Friday, January 21, 2011

I Lost My Coat in Nicaragua (I mean, who needs it anyway?)

I also lost a button-down shirt, any sense of self-control when it comes to buying pottery, and the preconceived notion that Central America is too different a world to be a part of my own.

Hello, everyone. This is Jeff, writing from Washington, DC, with a final update. I've blogged on a few other occasions about fundraising for the library (see the widget to the right to donate!). Today, I have the pleasure of posting a wrap-up of sorts. You'll please forgive me for not adding any pictures. When I woke up at 4am Nica time (so Central time, but really closer to 4:25am than 4:00am), taking pictures of our travels was not most present in my mind. Failing to do so throughout the rest of the day is largely due to frequent napping.

Today, whatever small portion of it was still spent there for some, was our last day in Nicaragua. Mostly we said our goodbyes last night, as travel plans were...varied. There were a number of destinations for the group leaving at different times throughout the day. A small group of us headed out from the Camino Real Hotel in the wee hours of the morning to depart to DC via Houston. Another group left shortly thereafter for the same destination via Miami. Kelsey left around 4am to catch a bus to El Salvador to meet her husband and his family. David departed sometime this afternoon for Granada in search of a kayak to visit the islands of Lake Nicaragua. Pat and Lily, accompanied by Jane, headed out of Managua in search of new opportunities to bring down classes from the business school at UMD (lookout Smith students, they're comin' for ya). Margaret and Christie left Nicaragua for the US a little later in the day. Somewhere in all of that Peg made it to Missouri and Alesha to North Carolina. Like I said, travel plans varied.

While part of me is ready to be back (this isn't the part that has to start the new semester at UMD on Monday, by the way), another part of me is ready to return to Nicaragua. This was something I was well aware would happen at the beginning of the trip. I knew that I would want to stay. It is easy to point out where the HJH Libraries for All Program is doing well and to see all the good occurring there. It is harder to see all the yet undeveloped potential and not want to explore that with them and remain behind in Nicaragua to participate.

We are all returning home to good things of our own. It has become clear to me that my travel companions are a group of intelligent, talented, fun, and dedicated individuals. I believe they will all go forth and do great things in whatever field they choose. Undoubtedly, though, there is a part of all of us that wants to stay behind and continue our work in Nicaragua – lending books to children in a country where those kids have been overlooked; teaching crafts to students that aren’t given many opportunities for creativity, exploration, or personal inquiry; and sharing with librarians and teachers the things we’ve learned about resources, information, and a personal love for reading, as they share so much with us about their work in return.

This experience will not be easily forgotten by any of us. Regardless of what we do next, we will remember the fortune and misfortune of others that we have seen in a country far distant in geography and culture from our own. All of this is good, for our growth in experience will only lead to a more complete version of ourselves and will permanently contribute to the work that we do.

It has been an amazing trip. I hope, on behalf of the group, that you have enjoyed our ramblings and retellings, pictures, links, and so on. And so, our adventures come to an end. Sort of. Maybe. Okay, not really.

As you can probably guess, there is more to come. There are rumors of trips back to San Juan del Sur this coming summer by some. There are possibilities of building a Friends group for the HJH Libraries for All Program. There's more to be done with the website, more discussion happening with the teachers we met, and other contacts were made in which there will be continued professional development for both those in Nicaragua and our graduate students.

So much has been accomplished and there is still so much left to be done. I don't believe a single one of us got on the plane thinking, "This was great and now I'm done here." We look forward to future prospects and growth based on the work we completed and the great work done by those permanently working in the library. We hope that you'll keep in touch with us, follow our achievements and that of the Libraries for All Program, and eventually choose to participate in what we do.

Again, thanks for reading; for your encouragement; and your support, emotional, financial, and otherwise. You'll be hearing from us again soon, don't you worry.

Back to Managua, Saying Goodbye

Hi, I'm David. I'd like to give a little update on the new website of San Juan del Sur Biblioteca, and I will also fill you in on Thursday's activities as we left San Juan del Sur for Managua.

