Libraries as tools for change: My experience with Librarians Without Borders in Guatemala

Posted: June 26, 2013 in Librarians Without Borders
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Carolyne Ménard explaining activities for Library Day to a group of students at the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in Guatemala.  / Photo courtesy of Carolyne Ménard.

Carolyne Ménard explaining activities for Library Day to a group of students at the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in Guatemala. / Photo courtesy of Carolyne Ménard.

Congratulations to Carolyne Menard, the Co-Chair of McGill University’s Librarian’s Without Borders Committee! The McGill Reporter has just published Carolyne’s in depth reflections of her recent service trip to Guatemala. Read an excerpt below then follow the link for the full article.

By Carolyne Ménard

This past April, I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala with Librarians Without Borders (LWB), a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of equal access to information resources. Librarians Without Borders has student chapters in many Canadian universities – such as McGill – and its volunteers are either librarianship students or professional librarians. LWB sees libraries as tools for powering development and reducing inequalities in the world by providing information access to everyone, regardless of where they live or what their socioeconomic background is.

Since 2009, LWB has maintained a partnership with the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy, a primary and high school in Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in Guatemala. Founded in 1994, the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy’s goal is to break the poverty cycle in Guatemala by providing an alternative education to its students, based on the pedagogy of Brazilian activist Paulo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

At the school, students learn and analyze the situation in which they live, they criticize it and they take actions to change it. The school also aims to provide education to social groups often marginalized by the Guatemalan education system: the poor, the women and the indigenous communities. The ultimate goal of the school’s director and founder, Jorge Chojolán, is that the Asturias Academy could implement a social change in Guatemala through the involvement of its students in their community and their will to make their country a more equal place.

Since the Asturias’ curriculum is not identical to the official program of the minister of education, it cannot receive any subventions from the Guatemalan government. To solve this problem, it relies mostly on partnerships with international non-profit organizations, such as LWB. Since the start of its partnership, LWB has been sending participants each year to work in the school’s library. The school’s library offers a nice reading space for students and is very well maintained by the librarians, who are also volunteers. The library was actually built by LWB in 2009, starting with a modest collection of 30 books. Four years later, it now has more than 3,000 books, thanks to donations from individuals, organisations and LWB’s annual trips.

Read the rest of Carolyne’s insights as originally published in the McGill Reporter: Libraries as Tools For Change

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