Library Serves Reading Community

November 12, 2004

SAN JUAN DEL SUR, Nicaragua –Nicaragua’s first lending library, run by aU.S. woman, is serving as an example forother book-loving expatriates.Jane Mirandette opened the library inthe southern Pacific coastal town of SanJuan del Sur three years ago in her hotellobby when she realized her modest bookcollection, which she kept for book-starvedguests, was the only book collection intown.That’s even more significantknowing thatNicaragua’s libraries, likemost in Central America,do not allow readers totake books out of thebuilding, somethingMirandette didn’t knowwhen she moved toNicaragua. During thethree years since thelibrary has opened, it hasgrown exponentially andis gaining fame in librarycircles.In the beginning,Mirandette was able tosupport the library throughher hotel’s profits, but as the library expandedand its reputation grew, she moved herbooks into a small building within sight ofthe hotel. The book collection grew throughdedicated donors and the building’s rent andthe librarians‚ salaries began to be paid bydonations.THE bilingual book collection is alwaysgrowing and slowly but surely, more andmore rooms of the building are being used tohouse the books. The room with children’sbooks is usually buzzing with children intheir school uniforms after noon.Efraín Mora is one of their best readers,says part-time librarian Ana Luisa Luis. Hecomes to the library almost every day, eitherto check out a book, to complete an afterschool craft project or to get help with hishomework.Mora has read more than 100 bookssince he got his library card. His favoritesare the Harry Potterseries. He prefers the thirdone.The craft room wallsare full of drawings andconstruction paper creationsmade by the children.“Before the library,most of these kids hadnever played with crayonsor colored paper,”Mirandette said, “and Ihad no idea.”SHE cites the colorwheel as just one simplething the Nicaraguanschool children are nottaught because they get no art classes, nordo they have sports or music education.“We were doing something with fooddye and we didn’t have any green,” she said,“so we just mixed the blue and yellowtogether and they kids thought it was magic!It’s just simple things like that that thesekids miss out on.”Not anymore: The library offers craftsand homework help every day when schoollets out; they have parties once a month forlibrary cardholders.A returning volunteer, Meghan Field,created the complementary bookmobile projectduring her second trip to San Juan delSur, last summer.The bookmobile has grown to include18 schools. Three librarians and a drivervisit the schools once every two weekswhere whole communities will gather toexchange books.IN these rural communities, families donot have the money for school uniforms andchildren wear close substitutes: jeansinstead of navy slacks or a white T-shirtinstead of a white button-down shirt. Somego barefoot. Neverthe-less, they are thrilledto see the librarians pull up in a Toyota truckand open their plastic tubs full of books.They swarm around the books and taketheir time before deciding on the two booksthey are allowed to keep for two weeks.MIRANDETTE, who is fromColorado, has a network of friends backhome helping her library. A flight attendantwho flies between Colorado and Nicaraguabrings books in her luggage to thwart heftyshipping fees. Others hold book drives anddonate money.She influenced a couple from Coloradointo starting their own lending library inGranada, and she has held informal workshopsand freely gives out advice to otherswanting to start libraries in Central America.For more info, call Mirandette at (505)458-2568 or e-mail janem101@aol.com oronline at www.geocities.com/sjdsbiblioteca.

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