Category: News

Call for Volunteers: Guatemala 2016 Service Trip


Service Trip Description 

Every Spring since 2010 LWB travels to the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala to execute our remote work on the ground, to discuss emerging needs with our partners, and to re-connect with the students and school staff. We invite you to join us and work alongside us this year from April 22 to May 2, 2016.

This year’s work at the Academy will include ongoing collection management activities (cataloguing, processing, and organizing materials) and information literacy/outreach programming for students and teachers. LWB works with Asturias to also provide opportunities for trip participants to engage in activities that will help nurture a comprehensive understanding of libraries, education and culture in Guatemala. Typically trip participants are also given the opportunity to help finalize the last weekend activity (for example, visit scenic Lake Atitlán or trek to one of Guatemala’s volcanic peaks).

Primary Projects

  • Continued support of ILS implementation and lending system at the Asturias Academy through collection management support.
  • Information literacy and outreach programming targeting all students and levels through multi-day library events.
  • Professional development workshops for teachers supporting library integration into the curriculum.

Housing and Food
While in Quetzaltenango (Xela), participants will stay and eat most of their meals at the COFA Catholic Retreat Centre. On the weekends meals are eaten with a local family or at local restaurants. Vegetarian options will be available.

All trip volunteers are expected to:

  • Attend online meetings (3-4) to discuss projects and receive training on the Asturias Library and the local community context. 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 surveys).

Program Fees
The program fee is $1500 CAD* (= ~$1080 USD) for 11 days. This total covers lodging, food, transportation and entrance to all activities within Guatemala, as well as a fundraising fee to support LWB’s Guatemalan programs. Trip participants are responsible for paying their own airfare to and from Guatemala.

There is a $500 CAD non-refundable deposit due by all accepted applicants by March 3. The remainder of the fees ($1000 CAD) can be paid at the same time or by March 10*.

In addition, all trip participants are expected to bring extra spending money for additional purchases such as souvenirs and snacks, as well as occasional meals in Guatemala ($50-100 is adequate).

Important Dates

  • Guatemala Information Meeting (online) – February 9
  • Application Deadline – February 23
  • Successful applicants selected and notified – February 29
  • $500 CAD* non-refundable deposit due – March 3
  • $1000 CAD* (remainder of program fees) – March 10

*Note: The $1500 CAD may be revised to a new final figure if a significant change in exchange rate occurs. This information would be published by March 3.

How to apply: Submit a completed Volunteer Application to by February 23. Thank you!

Thank you for a great year!

Thank you for making 2015 such a great year! It was our tenth anniversary, and we accomplished a lot thanks to you – and all of our supporters and members!

This was our fifth year partnering with the Asturias Academy in Guatemala. During this year’s service trip, we taught the students all about the library with an action-packed Library Day, brought books and catalogued materials in the library, and introduced new professional development for teachers.

Jasmin, one of this year’s trip participants, speaks about what she took away from the trip:

We also began a new partnership with Limitless Horizons Ixil in Chajul, Guatemala, and helped automate some of their work in order to free up the librarians for more individual support of community members.

We’re looking forward to making 2016 one of our best years yet! Thank you from all of us here at LWB.

Click here for donation information and options.

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Librarians rock. Help us add them!

Instead of shopping Cyber Monday sales or buying an expensive present, make a donation to Librarians Without Borders this holiday season. You’ll get a card for your family member, friend, or co-worker—and you’ll have given a gift that truly makes a difference. Choose your gift below!



LWB was founded by a group of socially-minded librarians who wanted to address the vast information resource inequity existing between different regions of the world. We form partnerships with community organizations to build sustainable libraries and support their custodians and advocates—librarians. Support LWB’s mission to improve access to information by making a general donation.
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Librarians are the key piece to making a library work.This is what LWB is all about – the unique skills that librarians offer. Your donation helps supply our local library partners with technical skills and training, and tools like barcode scanners and digital library catalogues. With your support, these librarians will be able to make a difference in their communities.
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Love libraries? We do too – and we teach children and teachers all about libraries and how they can use them! Your donation will go towards our information literacy programs in Guatemala.
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Looking for other ways to support LWB? Check out this page for how to join, wear your support, and more!

Libraries in Xela, Guatemala

By Kerry Purvis, LWB Service Trip Participant

This year’s LWB service trip participants had the chance to visit three different libraries in Quetzaltenango (or Xela), Guatemala. The majority of the trip was spent at the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy school library, and there were also short visits to the library of the Bank of Guatemala, and the Quetzaltenango Public Library run by the municipal government.


The Miguel Angel Asturias Academy school library is very similiar to school libraries seen in Canada and the United States. It is located in the school and serves students from pre-kindergarten to high school, and their teachers as well. The collections includes fiction and nonfiction titles, mostly in Spanish with some in Kiché or English, and they are separated by reading level. Students cannot check out books yet, unless they need them overnight for an assignment, but the library is working to create a checkout system for students. This makes the library very unique because most Guatemalan libraries do not have circulating collections. The library is very cozy and includes tables and floor cushions where students can read. Each classroom visits the library once a week. Students check out books and have story time with Dorita the librarian or with their teacher if Dorita is helping a student find books. Some students also spend extra time in the library to work on their reading with Dorita. Both students and teachers enjoy the library and love visiting it every week.