My project was to create a new website for San Juan del Sur Biblioteca. It will be live soon at, but in the meantime you can view it at I converted the site to Wordpress to make publishing easier. It is now possible to translate the site into Spanish with the click of a button, thanks for Google Translate. Be sure to take a look and click the "Like" button to get updates on SJDS Biblioteca on Facebook! I also embedded the library's Flickr stream into the website. I will add more photos and a map of the mobile project locations in the coming days.

On Thursday, we said goodbye to San Juan del Sur.

On the way back to Managua, we stopped at Volcán Mombacho for a visit to a coffee farm and catch some great views of Lake Nicaragua and Grenada from the cloud forest.

We also stopped to check out a pottery demonstration. See awesome kiln below.

Finally, we stopped for a delicious tour of the Momotombo chocolate factory in Managua, where we tried some raw cacao beans and wore some sweet hairnets.

After a long day, we headed to our hotel in Managua and prepared to depart. Before I sign off, I'd just like to encourage you to donate a few bucks to a good cause by clicking on the Just Give banner on the side of this page. Your donations will help the children of Nicaragua to have ready access to books and allow San Juan del Sur Biblioteca to continue its work.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Grupo Dos - Una Dia de Servicio al Biblioteca Movil

Buenas! Me llamo Kate. I'll be blogging on behalf of Grupo Dos (Peg, Kristin, Sarah, Margaret and me).

Today Grupo Dos headed out to two libraries with Vicente and Lucia on the mobile project. At the first site, we read two books and then all did a craft together.

They were excited to crowd around Peg for the first story, La Casa Adormecida, and recite the last line of each page with her.

They also loved the simultaneous presentation of Un Dia de Nieve, with me reading and Sarah using her adorable felt board. For our craft, we had lovely white snowflakes to glue onto colorful paper. They weren’t all entirely clear on what the snowflakes were (never having seen one in their lives), but they very much enjoyed decorating them. Each group of kids developed their own style of decoration. Some used glitter and stickers to decorate the snowflakes themselves; others used crayons to color in the negative spaces.

When it came time to choose their new library books, they eagerly combed through the bins looking for the perfect picks.

Those who were too young to get their own books enjoyed being read to.

At the second site, we were greeted by a classroom full of students and their teacher.

Many of the little girls were all dressed up in pretty, frilly dresses. Again, we read the two stories, both of which were big hits. This time for our craft, we had the kids make little books. The older kids went straight to work writing and drawing.

The younger ones were hesitant at first, but once we pulled out the stickers, they perked up considerably.

For many of us, this opportunity to go out and work with these kids was the highlight of the trip.

Grupo Uno- Une Día de Servicio a Biblioteca

This is Christie from yesterday checking in again to tell you about Grupo Uno’s fabulous day working at the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca. Grupo Uno (composed of myself, Kelsey, Alesha, and we picked up Jeff and David) started the morning off with another wonderful breakfast at Villa Isabella. The pancake was so good yesterday that I enjoyed one with chocolate chips this morning.

The view from my Villa Isabella balcony:

After breakfast we headed the 32 steps from the hotel to the library where we had a tour with Jane of all the different rooms and sections of the library. We also had the opportunity to talk with Heidy, the jeffa (manager) of the library about some of the specifics of the daily operations. It was a very interesting conversation. After the tour, we got to work. Alesha and Kelsey worked on an organization project with books that had been donated to the library to decide which collection they would fit into best- the permanent, movil, or a donation to another library. David continued his fine work on the SJDS Biblioteca’s website. You can view his updates at Dr. Weeks kept us company doing school work while Jeff worked on his blog posts, and I worked on my afternoon mini-workshop on how to set up email accounts. The library also had a fun mid –morning visit from a monkey named Cindy and her owner. 

The front of the SJDS Bibloteca:

Noelia and Esau help a patron at the circulation desk:

Alesha and Kelsey help Jane with book organization:

David works hard on the new website:

The monkey library visitor:

When Grupo Dos got back from their Movil experience, which you can read more about in Kate’s blog, we all broke for lunch. Since Alesha and I, in particular, are shrimp aficionados, we went back to Las Brisas where we went on Monday and had lunch there again. There was a beautiful view of the ocean and fantastic food was had by all. 

