Category: News

Getting to Know Librii’s David Dewane

David DewaneLibrarians Without Borders recently had the pleasure of catching up with David Dewane, Founder and Executive Director of Librii, an LWB partner program working towards opening its first library in Accra, Ghana. Dewane opened up about Librii’s humble beginnings, the research and thought that goes into an undertaking of this magnitude – in a foreign country no less – and how LWB was instrumental to the process. 


You might be surprised – and, if you’re also a student, encouraged – to learn that LWB partner program Librii, the library “specialized to meet Africa’s information demand with educational services, high-end digital resources, and books” originated as a graduate student project at Rice University. “I was researching areas where physical space, people and information mingle, and what that means in the age of digitizing information,” David Dewane remembers. “The library was the typology where this should be happening, as the place where people and information come together.”

Dewane’s train of thought lead him to really consider the space of the library in the shifting wide web world. Who has access to information? And how do they get it?  A breakthrough came when he concluded that “libraries are no longer just places where people come to get knowledge in a contemplative way; they are places where people come to make things.”  

“It was such a radical idea!” Dewane adds. “And such a notion of the library as at one time being a collection of resources, but also the building that houses them. And beyond collection and building, a space – that libraries are spaces that serve the human desire for collectivity. I love the idea of the persistent desire for collectivity, despite the web making things less necessary for collectivity. Libraries are more crucial than ever.

To aid in his library/space question, Dewane turned to the trusted source that all of us eventually seek out in the throes of a research question: a Rice University librarian. Soon Dewane brought together all his research into a plan for an actual library space. And then things aligned in his favor: a World Bank competition came across his path at that moment, allowing Dewane to gain a small development grant, but more importantly, some major interest in the project, initially titled Libraries Across Africa.

The idea was to develop libraries in India, a country Dewane was familiar with. But with the inclusion of the World Bank resources, and after researching important key factors including an analysis of language, ease of doing business, and freedom of press, African countries came to the forefront. Dewane explains that things finally came down to Ghana or Kenya, but confirms, “West Africa just felt right. It was a mix of intuition and objective subjective rational.” Africa, and Ghana in particular, also captured Dewane’s imagination with the continent’s narrative regarding the digital divide. “The expansion of fiber optics into sub Saharan Africa took place in 2009-2010 when the first cable landed there. It was mind blowing to realize they were just getting broadband!”

And that’s when it all conceptualized into the Librii we know today: a concept inspired by the prolific building spree of library hero Andrew Carnegie, who, between 1883 and 1929 helped create 2509 libraries throughout the world. But what Dewane admires most about Carnegie was his motive for helping communities obtain a library of their own. “This is a very clear and present model. It’s a massive scale, and hardly anyone ever talks about it. 2500 libraries over 30 years means opening a brand new library every five days! They were everywhere in the English speaking world, and in the Pacific Rim…Carnegie didn’t want to give food or medical aid, the basic aid philanthropy: he wanted to meet people halfway and provide tools to industrial people.”

The Carnegie Formula became the standard for communities requesting funds to build a public library. It required that they demonstrate the need for a library; provide a building site; come up with ten percent of the cost of the library’s construction to support the operation costs; and provide free service.

“Carnegie started listening more to librarians about how libraries should function: in the middle of the community, allowing people to access materials themselves, expand the collection to serve everyone – including women & kids – and give free service to all. One of the components for Carnegie building the library was that you prove that your community actually needed one. The Carnegie formula was how you built libraries.

Once Librii decided on Ghana as the first locale for its library, LWB and Librii partnered up, with LWB providing key research into the potential library users. “The partnership is incredibly valuable and generated very helpful reports that Librii couldn’t have done in-house,” Dewane says. As Librii gets closer to implementation, develops a training regime for the on-site librarians, and works through the ethical concerns facing a new library, LWB’s support will be crucial. “We need help from librarians. People like knowledgeable, credible librarians.”


Artist mock up of Librii’s library in Accra, Ghana.

Still needed are more generous donations. Then Librii will be on track to pack up, ship, and open its first library in Accra, providing students and working adults with a space to find information, and strengthen the knowledge of the community.


¡Ayuda a Bibliotecarios Sin Fronteras a conocer tu biblioteca!

