Last Thursday we visited a library in a little mountain town called Chiche. It´s a library that was founded by the Riecken Foundation which is funded by a wealthy venture capitalist in the US and run here in Guatemala by a former Peace Corps volunteer.
When you walk in you are greeted by a changing exhibit that features a theme and books about that theme. And you are cheered by color everywhere — walls painted different colors and enormous colorful 3D paper flowers — very fun. This is in contrast to most libraries in this country that have closed stacks and bare hospital-like walls.
We got to sit in on story hour and watched as Myra the former volunteer and now librarian read to the kids, skillfully engaging them with questions about what they thought would happen next.
Alba the head librarian began her work as the secretary of the local board of directors that desired to bring a library to the town. It took them and the local community FOUR years to convince the municipality to pay for a librarian. Arguments against the library included it doesn´t bring in any money and it takes up retail space… Alba told us, "You have to fight for your community."
Riecken has a number of requirements for a community before it will put in money to help build and furnish a library. They include, among others, community and municipality involvement. This way it is the community´s library and not Riecken´s.
Before the kids arrived…