by Rachel Peachey
Our library is growing! In late January of this year, I embarked on a project without much to go on besides personal interest and the hopes that someday there will be a real, big functioning library in the town where we live.
The small town in Guatemala where we live has a lovely, bustling market full of fruits vegetables and just about anything you can imagine, except books. I quickly realized upon arriving here that books simply aren’t a part of the local culture. No bookshelves are to be found in anyone’s house. Children don’t enjoy picture books before bedtime. The most commonly found item for reading is the newspaper, and even that is usually only found in businesses like barber’s shops and doctor’s offices where you have to wait for service.
Since making this realization, I have dreamed of opening a bookshop or library to give reading and books more presence in the community. Six years after moving here, my husband gave me a kick in the butt and told me to get started! I talked to the local priest about using space at the church for a library for children. Happily, he had the same dream! Now, we work with a group of young adult volunteers to provide a library program 3 days a week.
To give you an idea, we started with about 30 books. That’s it. A library of 30 books, you ask? Well, you have to start somewhere. Books are expensive in this economy, so we started with cheap paperback picture books. Through donations from family members and friends here and abroad, we’ve grown to include nearly 300 books and a fairly large bookshelf. Children enjoy doing puzzles, drawing and most of all, reading and being read to.
We hope to grow much bigger to expand our audience and include books for adolescents and adults as well. Once we get big enough, we’ll begin lending the books out to community members. At this point, users read on site and enjoy organized activities.
It’s been an amazing journey so far and I can’t wait to see how it continues to develop.