Librarians Without Borders está interesada en comprender las necesidades de las bibliotecas en países en vías de desarrollo, especialmente en lo referente a la gestión de sus colecciones. Hemos creado un breve cuestionario para recabar información sobre la realidad de su biblioteca y de esta manera saber cuáles son los problemas más comunes a los que se enfrentan las bibliotecas que necesitan ayuda en todo el mundo.

Su información nos ayudará a desarrollar herramientas para ayudar a nuestros socios y amigos para que puedan dirigir sus bibliotecas. Sus conocimientos y punto de vista profesional son de extremo valor por lo que le agradeceríamos si pudiera regalarnos 20 minutos de su tiempo para compartir con nosotros información sobre su biblioteca.

Si tiene alguna pregunta, por favor contacte con Carmen Ho ( o Stephanie Osley (

El plazo para completar la encuesta es el domingo, 30 de Noviembre de 2014. 

Haga clic aquí para empezar.

Gracias por su valiosa contribución a nuestra labor y por favor, comparta el cuestionario si conoce a alguien más que pudiera ayudarnos!


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Librarians Without Borders signs the Lyon Declaration

It is only natural that Librarians Without Borders, whose mission is to put information in the hands of the world, is proudly signing the Lyon Declaration, an advocacy document calling on United Nations Member States to make information access an international commitment.

The Declaration was drafted in 2014 by a group lead by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), “the leading international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users”, and unveiled  at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress on August 18, 2014. It was created in order to to continue the work of the The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a series of eight points seeking to meet the needs of the world’s poor. Ranging from halting extreme poverty, to stopping the spread of HIV/Aids, to providing universal primary education, the Millennium Development goals period draws to a close in 2015. A new set of world-improvement challenges to accept and act on is necessary.

The Lyon Declaration’s primary statement is simply that “increasing access to information and knowledge across society, assisted by the availability of information and communications technologies (ICTs), supports sustainable development and improves people’s lives.” It’s a belief that LWB lives by and practices every day through support of our partner programs in Ghana and Guatemala, and through student committee outreach in  universities across Canada. Key points of the Declaration reinforce the radical concept that access to information supports development and empowers people to:

  • Exercise their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights
  • Learn and apply new skills
  • Make decisions and participate in an active and engaged civil society
  • Create community-based solutions to development challenges
  • Ensure accountability, transparency, good governance, and empowerment
  • Measure progress on public and private commitments on sustainable development.

IFLA, along with Declaration signatories – including LWB – will work in 2015 to organize events and activities to raise the profile of the Declaration.

We ask you to join us. Advocate access to information as a world priority. Empower underserved and information poor communities.

Make a statement.

Join Librarians Without Borders in signing the Lyons Declaration.

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Curriculum Project: LWB Student Committee Literacy Work on the Thai-Burma Border

Librarians Without Borders’ Kaitie Warren, Founding member and current Co-Chair of LWB’s University of British Columbia iSchool Student Committee, has dedicated herself to supporting the Curriculum Project. The Curriculum Project works to design curricula and provide teacher training for schools serving Burmese exiles and refugees on the Thailand border. Read about how Kaitie got started with the Curriculum Project, and her continuing adventures and support of this service-based group.

Along the Thai-Burma border, hundreds of thousands of people from Burma are away from home for many reasons, including access to education that isn’t available at all or past a basic level. There is a large network of schools along the border, in Thai towns and villages and in nine refugee camps. Curriculum Project is one of the organizations supporting these schools. They focus on post-ten learning centres offering programs to students who have passed high school, and adult education through community organizations.  Curriculum Project writes and distributes course books for a wide range of subjects, including social studies, environment, English language, math, and community development. These books and Curriculum Project’s other resources are very valuable to teachers and students, and in many schools are the only current, relevant materials available. Educational resources are difficult to get in this mostly remote, rural area because of language barriers, an evolving model of rote learning, and a huge lack of funding.

Kaitie Warren with Project Curriculum students.

Kaitie Warren with Project Curriculum students.