After lunch we came back to the library where we met with Magdalena, the director of a nearby public school, the Centro Escolar Emmanuel Mangalo y Rubio. There were going to be several other teachers with her, but due to circumstances beyond their control, it was just Magdalena. Kelsey and I showed her how to set up a Gmail account for the school and how to send and receive messages with it. She caught on very quickly and was sending messages to volunteers from Germany in no time at all. Then Kate, Kristen, and Peg reviewed some craft ideas with her which she was very excited to implement at her school. 

Magdalena and Kelsey working on Gmail en español:

Next, it was on to Jane’s house again to hear about some of the specifics of how she was able to set up and sustain the Biblioteca. It was fascinating to hear about some of the steps to sustainability she has taken and is working to take. She was also able to share some of the papers she has presented on the subject. 

Finally, we enjoyed a fantastic dinner at El Timon with all of the library staff. There was a special cultural dance presentation before dinner and after dinner we thanked the members of the staff with small tokens of appreciation for all of their kind and thoughtful help this week. It was tough to say goodbye, but it was truly a great trip and a wonderful learning experience.

Dance for St. Sebastian- a parody of men's and women's relations done on the way to the church (but never in the church):

Kelsey, our resident Spanish translator, thanking Heather for her help this week:

Your Donations Make a Difference

Firstly, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to those individuals and families that have made donations to the HJH Libraries for All Program and the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca here in Nicaragua. In the last few days we have raised more than $400!! As you'll read in a moment, that's almost enough to supply five months worth of books and supplies for the mobile project of the San Juan del Sur Library.

Yesterday, I spoke with Jane Mirandette, President of the HJH Libraries for All Program, about how donations are used when people give to the program. The non-profit arm of the foundation only uses 4% of donations for administrative costs. Expenses like travel and lodging for Jane as she goes to book shows and other such events in the US and Central America are paid for out of her own pocket. You'll find that such a financial record is well received among non-profit groups.

When donations come in, they provide for the following:
  • $50 will buy as many as 10 new children's books
  • $100 will buy new children's books and a month of art supplies
  • $150 will pay for a month of English classes for local children
  • $300 will cover the expenses of the mobile project for one month
  • $350 will buy one library in a box start-up kit (not including books)
  • $500 will provide 5 months worth of books and supplies
  • $1500 will cover the total operating expenses of the main lending library for one month
As a class, we would very much like to raise enough money to sponsor the San Juan del Sur program for an entire month - approx. $1500. I'm writing this blog from the library today and I can only begin to describe what a vibrant place it is and the impact it is having on the community. One man is studying for a correspondence course; children are doing puzzles and playing games during a break from an English language class; workers are cataloging and processing new donations of encyclopedias, a children's series on science, and adult fiction; and Jane is giving a tour to some new volunteers. It is thrilling to watch and to see everyone so engaged.

If you have not done so already, please consider donating to the project. We are very proud of the work they are doing here and, beyond our support in person, we wish to continue support by providing for the Libraries for All Program for their future as well. Thank you!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Day So Nice, We Blogged it Twice

Hola, lectores – this is Sarah again! I heard that friends and family in Maryland had quite a lot of ice to contend with recently, so I will resist bragging too blatantly about the gorgeous weather down here and get right into catching you up on how some of us spent our Tuesday in the tropics.

This morning, while Grupo Uno (Christie, Margaret, Alesha, and Kelsey) went out on the mobile project, Grupo Dos (David, Jeff, Peg, Kristin, Kate, and I) stayed in San Juan del Sur to offer whatever help we could. After Jane provided us with a formal tour of the Biblioteca, we split off to work on separate projects; los dos señores continued their great technical work behind the scenes in order to provide these libraries with a more visible global presence. Meanwhile, Kristin, Kate, and I had the unexpected opportunity to help make a donated game of Scrabble more useful by teaching a few volunteers how to play.

Las palabras son en Español y en Inglés!

After las señoritas del Grupo Dos took a trip to the market in pursuit of more craft ideas para los niños, many of us reconvened at El Gato Negro (a nearby coffee shop / bookstore) for a pre-canopy tour lunch. And oh, what a canopy tour it was! This was the first time many of us had been ziplining, and although we were unable to convince Dr. Weeks to join in and David stayed behind to complete more work, we did convince even the most nervous among us (pictured below, grinning and bearing it like real champs) to come along for the adventure.

