Category: Limitless Horizons Ixil

Interview: David, Saber Sin Límites Community Library

By Erica Younglove

Two librarians from Limitless Horizons Ixil in Chajul, Guatemala visited Asturius this week. David and his coworker Marina came to the Teacher Training at Asturias on Monday and helped us prep for Library Day on Tuesday. David took the time to talk to me about his library and position. Here’s what he said:

Q: David, tell me about the library.
A: It works almost the same as here at Asturias but with different activities with the kids. The library originally was part of the school and just for older students. It is now a public library. It serves the whole community – children, teachers, teens, adults.

Q: How long has the library been open?
A: It has been operating as a public library for six years.

Q: How does the library support itself?
A: The community is very poor and doesn’t have a lot of resources. We rely on donations and foreign aid. For example, we provide craft supplies for kids who can’t afford them. Most of those supplies are donated.

Q: What programs does the library provide?
A: Librarians help students with homework, provide one on one tutoring, hold storytimes every Wednesday, and host a reading club. A lot of children speak the indigenous language Ixil not Spanish. So we are helping them learn Spanish and Spanish reading skills. We are helping them form the habit of reading.

Q: How many books do you have?
A: We have 4500 titles but with copies we have 8000 books that circulate.

Q: How many people do you serve?
A: 18,000.

Q: How many people use the library?
A: We have 80-100 kids come into the library everyday. Children like to do their homework at the library because most of them have dirt floors at home. They want to keep their work nice so they do it at the library.

Q: What are your hours?
A: We work 8-5 Monday through Friday. The library is open from 8-11am and 2-4:30pm each day.

Q: Do you have computers?
A: We have two computers but they don’t have Internet. They are only for looking up books in the library.

Q: How does lending work?
A: We mainly lend to students we work with regularly. Patrons that don’t come in frequently we don’t lend to.

Q: Do you have library cards?
A: Yes we do.

Q: Do you have materials in the local language?
A: Yes.

Q: What does your job entail?
A: We help kids, plan activities, and organize materials.

Q: How big is your staff?
A: We just have the two librarians and two volunteers.



Marina, LWB team member Cat Silvers, David.

Q: How long have you been in your position?
A: This is my third year.

Q: What qualified you for the job?
A: I have a teaching certificate and previously worked as a teacher.

Q: What training do you do?
A: This training and others from LWB and the group Child-Aid. And I go to school. Currently I’m studying agriculture at the university. Once I get my degree I hope to help the community improve their farming practice and take advantage of our fertile soil. Right now they only grow corn and beans. I plan to encourage them to plant other things to help improve their diet.

Q: When will you get your degree?
A: I have two or three more years. It is a five year program.

Q: What do you like best about your job?
A: I have a passion for helping kids especially when doing so improves the community. If you start with the young ones they are the ones that will grow up and make the change in the community. I am very thankful for my job. I appreciate LWB coming to help me improve our library and community.

This interview was conducted with the translation assistance of Georgi Bordner.

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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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!


Our Latest Guatemala Program Assistant Report

CommunityBy Vanessa Holm

This semester I was fortunate to be selected for an internship with Librarians Without Borders (LWB) as their International Program Assistant/Guatemala Intern. In this position I was responsible for supporting projects related to their newest partner, Limitless Horizons Ixil (LHI), and specifically the Saber Sin Limites Library in Chajul, Guatemala. I decided to apply for this internship in order to better develop an international perspective of librarianship.

The first project I worked on was the development of a guide to best practices for library programming. In order to do this I applied knowledge learned during my MLIS to the creation and analysis of various training models and then the selection of appropriate learning resources and services. This project involved researching literacy activities for children, as well as reading about how libraries around the world facilitate their storytimes, and also, doing research on culturally appropriate songs, crafts and activities for children in Chajul, Guatemala. From this research I created a report, as well as a PowerPoint presentation, for the librarians in Chajul.

The second project I worked on involved designing a library open house script, including literacy activities, for the Saber Sin Limites Library. In order to begin work on this project I started by meeting with Mark Gelsomino (LWB Co-Executive Director) to discuss library day at Asturias Academy in Guatemala. I then researched methods for improving pre-literacy and early literacy activities for youth as well as approaches to art and other creative activities for engaging pre-literate and literate youth in reading. Based on this research I created an overview, assessment, and recommendations for a dynamic Library Open House to take place at Saber Sin Limites Library.