The library of the bank of Guatemala is located next to the bank in the Quetzaltenango town square. Upon arrival the librarian greeted the trip participants and shared some details about the bank. It is open the same hours as the bank and is mostly used by adults. Many of the patrons are students or business people using the library. Some patrons use materials from the collection while others use the space to study with materials they bring from outside the library. The library’s collection is closed stacks. Patrons ask for materials and the librarian locates them and brings them to the patrons. Materials do not circulate. Only the librarian can take books off the shelves. The library does include a card catalog that patrons can use to look up titles. During our visit we saw many patrons working quietly at tables and patrons asking the librarian questions.


The public library is also located near the town square. When we arrived one of the librarians greeted us and took us on a tour of the library. She showed us the different locations of the collection. The building used to be a jail and much of the collection is kept where the jail cells existed. Each cell area includes a different section of the collection. The books are kept behind a gate and only librarians take them out of the cell. If a patron wants a book there is a list of titles they can look over, then they go to the librarian’s desk to request the book they want. Patrons then can use the books in the library only. The library serves both adults and children and also includes a children’s collection.

Interview: Dorita on her role at the Asturias library

by Kerry Purvis, LWB Guatemala Service Trip 2015 participant

During the Librarians Without Borders 2015 service trip I had the privilege of interviewing Dorita, the librarian at the Miguel Ángel Asturias Academy. I asked her questions about the library and its role in the school.


How long have you worked in the library?
For three years as the librarian. I worked as a teacher for four years, then I left because of an illness. In 2012 I returned to become the librarian.

Why do you think it’s important to have a library at the school?
It’s so important because it helps students with vocabulary and with reading. In this country there aren’t a lot of opportunities to have extra help with reading. Guatemalan schools have a reading curriculum but they don’t usually have libraries. Libraries offer that additional help.

Let’s talk about your role with the teachers. Do the teachers come to the library to ask you to look for books for their classes?
Yes, they come often.

Do teachers look for books on their own, or do they ask you for help?
It depends. Some ask for help, some don’t. The new teachers ask for help because using the library is new to them.

How do you communicate with teachers? Do they come to the library to speak with you?
The school staff have meetings on Monday afternoons and I recommend books to the teachers. I recommend books that follow the school’s monthly theme. Teachers also come to the library to ask me questions.

What books did you recommend this month?
This month’s theme is ecology and one of the titles I recommended was El Mago Que Salvó El Mundo (The Magician Who Saved the World).

How do you encourage teachers to use the library?
At the beginning of the year the new I do an orientation with the new teachers. One thing I do is show them how to read to their classes.

Can teachers check out books like the kids can? For how long?
Yes they can. Teachers can check books out for one week. I keep index cards with each teacher’s name, and when they want to check out a book they tell me the book’s title and I write it down on the index card. When they return the book I cross the name out on the card.


Do you read out loud to the students in the library or do the teachers?
It depends. Sometimes I do, sometimes they do. Sometimes teachers read to their classes if I am helping a child. Teachers stay with their class when they come to the library so I can help children who want to find books.

What’s your favorite thing about working at the library?
I like working with the kids, especially helping those who haven’t been to school yet or who can’t write. For instance, I work with one student one-on-one once a week for an hour and we play games to help him with his reading. Sometimes he comes more than once a week if he needs more help.

Annual General Meeting: July 29, 2015

Librarians Without Borders is hosting our 10th Annual General Meeting

Members: Please join us to hear about LWB work over the last year.

Date: Wed, July 29, 2015

Time: 6:00-7:30 pm EST

Place: Online via web conference

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Our AGM will be held as a webinar to allow members near and far to participate. The instructions for registration will be sent via email to all of our members later this week. If you do not get your AGM package and invite, please contact to request a new email be sent. We look forward to convening with you.

Join our Team: Accepting Nominations for Executive Leadership

Librarians Without Borders’ 2015 Annual General Meeting (AGM) is soon approaching, and with it comes elections of particular Executive positions as required by our bylaws. Download and read the job descriptions below for more information about what we’re looking for and how to apply.

Executive Team

Co-Executive Director (1 position)


Membership Director

To Apply

Read the application instructions in the job descriptions, complete the materials, and send to no later than July 17, 2015. Please direct all questions to

Candidate summaries will be disseminated to the membership in the AGM package prior to the AGM and candidates will be voted into office by LWB members who attend the AGM and those who have voted by proxy.

Executive Team

Collection Development at the Asturias Academy


By Kerry Purvis

The 2015 Librarians Without Borders Collection Development team did some great work at the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy this year! This year the project focused on cataloging newly purchased books, reclassifying teacher resource materials, and mending damaged books. All five team members received training on the cataloging system prior to the trip and put the training to use on site.

Before arriving at the Asturias Academy the team stopped by the Piedra Santa publishing company in Guatemala City where they purchased 19 books to add to the library’s collection, and where trip participants purchased additional books individually to donate. The team added a total of 56 new books to the collection.

