Dear Nica Times:
On Jan. 9, 10 students from the University of Maryland, their professor, and two University of Maryland librarians began a journey to learn about Nicaraguan libraries.
I was one of the students.
Nicaraguan public libraries are quite different from public libraries in the United States. We saw these libraries when we visited the Nicaraguan National Library at the Palacio Nacional in Managua.
The stacks are not accessible to the public; a patron must find the material they want from a card catalog and then fill out a form to request the material.
Once the patron receives the material, they can only use it in the library; they may not take it home.
Enter Jane Mirandette. After noticing that locals would read books left at her hotel in San Juan del Sur, she decided that a lending library was exactly what Nicaragua needed. The results of her efforts are amazing to see.
The Biblioteca Movil is thriving in the San Juan del Sur area. Going out with the bookmobile was one of the most amazing experiences. The kids who run to the school-house when they hear the trucks coming up the road are so excited to be able to check out books to take home. They swarm the bins in which the books are kept and the Biblioteca Movil staff to check out the books.
The idea of a lending library has spread. Other communities came calling wanting help to start their own lending libraries.
Jane followed up by starting the Hester J. Hodgdon Libraries for All Program to raise money to start libraries in other communities. We had the opportunity to visit three of these libraries.
Even though in these communities we did not have many opportunities to meet patrons, the staff was always dedicated to getting books into the hands of children. At the Tipitapa library outside of Managua, we had an afternoon of crafts with the children. We were touched by these kids from the poorest neighborhoods in Managua, who were so excited to be a part of the library community.
In addition to our many library visits, we had many cultural opportunities.
I feel this experience has opened my eyes to another world of librarianship.
In addition to being at the beginning of my career as a librarian, I’m sure it is also the beginning of a lifelong passion for international libraries. As a group, we plan to stay in involved with the Biblioteca Movil and the Hester J. Hodgdon Libraries for All Program and look forward to our chance to return to Nicaragua.
Cheryl Fox Strausberg
Germantown, Maryland, USA