The final project I worked on involved developing instructional materials and facilitating training for Guatemalan librarians. This included researching training and certification courses; the focus of this project was to do preliminary research on how LWB could deliver training remotely to partner libraries. I began by doing research on methods for improving pre-literacy and early literacy activities for youth and researching the pros/cons of various training models. I also surveyed how other nonprofits provide asynchronous and synchronous training remotely for international partners. From this research I developed a list of possible approaches that LWB could undertake which also included my general recommendations.

Overall, I had an excellent experience working with LWB. I hope that the work I did was relevant and useful to the organization, as well as their partner, LHI, the librarians at Saber Sin Limites, and most importantly, the community of Chajul.


*Guatemala photo and Limitless Horizons logo courtesy of Limitless Horizons Ixil.

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 


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

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!

Virtual Internships Available for SJSU SLIS

Join the Librarians Without Borders team as a Guatemala Program Assistant or as a Communications Assistant. Students in the School of Library & Information Science at San José State University (SJSU) can now apply for four virtual Fall 2014 internships on these teams.


New LWB Internships

Guatemala Program Assistants will support the work of our emerging program in Guatemala with the Limitless Horizons Ixil Community Library. Depending on the area of interest and experience, the Assistant will work primarily on foundational research projects for the Limitless Horizons community library focused on collection development strategies, library evaluation and impact measures, or literacy programming.

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.

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 presentation describes two service-learning projects in Costa Rica and Guatemala (as of 2011). 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.










Meet (and hear) the 2014 Guatemala Team!

Over the past week, our intrepid travelers have been writing, sending photos and sharing blogs. Now it’s time to meet the 2014 team. Instead of traditional biographies, this year’s team decided to do something a little bit different. Not only did they create their own mini bios, they recorded them. Click on the link below each photo to hear a personal introduction from each of our team members.


Alex Cuadrado – Spain


Cate Carlyle – Halifax, Canada


Christina Wilson – Toronto, Canada


Cynthia Palacios – Los Angeles, United States of America


Dee Winn – Vancouver, Canada


Edie Daniel – Oklahoma City, United States of America


Jaq-Lin Larder – Halifax, Canada


Jorge Rivera – Toronto, Canada


Kathryn Darnall – Austin, United Stated of America


Mairead Mooney – Cork, Ireland


Rachel MacDonald – Seattle, United States of America


Sarah Dahlen – Seaside, United States of America

Farewell Asturias Academy, Hello Limitless Horizons Ixil!

After a whirlwind week helping out the wonderful kids at Asturias Academy, it’s time to move onto the next leg of our trip. We’d like to thank the amazing staff at Asturias, especially Mr. Jorge Chojolan, the school’s head administrator. Here’s a few mini retrospectives of our past week.

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Check it Out: Book Lending in Guatemala

By Cynthia Palacios

Today was an important day for the 6th graders at the Asturias Academy. Volunteer Cynthia Palacios discussed with students the characteristics of lending libraries and how their library would start lending them books. Students participated in a demonstration of how to browse, select and check out a library book. In addition students also learned about proper maintenance of the books. Asturias Academy has a small collection compared to North American libraries, and reading books for pleasure in Guatemala is rare, making this initial lending event all the more significant. Students learned how to take care of the books, as damaged or lost books will be nearly impossible to replace. There was excitement in the air as students selected and checked out their books.

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First Impressions: Day One at Asturias

By Cate Carlyle

My first impression of Xela was that of a bustling community full of storefronts, children playing in the streets, dogs wandering aimlessly and bicycle vendors selling fresh fruit. Walking to the Asturias Academy to meet the director, Jorge, for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. Once inside, I was enthralled with the school he has created in response to the poverty, violence and inequality plaguing his homeland. The Miguel Angel Asturias Library, and its wonderful librarian, Dorita, are supported by Librarians Without Borders and provide a wealth of resources for these kids who need it most. In a country where children may read one book a year at most, the Asturias students are reading five or six books a year. I am so honoured to be a part of this incredible journey.

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My Thoughts on Library Day

by Rachel McDonald

The programming team has put our collective experience and knowledge together to come up with a fantastic slate of programs for the students at Miguel Angel Asturias Academy. Students in 4th – 8th grades participated in a comic jam, inspired by the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, which is very popular here. Students were given comic templates with several prompts and asked to illustrate what they liked about the library. Each student had 2 minutes to fill in a panel on a comic before passing it to the next student.

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As much as we loved our time in Xela (Quetzaltanango), we’re very excited to be heading to a new library in the mountain town of Chajul. We’ll spend the next few days with our new friends and partners Limitless Horizons Ixil. Check back soon for updates on the second leg of our trip!

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