous families. The speaking events will focus on the following themes: education reform, leadership, libraries and literacy in Guatemala.

Sponsors of Jorge Chojolán’s Speaking Tour 2012

About Jorge Chojolan

Jorge has spent his life committed to improving access to education for low income and indigenous families in Guatemala. Inspired by the writing of Paulo Friere’s book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Jorge is creating an alternative school system designed to spur improvements in education throughout Guatemala. Learn more about Jorge’s story…

Librarians Without Borders and the Asturias Academy

Since 2009, Librarians Without Borders has worked with Jorge and the Asturias Academy to promote literacy and libraries in Guatemala. Through many hours of fundraising, planning and hard work, Asturias was able to open a community library to students and their families in January 2011. Learn more about our work in Guatemala…

Tour Itinerary & Public Events

Toronto, ON

Workshop: Challenges of preservation of indigenous languages and culture in Guatemala
November 12, 12:00 – 1:00PM
University of Toronto, Faculty of Information (Room TBA)

Workshop: International partnership from two perspectives: Librarians Without Borders and Miguel Angel Asturias Academy, Guatemala
November 13, 12:00 – 1:00PM
University of Toronto, Faculty of Information (Room TBA)

“Promoting Democracy and Human Rights Through Education in Guatemala”
November 13, 6:00PM
St. Mike’s Muzzo Family Alumni Hall (121 St. Joseph Street, Toronto)

London, ON

“Promoting Democracy and Human Rights Reform Through Education in Guatemala”
November 14, 12:15 – 1:30pm
University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Education, Room: 1010.

Ottawa, ON

“Promoting Democracy and Human Rights Reform Through Education in Guatemala”
November 16, 2:00 – 4:30pm
Room 129, Simard Hall, University of Ottawa

Montreal, QC

“Libraries and education in Guatemala”
Monday, November 19, 2012, 6:00-8:00 pm
McGill campus, Thomson House ballroom, 3650 rue McTavish
Generously co-sponsored by L’Association des bibliothécaires du Québec Library/Quebec Library Association (ABQLA). Light refreshments will be served.

RSVP: Fill out this form: or e-mail by November 15

“Indigenous issues and human rights in Guatemala”
Tuesday, November 20, 2012, 12:00-1:30 pm
McGill campus, Peterson Hall, room 116, 3460 rue McTavish
Generously co-sponsored by The Centre for Society, Technology and Development (STANDD) at McGill University. Lunch will be served.

RSVP: Fill out this form: or e-mail by November 15

“Education in Guatemala and Asturias’ unique curriculum, based on Paulo Freire’s philosophy”
Tuesday, November 20, 2012, 6:00-8:00 pm
Concordia campus, Hall Building, room H-441 (1455 Blvd. deMaisonneuve West; 4th floor).
Generously co-sponsored by the Department of Education and the Loyola College of Sustainability and Diversity at Concordia University.

RSVP: Fill out this form: or e-mail by November 15

Los Angeles, CA

“Promoting Democracy and Human Rights Through Education in Guatemala”
November, 29, 7:00 p.m.
Auditorium, Main Campus, Marymount College

Back in Toronto: Reflections

After returning from Guatemala, participants of the 2012 LWB service trip were asked to reflect on their experience volunteering with Librarians Without Borders at the Asturias Academy. This post comes to us from Caitlin, a student in the Faculty of Information Studies at the University of Toronto.

I was privileged to be part of the 2012 service trip because, in those 10 days, we had the rare opportunity to really connect with the students, the people and the landscape. The thing that stood out for me, and undoubtedly for my companions, was the warmth of the Guatemalan people. Each student at Asturias hugged us upon our arrival; strangers greeted us on the street; our cook, Dõna Margerita, fed us two meals a day in the heart of her home. Signs of poverty were visible, but there were many faces which radiated with happiness.

Three experiences in particular stood out for me. The first was being invited to the house of a relative of one of the students. Although the villagers often live in tiny, simple houses with packed dirt or concrete floors – and sometimes 7 or more people to a home – they are warm, welcoming and curious.

During our walk through the village these two farmers were kind enough to stop, wave and smile, and wait patiently for me to fumble with my old, manual camera and take a picture of them.

These boys were really friendly and curious about us, having followed us along our hike through the mountain village.

A second highlight for me was library day. Five of us volunteered to be responsible for planning and setting up library day. I had never been involved in the organization of something quite like this before, so initially I was a bit nervous. What if the kids were bored by the activities or didn’t want to participate? As we began to discuss our ideas though, I relaxed and we had a ton of fun planning the games and activities! Unfortunately, several members of the team began to feel under the weather. Eventually it was just Isabelle and I who were able to actually work in person at the library. Again I began to worry, this time about whether we could pull it all off in time. Luckily, everyone who wasn’t bedridden – even those previously working on other projects – came together enthusiastically, helping out and making the day a big success! Not only were the children receptive to library day, they were all laughing and engrossed in the various activities, hugging and kissing each of us as they entered the library, eagerly moving to the activity tables and very often speaking that now famous line “más mariposas por favor.”

Finally, and in some ways the high point of the trip, was meeting Jorge Chojolan, the school’s director, who related his life story in explanation of how he came to found Asturias. Of Maya K’iche’ heritage, he begged his family to allow him to stay in school rather than work at a young age, as his father had done. At one point his father punished him when he asked for a notebook he needed for his schoolwork. When a passing stranger bought him the notebook, Jorge was uncertain whether he could accept such a gift. He never forgot what the man told him, that everyone should have a notebook and that one day he, Jorge, could do the same for someone else. As teens, he and his brother became politically active. After the disappearance of his brother, Jorge was forced to flee to Mexico. Reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed by the revolutionary Brazilian educator Paulo Friere helped inspire him to raise the funds to found his ideal school, showcasing an alternative curriculum, critical thinking and an attempt to preserve indigenous cultures.

As my fellow traveler Megan pointed out, this trip wasn’t about going to “help out” the “less fortunate” Guatemalan people. It was a cultural exchange. If anything, the staff and students at Asturias and the people we met generally did more for us than we could hope to do for them in one short visit.

The Guatemala trip reminded me that there is more to life than rush hour or the due date of that next paper, and that – as shown by Jorge – one person can make a difference.

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