I got to know the area through Project Umbrella Burma and over the past three years have spent time teaching at a post-ten school. Recently, as a professional experience project linked to my library science program, I created a collection of resources that add to the Curriculum Project books on General English, Southeast Asia Studies, and Teaching Skills. A resource guide for each of these subjects presents relevant materials for teachers to use in lesson planning, class activities, student assignments, and quizzes. To minimize the amount of internet access required, almost all of the resources can be downloaded or printed.  The materials follow the contents of Curriculum Project books, which teachers are already familiar with and can build on. These resources offer more options to teachers, and the chance for them to present a fuller learning experience to their students.

Project Curriculum students at work.

Project Curriculum students at work.

For more information about LWB student committees, please see our website. And to keep up with LWB’s news and service projects, sign up to receive our newsletter.

SJSU Virtual Internships Announced for Spring 2015

Join the Librarians Without Borders team as an International Programs Assistant or as a Communications Assistant. iSchool students at San José State University (SJSU) can now apply for four virtual Spring 2015 internships on these teams.

Spring 2015 for SJSU iSchool Students

International Programs Assistants will support the work of our programs in Guatemala and Ghana. Depending on the area of interest and experience, the Assistant will work primarily on foundational research projects, which could include: open source software, librarian training programs, digital collection development, literacy programming and grant research.

Communications Assistants will help to raise the visibility of our work by supporting a number of communications projects focused around LWB program areas, research interests, and programming efforts.This multi-platform communications support will include the LWB blog, e-newsletter, social media, marketing, and special events.

Wondering what it’s like to be an intern at LWB? Meet our Fall 2014 interns and hear what they have to say about the experience: Alison Peters, Maryanne Daly-Doran, and Elise Aversa.

LWB is a non-profit organization with strong ties to library science graduate schools. We engage these students in our work using a service-learning model. For example, this 2011 presentation describes two service-learning projects in Costa Rica and Guatemala. The article “International Collaborations: Librarians Without Borders and Librii in Ghana” published in the Canadian Library Association’s Feliciter magazine also features LWB’s work in Ghana in-depth, including the role of student team members. Working with SJSU students is a great fit for the nature of our organization.

LWB Launches New Course at San José State University

Starting Spring 2015, San José State University iSchool students can enroll in a new 2-unit course with Librarians Without Borders. Registration opens on November 4 for LIBR 281: Examination of Global Library Issues Using Project Based Learning. Melanie Sellar, LWB’s Co-Executive Director, will lead the first cohort of students through this unique curricular opportunity.

GLIBR281iven LWB’s priority of mobilizing MLIS students in its programs through service-learning, choosing an experiential approach to the classroom was a natural choice. Project-based learning is a pedagogy that challenges students to learn through engagement in a real problem. The early weeks of LIBR 281 will establish a necessary conceptual foundation and then students will undertake small group investigations of a specific issue derived from an authentic community context of LWB.

The issues students might study include: investigating alternative funding models for libraries; proposing means of supporting local publishing in indigenous languages; designing programs that support early literacy habits in an emerging reading culture; evaluating the potential of participatory action research as a methodology to increase community ownership of a library; designing assessment measures to help a library demonstrate impact to funders; devising virtual training programs for library staff; evaluating open source software solutions against community partner system needs.

Learn more about LIBR 281 here and check out this article about the course. SJSU students, join LWB this Spring 2015!


Help Librarians Without Borders Understand Your Library

Librarians Without Borders is interested in understanding the needs of libraries in developing regions, particularly with respect to managing book collections. We have developed a short survey to gather information about the unique experiences of your library and gain knowledge into the common issues that libraries face in communities of need around the world.

Your input will help us develop tools to aid our current and future partners and friends in managing their libraries. We value your perspective and insight, and we thank you for taking 20 minutes to share with us the context of your library.

If you have any questions, please contact Carmen Ho ( or Stephanie Osley (

The survey will close on Sunday November 30, 2014. Click here to complete.

Thank you for providing valuable input into our work and please share widely!

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Getting to Know LWB: The Interns, Part III

This year, Librarians Without Borders joined forces with San Jose State University (SJSU) in California to offer a service-based learning-model Virtual Internship program. Three students working towards Masters in Library and Information Science at San Jose State’s i-School are interning as Program and Communications Assistants with LWB’ers Melanie Sellar, Founder and Co-Executive Director; Erika Heesen, Membership Director; and Brandie Burrows, Guatemala Limitless Horizons Program Manager. We’ll be chatting, Q&A style, with each of the three students over the next few weeks, to get to know the LWB Interns.

