Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I found an amazing article today, and an amazing quote. I was flipping through the November issue of American Libraries and came upon their international section. The title of the article was Have MLS, Will Travel. It was an interview of several people working in school libraries around the world: Vietnam, Bolivia, Saudia Arabia, Hong Kong, the Phillippines, etc.

It started off:
Here are four questions that could change your life: Do you like to travel and have a spirit of adventure? Are you interested in learning firsthand about other cultures? Do you enjoy being a librarian but want a change from your current position? Have you considered becoming a librarian in an international school?
Hmm, very interesting... In an interview with one woman, her reason for going abroad was:
“A friend reminded me that I had been interested in mission work years before and maybe this was the time to trust God and make the move,” she says. That “move” eventually guided her to library positions in Bolivia, Ecuador, and the Philippines.

The last paragraph of the article was so touching to me:
Van Brocklin shared this anecdote: “I always think of my first year of working in the Bolivian school and a parent who showed up in tears after the first week of school. They were convinced their kindergarten son had ‘stolen’ a book from the school because the idea of a lending library was just totally new to them. . . . It was that kind of experience that I knew I was in the right place.”
Wow, I can't imagine not knowing what a library is, or not having experience with a library that lends books! This is what it's all about for me. In classes it sometimes seems like it's all going to end. No more books, no more journals, everything online or in some weird form, and everything is crazy. Well it hasn't happened yet. And I think of poorer countries that just don't have the infrastructure for people to have internet in every home. For some people books are the only option; and many are too poor to even afford these.

This is from the Probigua website:
In Guatemala, where 50% of the population cannot read, educational opportunities are severely limited by a lack of access to books and other written material.
Most towns and villages do not have libraries; neither do the public schools, which also do not supply any textbooks. Parents, many of whom earn the minimum wage of only $18 per week, simply cannot afford to buy books for their children.
Instructional methods in the public schools are limited to listening to the teacher and copying what is written on the blackboard. Many children simply do not learn to read and drop out of school after a few years. Many of those who do achieve some literacy begin losing it as they grow older. Only 10% attend school past sixth grade. As adults, most of these children are limited to doing manual labor - when they can find it.
Probigua is a non-profit Spanish language school. They donate all their profits to building libraries in the country.
As of 2004 our project has started, and is maintaining, 23 libraries as well as the first mobile library of Guatemala. For use by the early education reading programs we have established 350 reading corners in school and libraries under the motivation: "Book by book Guatemala will change." Furthermore, we have opened 16 computer centers and installed additional computers in 14 libraries. Our goal is to improve the services in our existing libraries and to provide access to technology to many children and teachers in rural areas. Tuition fees for Academia de Español support the libraries and provide scholarships for youngsters to attend school beyond sixth grade.
This sounds like an excellent program to me and I'm hoping to visit there in March.

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