Category: News

Cultivate a Love of Libraries: Give to Librarians Without Borders

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Dear LWB Friends and Supporters,

This holiday season share your love of libraries, literacy, and education by giving to Librarians Without Borders.

Your monetary gift helps our organization continue to do great work in global communities like Guatemala and Ghana. Our volunteers, comprised of librarians and LIS students from North America and Europe, work with our program partners  to provide library services, collections, and literacy programs for communities like Chajul, Guatemala, where the indigenous Mayan Ixil children and their families live in poverty after Guatemala’s 36-year civil war left the community devastated.

At the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, our focus is on developing the school library to provide resources and programs for students and their families, and making reading as fundamental and educational as we know it can be. Over the last five years, LWB has funded two professional librarians to work at the Asturias Academy; created literacy programs for students; provided materials for teachers to use in the classroom; and, during our annual Service Trips, hosted a “Library Day” celebration. With LWB’s support, the Asturias Library is now the heart of the school. We are endlessly proud to report that with our work and the donations of our supporters, the Library is now officially lending books to students with community-lending as our next target. Closed stacks are the norm in Guatemala, so this is unprecedented!

Guatemala’s Limitless Horizons Ixil, which LWB began partnering with in 2013, works tirelessly to educate a community where only 2.5% of adults are formally educated. LHI works with community youth to develop the skills they need to provide for their families and to make a positive change in the community. The Saber Sin Límites (Limitless Knowledge) Community Library opened in 2010 as the first and only community library in Chajul.  The library connects 1,500 members with 3,800 books, sees 250 unique visitors each week and hosts an astounding 80 children at story hour. LWB is proud to work with LHI to continue to develop the capacity of the library to serve the community and to provide training for its emerging librarians.

And finally, in 2015 we’ll provide support as our partner Librii opens their first library in Accra, Ghana. With LWB’s complementary expertise researching library services created specifically for urban Accra, Librii has seen their vision for a community library take shape in the form of re-purposed shipping container. Stocked with computers and information resources, Librii will provide customized digital and print content, with services localized to the community’s needs.

There’s more to come. You can help by donating to Librarians Without Borders.

Give a donation as a gift on behalf of someone special, and we’ll send a personalized thank you email and letter by mail. And if you’d like to spread the word about LWB, we’ve got a special holiday line of LWB swag featuring a very happy snowman that makes a perfect gift.

Thank you for your support.

~Librarians Without Borders 



LWB and Ranganathan’s Laws of Library Science

Librarians all over the world celebrate S. R. Ranganathan, whose Five Laws of Library Science, developed in India in the early 1930s, remain the code of honor that librarians live, and practice, by.

Ranganathan was born in a small town in British-ruled India, initially studying and teaching mathematics. When the University of Madras created a University Librarian position, Ranganathan studied up (via the Encyclopedia Brittanica), and impressed the University enough to be offered the position. To gather more information on his new profession, Ranganathan travelled to University College London and became immersed with developing a new, simpler system of book classification. The outcome was the system of colon classification, still in use today.

Ranganathan’s return to India coincided with the release of Mahatma Gandhi from prison, and, after his time studying Western librarianship in London, Ranganathan developed his Five Laws of Library Science. The laws were, and remain, significant for their focus on open, equal access to library services for everyone. The laws are:

Books are for use.
Every reader his [or her] book.
Every book its reader.
Save the time of the reader.
The library is a growing organism.

LWB, as a group that strives to improve access to information resources regardless of language, geography, or religion by forming partnerships with community organizations in developing regions, embraces Ranganathan.

Join us on Facebook over the next few weeks as we explore Ranganathan’s Five Laws through the work of LWB and our partner programs. Open access, in action.

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, 07 de diciembre 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 – Survey Deadline Extended!

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 Sunday December 7, 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!

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