Archive | December, 2012

Libraries in Paraguay

8 Dec

Those of you who know me probably know I’m a reader and a library-holic. Serving in the Peace Corps has been a great opportunity to put a dent in my “to read” list (up around 110 books read so far during my service) but it has also been an eye opener about how much we in the United States take our libraries for granted. I miss my libraries (Warren-Newport, Cook Memorial and Douglas County) on a daily basis. I could go to them for work-related information, the latest science fiction novel, help and book recommendations from a librarian, a comfy place to accomplish work, a connection to the World Wide Web, interesting programs, and the pleasure of perusing the stacks on a treasure hunt for the unknown.

Most people in Paraguay don’t have access to any of those things because libraries are either non-existent or inadequate (lack of staff, lack of training, lack of resources, lack of knowledge, and lack of interest).

My town’s library – created with the help of another Peace Corps volunteer in 2009 – one of the finest in the country.

I am fortunate to live in a town in Paraguay that has a public library (a rarity) but a lack of training on the part of the staff and a lack of motivation to read on the part of normal Paraguayans means that this incredible resource is heartbreakingly underused. I have been working with the library during my service to incorporate technology in promotion and cataloging and have started a reading club, camps and other activities to promote interest in reading. These have turned out to be some of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on.

monster masks

My reading club with their “Where the Wild Things Are” monster masks.

reading and culture camp kids

Reading and Culture Camp kids using reference books to do country reports.

Last May I brought one of the library staff to a national library workshop, where we both learned a lot about how to make our library better and how to engage our community. After the workshop, we both came back energized to make changes. This year I decided that I needed to see this library workshop continue and grow, so I am serving as one of the coordinators for the 2013 event.

library workshop participants

Library workshop 2012 participants

The 2013 Library Workshop will bring together 30 Paraguayan librarians (from school libraries and public libraries, as well as communities looking to start a library) along with 30 Peace Corps volunteers for two days of presentations and hands-on activities. Participants will learn about a variety of topics including managing their libraries, motivating readers, obtaining resources, using technology, and caring for and repairing materials. I am extremely excited to be working on this project and feel it will be a memorable and meaningful way to begin to wrap up my service.

If you like the sound of this workshop, you can help us make it happen. We have obtained a quarter of the funds needed for the workshop through local fundraising and are trying to raise the remaining funds (around $2400) through a Peace Corps Partnership Proposal. You can review the project and make a tax deductable donation on the project website:

Thanks for following me on this journey everyone, and thanks for your support!