Elise AversaElise Aversa, Guatemala Limitless Horizons Program Assistant

What is your current job title?   I’m Assoc. Librarian at Loyola University Chicago and am the Library Director for the Rome Campus Information Commons…that sounds fancier than it is, we’re really small!

Tell us a little about your education and interests. I did my BA in Psych & Anthro-Soc. back in the Stone Age, but I was undecided about which graduate study to undertake.  It seemed like a good idea to leave my cool apartment in San Francisco, sell my VW and move to Italy before accumulating student debt and obligation.  I’m still here!

What led you to MLIS school?  A kindred spirit did.  Like most future librarians, I would never have thought that this would be my calling and just stumbled into it.  The elementary school librarian where my boys were was so  similar in outlook, sense of humor, politics and powers of observation…even though there is more than a generation between us, we could be twins separated at birth!  I started volunteering at the library and fell in love with it.  Now I’m at a university library and don’t get to do read-alouds, but the feeling is the same.  I love doing random research and the students keep the work fresh and interesting.

vatican libraryWhat do you hope to accomplish with your MLIS?  What is your dream library job?  I did my original library degree at the Vatican Library School, an amazing place for Humanities scholars.  My MLIS from SJSU is updating me with the latest trends and service areas.  My dream job is Information Resource Officer for the State Department working overseas to further library development in other countries. My long term dream is to build from this experience and work to create/better community libraries in developing countries once I can retire.  I see myself in the Solomon Islands, dusting sand off the books!

What was it about LWB that drew you to the internship?  When I caught sight of the name, the lights came on!  It had never occurred to me that I could get a taste of my dream job while going to school.  I’m really happy for the opportunity to learn and think more deeply about best practices in such a different setting.  In my day to day work, I’m responsible for a high tech learning environment where everything is digital and literacy is a given at the college level.  In Chajul, the challenges are very different but the spirit and the aims are THE SAME: getting our users excited about reading, learning and communicating that knowledge back to the community for the greater good.

Name three things that you will take away from your experience with LWB and the virtual internship program?  

  1. Libraries rock!  What an amazing thing a community library is.  Libraries are one of the few things that people have trust in around the world.  That is both a privilege and an obligation.
  2. Librarians have much more in common than they have differences.  No matter who you serve  and where you are, librarians are always trying to think ahead and do an even better job.  I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting them [the Guatemala Limitless Horizons group] in person, but reading through their manual, looking at their goals and watching them rock the house at story time (thank you Brandie and YouTube) tells me that though we don’t speak the same language or have the same histories we have SO MUCH in common.  
  3. They are doing all the right things at Saber sin Limites.  These librarians are doing a great job of building up their library in a sustainable way.  The best practices are in place and they have scaffolded partnerships, goals and projects that can continue to grow realistically.  No library should be an island and we all gain much from sharing experiences and expertise; LWB is a good fit for Saber sin Limites.

What are you reading right now? Do you have a favorite book?  I’m reading Stephen Millett’s Managing the Future.  I really don’t have a favorite, though I could generate a very long and eclectic list of books I have loved!

Getting to Know LWB: The Interns, Part II

This year, Librarians Without Borders joined forces with San Jose State University (SJSU) in California to offer a service-based learning-model Virtual Internship program. Three students working towards Masters in Library and Information Science at San Jose State’s i-School are interning as Program and Communications Assistants with LWB’ers Melanie Sellar, Founder and Co-Executive Director; Erika Heesen, Membership Director; and Brandie Burrows, Guatemala Limitless Horizons Program Manager. We’ll be chatting, Q&A style, with each of the three students over the next few weeks, to get to know the LWB Interns.

Smiley Face HeadshotAlison Peters, Communications Assistant Intern

What is your current job(s) title?  I’m currently a Lead Project Coordinator with HR Options, and a freelance writer for Book Riot.

Tell us a little about your education background and your interests. I love school, and I love reading and writing.  I received my BA in English from University of California, Berkeley, and then hopped right into the full time job stuff with HR Options. At some point I realized that I wanted to continue my writing studies, but also didn’t want to move too far away, so I found (and was lucky to be accepted to!) Mills College, in Oakland, California, where I completed an MFA in Creative Writing.