The team was responsible for classifying the books, adding a call number and adding stickers to the books to explain their reading level and genre. They referred to a Spanish Dewey list when adding call numbers. The school’s books are cataloged by Dewey subjects only and they do not go past the decimal point. After assigning a call number they began by dividing the books into three reading levels, beginner, intermediate, and advanced.The team then selected the genre of the book, assigned the book a reading level, and added color-coded labels. Once the book had a call number and its labels the team then referred the school’s master inventory of 4,851 items to see if there was already a copy of the book in the collection. The school’s librarian Dorita maintains the entire catalog in an Excel spreadsheet. Following that the team then wrote on the back of the cover the reading level (P, I, A), call number, first three letters of the author or editor, and copy number if there was more than one copy.

The team took on several side projects as well. Some of the books were translated into Spanish to make them bilingual books. These were pictures books that had plenty of space to add additional English text. The team also reclassified teacher resource materials, which had been in a separate category. The category was eliminated and and reclassified as advanced books.

A future goal of the collection development team is to help the library create a collection development policy.

Click below to see Alexandra Ferguson talks about Asturias Collection Development



Join Our Team: Automation Specialists

LWB is recruiting two Automation Specialists to help a Guatemalan library scale to serve more community members in the rural, mountainous town of Chajul, Guatemala. The library has a great problem: a quickly growing patron base! Because its processes are mostly manual, LWB is working with them to automate some of their work in order to free up the librarians for more individual support of community members.

Chajul’s largely indigenous population was a significant target of atrocities — including massacres and scorching of villages — committed during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war. The legacy of these atrocities lives on, although a Mayan resurgence, which aims to exalt and give voice to Mayan people locally and nationally, is growing.

Education is critical to this Mayan empowerment, but due to a lack of Spanish / literacy skills in the region generations of Maya Ixil Guatemalans remain unable to advocate for themselves, access key resources, attain good jobs, or support Spanish literacy development in their children.

To help address the community’s education needs, Limitless Horizons Ixil established the Saber sin Límites Community Library in 2010. This is the first and only library to serve the 20,000 people in Chajul. The library provides critical access to reading materials and related literacy educational programs for its 1,600 members, whose numbers continue to grow.

The LWB Automation Specialists will help LHI automate some of its processes so that it can continue to scale and serve even more community members. The four-month project (June to September 2015) will focus on a patron library-card scanning system, and will culminate in the delivery of software plus a barcode scanner that LWB will deploy in its site visit to Chajul at the end of September.

Please download and read the job description here, as well as information about how to apply: Automation Specialists Job Description. Join our team and contribute to this meaningful work!


Bringing the Library into the Classroom


At the request of Jorge Chojolan and the teachers at the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy, this year marks the first service trip where LWB offered a professional development workshop for the staff of the school.

“When I was here three years ago, the library was set up and the kids were starting to get comfortable with the space and the books. Once we reached that milestone, there was a new need – to bring teachers into the library and get them comfortable with integrating the library into their curriculum”, said Xenia Kourgouzova, project lead.

Referred to as ‘Library Day 2.0’, the main goal was to have a discussion with the Asturias teachers about how they could incorporate the library and its resources into their lessons and their classrooms, and about the importance of the library in improving student performance.

“The goal was not to teach teachers how to teach. The goal was to provide them with some ideas of how they could use the library and interest their students in using the library”, added Kourgouzova.

The members of the Professional Development team were Rebecca Lahr, Natalie Baur, and Stephanie Anderson.

After an introduction by Jorge, the agenda for the two hour workshop was:

Library as a Lab & the ‘Flipped’ Classroom (Natalie)
Leading to the brainstorming session in the second half of the workshop, Natalie talked about the concept of using the library as a place for discovery and innovation, and ‘flipping’ the classroom to have the students lead their learning and do research based on their own questions.

Guided Research (Rebecca)
Following Natalie, Rebecca discussed how the teachers could help guide their students to find the answers to their questions.

Early Literacy ( Stephanie)
Stephanie talked about the definition of early literacy, its importance, and demonstrated an example phonological awareness activity using books from the Asturias library.

Values Education (Xenia)
Xenia used examples from the Olympic Values Education Program Toolkit to demonstrate how topics such as excellence, friendship, and respect can be presented to the students in the form of activities and how they can help cultivate joy of effort, fair play, respect for others, pursuit of excellence and enhance balance between body, will and mind.

Brainstorming Exercise
The teachers then broke into two groups to brainstorm how they could use the library as an incubator or lab for learning.

The teachers agreed that in order to use the library in this way, they would need to change their thinking to be more creative. Some of their ideas were:
puzzles and educational games for the library, e.g those that would teach shapes
use the library for vocabulary lessons, e.g. ask their students to find a particular word in a book in the library, read a passage from a book and discuss the words that they don’t know, or keep a journal of new words they’ve learned.
hold a science fair or math olympics in the library
have the students create their own plays

As part of the exercise, the teachers also discussed what resources they would need to bring their ideas to life so that those needs could be integrated into a future collections plan for the library.

“The main feedback after the workshop from the teachers was that they all were very excited about trying to use the library as a laboratory”, said Kourgouzova.

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