Archive | May, 2013

National Library Workshop

13 May

I had the pleasure of serving at the co-coordinator of this year’s Peace Corps Paraguay National Library Workshop, which was held May 3rd and 4th in Ypacarai. This event helped over 40 librarians and volunteers from all over Paraguay learn new ideas and strategies to improve their libraries.

Library Workshop participants

I attended the Library Workshop last year and because I find libraries so important to development, and work with one in my site, I volunteered to coordinate the event this year. I recruited the fabulous Marilu and Stephanie to help serve as my co-coordinators. The three of us planned a jam-packed event, using community input to generate session content. We also worked together to do a Peace Corps Partnership fundraising drive. Thanks to over 30 fantastic supporters in the United States, we were able to raise 70 percent of the funds to put on the event (the rest of the money was donated by local community members). Additionally, we received support from local organizations, including the National Secretary of Culture, Fondec, and the United States Embassy in Paraguay, who generously donated books which we raffled off throughout the event.

A small selection of the more than 400 books that were donated to the event!

We began the planning process for the workshop last October, sending out a survey to stakeholders to get ideas on session topics for the event. We also started the fundraising process. Early this year we began to flesh out the schedule and find other Peace Corps volunteers, as well as Paraguayans to present at the workshop. I then got to work planning my own sessions (I presented or co-presented 4 times!). In the weeks approaching the event we called all hands on deck to make some fantastic low-cost decorations (thanks Vicky and Molly for your help!). We were able to donate these posters and displays to attending libraries. We also got to use them at the event to show how something very low cost can make a big difference in the attractiveness of a library space.

Interactive display asking attendees to put their favorite book and what they are currently reading on these bookshelves.

10 Ways to Make Yourself a Better Reader poster. You’ll notice that 1 to 10 all say READ.

Quote from one of my favorite books, La Sombra del Viento (Shadow of the Wind).

These 3-D letters saying READ also served to hide all the cords and whatnot on the a/v table.

During the event we had presentations on the responsibilities of a librarian, creating welcoming and attractive spaces, promoting reading (through camps, clubs, theater and homemade books), library marketing, book repair, digital cataloging systems, library organization, obtaining donations, and finding community resources.

Stephanie, Marilu and I do a little acting to start off the workshop, demonstrating the characteristics of a good (and bad) librarian.

Stephanie and I present the responsibilities of a librarian and how to make your library a more attractive space.

A presenter from the National Secretary of Culture talks about national resources to promote reading and culture.

Participants get into Marilu’s small group session on using theater to promote reading.

I present a small group session on promoting reading using camps and clubs.

Ian led a small group session on using homemade books to promote reading.

My session on library marketing.

Connie and Meg’s hands-on book repair session.

Tom presents on donations and fundraising.

Marilu presents on generating community support.

Stephanie discusses library organization.

The closing speaker, author Moncho Azuaga, discussed the importance of libraries in Paraguay and how libraries can create life-long readers.

Moncho Azuaga talks about libraries in Paraguay.

We had some big raffle giveaways at the end of the event, so that librarians left, not only with new ideas, but with some great new books for their patrons.

Participants Joaquin and Vivi with new books for their library.

Sara won a copy of the Harry Potter series in Spanish to bring back to her community.

Participants gave the workshop high marks and left feeling motivated to apply their new knowledge and skills back in their communities.

Participants from Capilla Cue with their certificates, pose with their volunteer Matt and our awesome Peace Corps Literacy Coordinator, Claire.

Here are some highlights from the participant evaluations:

I had very little experience with libraries before attending this event but I will definitely put this new knowledge to work organizing writing contests and theater events in my library.

In my community we don’t have a library, but this workshop provided me the help I need to complete my dream of starting one.

I am leaving this event very motivated. I want to organize the library, make the room more attractive, restart the reading club and show other organizations how to generate support for the project.

This workshop motivated me to realize that you can do many activities without having many resources.

Learning in progress.

An employee of Paraguay Lee (Paraguay Reads), an NGO that promotes reading in Paraguay, attended the event and was so impressed that her organization has expressed interest in replicating the workshop all over Paraguay. I hope this comes to fruition.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the help of all of the donors to our Peace Corps Partnership grant. Marilu, Stephanie and I would like to say a great big THANK YOU to each and every one of you. It was incredibly touching to receive your support. We want you to know that your donations helped librarians from all over Paraguay gain new skills, as well as the motivation and empowerment to go back to their libraries and spark an interest in reading among the members of their communities. Kids and youth across Paraguay will especially benefit, with more friendly and accessible libraries, and new programming, such as clubs, camps and theater.

The event participants can say this way better than me! Muchas gracias (many thanks) to the incredible donors who helped make this event possible!

This was an incredibly rewarding project for me to take the lead on and I look forward to watching this workshop continue to flourish in the coming years.