What about the LWB organization drew you to the organization?  How has your experience been thus far? LWB had me at their title, because my initial professional dream was to be a doctor with Doctors Without Borders. (Dream deferred by Chemistry 1 in college!) When I checked out their website, the group just got more and more interesting. I’m so excited to be interning with a nonprofit group, created by librarians, with the goal of educating and providing library services to communities who otherwise would be sorely lacking. I love that LWB isn’t afraid to go into vastly different communities, in far away countries, with different cultures and languages and ideas about libraries and books, and do the research to help develop programs that will be benefit to the people in that community.

So far, the internship experience has been amazing. LWB is organized, professional, interested in what we’re doing as students and how they can add to our skills, but also using the competencies we bring to the internship. It makes for a beautiful relationship.

At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to pursue your MLIS? I went to a professional job counseling service a few years ago, trying to determine where I wanted to take my career. The counselor was an ex-librarian, which was all I needed to see the signs: I started San Jose State’s MLIS (now i-School) just a semester later! I love the combination of skills I now have: writing, researching, reviewing, with a good dose of customer service, problem solving and troubleshooting for good measure. Virtual school and internships, and writing for Book Riot as part of a virtual team have shown me how many opportunities there are to create the type of work and work/life balance that I’m looking for.

What to you hope to accomplish with your MLIS?  What is your dream library job? I initially went into the MLIS to be a YA or youth librarian, as my best library memories are from my younger days, and I wanted to help give that back to kids. However, the more classes I take the more I realize I like the virtual/online/information aspect of being a librarian – which can actually mean not being a traditional librarian at all. I love that I’m coming across librarians whose focus is social media, outreach, etc. So at this point my dream job would be to work in a communications/online search capacity for a library or similar group, virtually, so that I can continue to write and finish up the degree in the next year.

Name three things you will take away from your experience with LWB and the virtual internship program.

  1. Always ask for nonprofit pricing! When doing research for LWB, it wasn’t in my usual line of questions to ask about special nonprofit pricing or program options. It’s great to know that a lot of companies have them, if you just ask nicely. And to think from the other side of the corporate world, which isn’t something I have a lot of experience with.
  2. A revived passion for social media tools. I was pretty stagnant in my personal social media life, just using Facebook, with passive LinkedIn and Pinterest accounts. Doing the social media research for LWB has given me a huge appreciation for how you can use the sites – including Twitter – to not just place targeted ads, but to really give your readers interesting articles, pictures, facts, blurbs. Essentially, whatever I might find interesting about LWB, chances are our reader population will too.
  3. Virtual work and tools for performing it are better than ever. I’m exploring the many facets of Google, from email, hang-outs, docs with sharing and notification permissions, and calendars. I’m proficient in Skyping and using WebEx, in addition to the Canvas/Blackboard/Collaborate with SLIS, and FaceTime on my iPhone.

What is your favorite book and why? I’m going back to an old favorite, Tar Baby, by Toni Morrison. I love this book for several reasons: one, it brought me close to a very good friend in college, when we both picked this book for our senior thesis project. And it’s just a beautiful book, telling a love story based on a fable, modernized, and still relevant. A beautiful young woman with a troubled family past falls in love with a boy from (essentially) the wrong side of the tracks, and has to chose if she’ll follow her heart or her family’s wishes. But much deeper than that, because – Toni Morrison.

Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

Which leads me to my favorite library, which is actually a close tie between two: the San Rafael branch library in Pasadena, California, where I grew up and where I discovered the joys of books; and the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds Leeds, UK. At San Rafael I haunted the aisles for LM Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott and the sisters Bronte – stories about family and chaste romance were my thing. But at Leeds, studying abroad in college, away from all of my family (and for that matter, my books) I would creep into the domed-ceiling library and find comfort in the African American fiction section, where I became really close with Alice Walker, June Jordan, Paule Marshall – women who spoke to me, comforted me and reminded me of home. Both libraries still hold special places in my heart.

