The end of the Bolivian school year and new beginnings for BiblioWorks

The end of the year is approaching rapidly and for BiblioWorks that means working hard with librarians, teachers and children to finish out the school year with lots of kids using the libraries to finish the year with good grades. The school year will officially end in Bolivia the first week of December which gives us about six more weeks to make our final rounds to all of the libraries and make sure they are full of smiling children. Maritza is in Villa Serrano right now and our two interns are in Yamparaéz and Tarabuco working directly with the librarians, children and teachers to create new and innovative activities which lead kids to the joy of reading. We are all busily preparing for this “end” of school year; however for BiblioWorks and the rural public libraries we are currently supporting, the 2011 school year will be a new beginning with new goals and new challenges.

Several of the libraries, such as Villa Serrano, Yamparaéz and Sopachuy, are on track to be self-sustaining next year according to sustainability plans we have been working on with local governments and superintendents of education. Several other libraries, such as Morado Q’asa, Tarabuco and Presto, still need our support, working hard to form a viable library committee and training the librarians in each library to be creative and supportive of users’ needs. Several municipal governments where we do not formally work, such as Culpina and San Lucas have contacted BiblioWorks to support their libraries and we are doing everything we can to help out, such as donating books and offering trainings in events we organize with people from our other libraries. One library, in the town of Tomina is being implemented this year and for me is a symbol of the work BiblioWorks is doing all over Bolivia.

You may have read earlier in the year an update or newsletter which mentioned that we are implementing and supporting our eighth rural library in Bolivia! That is exciting for us and while there have been several challenges in attaining this goal we are all working extremely hard to inaugurate this library for the opening of the 2011 school year, which begins the first week of February. I have personally visited all of the libraries four or five times this year. Most of my time in each is dedicated to meeting with mayors, superintendents, school principals and the like, but the time I enjoy the most is in the library chatting with the librarian and the children. Nowhere else has impacted me more this year than Tomina. I have traveled the three and a half hours to Tomina at least seven or eight times this year to organize the mayor’s office to support the library project with an economic counterpart. As when visiting other libraries, my favorite part is not the meetings but seeing the children who are all, in every rural town in Bolivia, thirsting to learn about the world around them.

On one of my recent visits to Tomina I entered the space where the “library” is currently functioning and saw one girl studying. As we have just begun our work there, the new space for the public library is being refurbished and the one bookshelf they have is being attended daily by the librarian. The librarian is a hard worker and we have been working one on one with her to inventory the books and be able to help out anyone who comes to the library. I sat down next to the girl and started asking her some questions. She was shy at first, as is normal of Bolivian children, especially when talking to a “gringo.” She told me her name is Maribel and she is in the eighth grade. She was doing her homework for Biology class, drawing a diagram of the process of photosynthesis. I told her that we were going to bring more books and make the library a beautiful space where she could go and study and read whenever she wanted. A large smile passed across her face and quickly disappeared, replaced by a questioning look. She said, “I would love to have a place like that, I would go every day, but will it really happen?” As I stood up to leave I told her of course it will.

Maribel and hundreds, maybe thousands, of Bolivian children like her have often left me speechless, contemplative of the situation education faces here.  BiblioWorks is very proud to say that all of the libraries we support have between 40-50 average daily users. After leaving Maribel I thought; once we implement the library in Tomina with more books, games and videos, organize a library committee, work with teachers to use the library, do a publicity campaign in the town to encourage literacy there will undoubtedly be more library users than just Maribel. Although, all of our hard work and effort to provide Tomina with a public library space would be worth it if Maribel was the only little girl who went every day, as she had said she would, to the library to read, study and expand her horizons.

There is much work left to do in Tomina and in all libraries across Bolivia. I said earlier that Tomina is a symbol for the work that BiblioWorks is doing here and it is because of the impact that education can have on people’s lives. If Maribel was the only little girl who went to the library every day, she would learn the power that reading, literacy and words can have and would gain the invaluable skills of creativity and critical thinking to be able to come up with the complex solutions to the poverty that her family most likely faces. Now think of all of the future Mariblels, who will become teachers, engineers, agronomists, accountants, sociologists, politicians and a world of other professions which are needed desperately in Bolivia to solve challenging socio-economic issues. Now imagine all of these professionals attending a library daily to read and think critically about the world that surrounds them. The possibilities are endless…

BiblioWorks has many goals and dreams for strengthening and implementing rural libraries. We cannot attain these dreams without your help. Please, if you have a moment, spread the word to friends and family about Bolivia and the work we are doing here by passing this newsletter on to them. If you feel compelled to help further, a donation can be made using our secure “paypal” account from this page. Any donation small or large will help us come that much closer to each goal we have.


Matt Lynn

Latin American Project Coordinator


“The beautiful thing about learning and reading is that no one can take them away from you.”

–B.B. King