Riecken Community Libraries are proving that libraries are essential for a democratic society. The libraries are institutions where citizens are encouraged to make informed decisions and achieve their full potential. They deliver knowledge, promote critical thinking and stimulate self-education and lifelong learning. In poor communities, libraries also fulfill the role of providing a sustainable framework, with the library’s operations run by volunteers in the community. Through community leadership, important principles of development and self-government are formed.
The network of community libraries support the improvement of educational quality by reducing the achievement gap with programs, offering complementary resources at local education centers, improving access to information and supporting teacher training. In one specific initiative called “Read Takes You Away!”, the libraries help strengthen performance and utilization of Spanish classes through reading for pleasure in coordination with curriculums that support reading with children, parents and teachers. With technical assistance from USAID, more than 30,000 children and 1,200 schools are involved and are supported by the more than 80 volunteers from the Riecken’s libraries.
Technology in the libraries represents an opportunity for economic inclusion of excluded sectors. The community libraries organize new services to meet the needs of the population such as integrating business centers into the library model. Local business producers – for example, weavers and artisans – are able to gain access to technology to improve their sales activities and business promotion. To further their education and understanding on how technology can help them, seminars are offered on marketing and business applications. Small business owners learn from one another through shared experiences and stories.
The Riecken Foundation believes that the single most effective way to promote the spirit of discovery is through the promotion and pleasure for reading and writing. Individuals who possess the spirit of discovery have the capacity of trying new things, starting new projects and participating in the social life of their communities. Reading leads to discovery and discovery leads to prosperity. Therefore, the daily effort of a community librarian cannot be understood without reading for pleasure. Through the librarian training program, the Foundation trains in techniques and methodologies to promote reading in children and adults through programming that makes reading fun and accessible.
One of the trainings took place in Guatemala. Within the framework of the National Meeting of Riecken Community Libraries, a workshop called “The Art of Writing” was an opportunity for librarians within the network to strengthen their skills in promoting reading for pleasure and creative writing. More than 30 representatives from Riecken’s libraries in Guatemala participated and learned about the importance of writing and the various strategies for writing a story. In addition, participants learned the basic tools of the trade for writing: space, time, narrator, genre, action, and the construction of scenes.
The library has an average of 347 visits per month (children: 180, young people: 114, and adults: 53). Weekly training is provided in story times to children aged six to nine, working jointly with elementary school, and care for the elderly. The transparency corner and thematic exhibitions of books and resources are kept updated. Monthly free computer workshops and crafts, as well as cultural and education activities are provided in coordination with teachers. In short, it is intended to promote youth leadership development programming.
The largest investment for the construction and allocation of resources amounted to $50,000 thanks to the generous gift from the Kilkenny family. The municipality of Parramos, local community management, and the Riecken Foundation supplemented this donation.
Thanks Kilkenny family for sharing our mission of promoting prosperity and democracy in Central America through Riecken Community Libraries!
The following is a postcard from Lydia Sorensen, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in Guatemala, about her recent visit to The Frances and Henry Riecken Foundation.
In the community of Parramos, about a half hour outside the city of Antigua, Guatemala, sits a new library that any town would be proud to call their own. Completed just last week, it's already abuzz with children darting in and out as Hans and Marta (the librarians) teach word games and chess. Its yellow walls and cool tile floors shine as a beacon of hope in the middle of a dusty field that the community hopes will someday hold a school as well.
Back in a quiet corner next to a bookshelf holding the technology related books, are three new Apple computers. More and more Guatemalans are using the internet for work, school, and fun, but in rural communities like Parramos it’s still not common for families to have their own computers. The library and it’s free computers mean access to a world outside this town, and for some their first opportunity to access learning tools as simple (and yet valuable) as Wikipedia. As Guatemalan public schools are rarely able to adequately prepare students for anything more than the most basic of jobs, access to additional education at the library enables these children and their families to dream of a better future.
Slowly but surely offline education content is become more and more available. Last week a group of middle school students told the story of how they completed a science project using RACHEL, the offline educational content available from www.worldpossible.org. For $100 the content is available using a Raspberry Pi. As the girls have yet to have access to badly needed computers or tablets they shared a single wi-fi enabled phone. One of them used the phone to access the content while the others took notes. Using the information from the Spanish language version of RACHEL they were able to build a drip irrigation system using recycled liter-size plastic bottles. Just think what they could do with computers and tablets rather than just a single phone!
The library in Xolsacmaljá, Totonicapán, Guatemala eagerly awaits your help in providing new computers and tablets to make the offline educational content available to all of the girls and women in their community. The feedback that we are getting is that the greatest usage is for doing research for homework. RACHEL allows users to search Wikipedia without having access to the internet and to watch Khan Academy math and science videos in Spanish WITHOUT internet. We look forward to being able to offer technology based educational content to everyone with an interest and there are many.
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