Getting to Know LWB: The Interns

This year, Librarians Without Borders joined forces with San Jose State University (SJSU) in California to offer a service-based learning-model Virtual Internship program. Three students working towards Masters in Library and Information Science at San Jose State’s i-School are interning as Program and Communications Assistants with LWB’ers Melanie Sellar, Founder and Co-Executive Director; Erika Heesen, Membership Director; and Brandie Burrows, Guatemala Limitless Horizons Program Manager. Using all of the virtual tools at their disposal – Skype, WebEx, Google, Only Office, good old phone calls – the interns are hard at work on projects including providing research assistance in support of the new emerging program with Limitless Horizons Ixil in Guatemala, and developing a communications/social media strategy for the group. We’ll be chatting, Q&A style, with each of the three students over the next few weeks, to get to know the LWB Interns.

Maryanne Daly-DoranMaryanne Daly-Doran, Communications Assistant Intern.

What was it about LWB that drew you to the internship?  In my position at the Hartford Public Library, I developed a special interest in the many pre-literate and non-literate (individuals who either speak a language that has no written form, or are illiterate in their native language) individuals who struggle with the literacy component of the naturalization exam. Working with so many individuals who come from countries with little or no library culture led me to evaluate how I had taken the free public libraries in the U.S. for granted. I often times wonder what my life would be like if there were no libraries? Imparting knowledge to an individual is so empowering, I knew when I heard about LWB that I wanted to be a part of it and its mission. I loved the idea of LWB’s service learning model and its goal of narrowing the information divide by supporting librarians in developing countries. To learn about international librarianship has been just an exhilarating experience.

Is this your first internship? How do you find the virtual part? This is the first internship I have participated in at SJSU.  I have found the virtual aspect to be very flexible and instructional as well. I love the regular check-ins with Melanie Sellar and Erika Heesen and their support of our learning experience as well. It is so amazing that there are so many ways to communicate and if one doesn’t work, there are always alternatives. I have learned much about collaboration and my technological skills grow by the day.

What was your experience with social media prior to this internship? How has working with LWB changed your thoughts or approach to social media? Admittedly, my experience with social media prior to this internship was limited to my personal Facebook account and the development of a few Facebook pages for some local school based organizations.  Working with LWB has made me realize how important it is to understand how the use of various social media tools bring value to the non-profit organization.  Social media platforms promote non-profit organization’s information and services, as well as bring people of similar interests together to network.  In developing Best Practice recommendations, I was invited to be an analyst and was able to compare and contrast similar pages as well as to watch the impact of different posts and methods.  I feel I gained invaluable experience first hand and have a much better understanding of strategy.

Weld Public LibraryWhat’s your favorite library, and why? What was your experience with this particular book home? My favorite library would have to be Weld Library in Weld, Maine (Population 340). It was at this library in this tiny town in the Appalachian mountains that I volunteered at the age of 12 with card cataloguing, thus initiating me into the world of libraries! It was in the stacks at this library that I became acquainted with the likes of Pearl Buck, Mark Twain, Tennyson and Poe. The fact that I was able to lose myself in the wondrous world of reading in this tiny, impoverished factory town during my vulnerable years makes this my favorite library, hands down.

What led you to San Jose State’s Library & Information Science program? Where do you see yourself, post-degree? As a child, I initially struggled to learn to read, I remember going into libraries with my mom and seeing the stacks of books that I wasn’t yet able to read. Fortunately, I had two parents who were library proponents and they instilled a love of books and libraries from a young age. When I finally mastered the skill of reading, I read everything I could find and have continued doing so throughout my life. I never take reading for granted and when I work with adults who are illiterate, I often wonder how my life would be if I was not able to read. It’s such a powerful question and I know I take the abundance of libraries in our country for granted at times. I initially entered Law School with the goal of working with underserved and vulnerable populations. While there, I always preferred time in the library over the class and never forgot this. When I was hired many years later at the Hartford Public Library as the program coordinator for the Citizenship Program, I realized how libraries affect change in the communities served.  I was encouraged to pursue my MLIS and the online learning environment made it possible for me to realize my dream.  My ideal job would be to work in literacy programming in underserved populations either here or somewhere else in the world.

What are you reading right now? I am reading two books (of course!). I am listening to The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison and reading Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok. I always have to be listening to a book on tape during my commute to work!

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