Others, as you can see here, were not afraid at all and could barely contain their excitement:

We all had a fabulous time and enjoyed the opportunity to unwind for a few moments amidst a continually busy schedule. After our return and a marvelous dinner, we took some time as a group to discuss our experiences thus far and prepare for the final few days of our excursion. I am so proud of my cohort and am fortunate that I have been able to travel with such a wonderful group of librarians who care deeply about these projects in which we have become invested and the local community members who make it all possible. We greatly appreciate the charitable contributions we have already received for the HJH Libraries for All Program; your generous support will have a tangible impact, as it helps put books in the hands of children throughout Central America.

Finally, for those who were unable to join us and anxiously await our return home, we offer the following sentiment:

Grupo Uno: Tortuga Movil Visit

Hola! Me llamo Christie and I will be in my final semester at UMD as of next Monday! I am on my way to becoming a School Librarian in a Baltimore/DC-area school next fall.

This morning my group (Grupo Uno) started off bright and early with another fabulous breakfast at Villa Isabella. I had the pancake for the first time today and thoroughly enjoyed it. Other options included a cheese omelet, waffle, and traditional rice and beans. Here is a photo of some classmates and our professor enjoying the morning ritual in the dining room at Villa Isabella. (Note my pancake in the foreground!)

After a couple of unavoidable delays, we were off on the windy road to Tortuga with the Movil (or the bookmobile branch of the San Juan del Sur Library). Here are a couple of shots of the views along the way:

This is one of the several streams we traversed as seen from the front dash.

A beautiful view from the road.

Those are the books in those bins!

When we arrived, we were greeted by many children going to their schoolhouse to meet us, exchange books and partake in crafts. We were fortunate to have the cooperation of the teachers at the site who agreed to come on one of their days off for the holidays to open the school up for the bookmobile. We started with Alesha reading the ever popular El Dia De Nieve by Ezra Jack Keats (Nicaragua’s 2011 Read for the Record Book. En Española: Lee Para El Record.) I Read Historia de Dos Sapos by Mario Montenegro, the wonderful Nicaraguan children’s entertainer that we saw perform at ANIBIPA and Dariamba.

Here I am, reading to many attentive students in the classroom at Tortuga:

Next we broke the kids into groups to do crafts. We had groups creating snowmen made out of bananas, chocolate chips, and licorice, another group making snowflakes out of paper, another group folding dogs and cats out of origami, and everyone was getting the extremely popular face painting. Meanwhile, the students were also picking books from the Movil to take home. 

An example of an origami perro (dog):

Alesha reading with a young scholar after he picked his books from the Movil:

A beautiful snowflake from a snowy day:

The students pick out books and give their names to Edwin, who checks them out on their library cards:

After we got back from the Movil, we went on our canopy adventure which you can read more about on Sarah's blog about today.

After we got back from that, our kind hostess, Ms. Jane Mirandette, invited us up to her house on the hill for the sunset and some pre-dinner drinks and antipasti. It was delicious and the sunset was fantastic.

Finally we headed back to Villa Isabella for a wonderful dinner made by the chef there, Ms. Roxanna. It was a carb-lover's dream!

Another great day in Nicaragua!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Presentations Round 2

Saludos desde San Juan del Sur! Tonight you are hearing from me, Kelsey. I'm in my first year of the MLS program at the University of Maryland, and am on track to become an academic librarian. I'm fluent in Spanish, and so have become the designated interpreter for our group.

Today we gave our ANIBIPA presentations to a different crowd, composed of staff from the SJDS Biblioteca, representatives from the local schools, and bibliotecarios from Rivas and Diriamba. They were just as popular the second time around, and fortunately we didn't run into the same technical problems here. Sarah's felt board and Alesha's banana-turned-snowman craft were today's favorites.

Then we piled into the back of a truck (which was a first for some of us!) and took a ride up the hill behind town to check out a cool house, built out of both traditional construction and four shipping containers.

If you'd like to read more about the project, the owner/builder has a blog.

We followed up with a team meeting to debrief and plan for the next two days, when half of us will be going out on the mobile project and the other half will be staying to help with projects in the library. We hashed out a plan of attack for crafts, stories to be read, and division of the groups.

With our work done for the day, we dispersed to prepare craft materials, wander around town, and a few of us managed to catch the beautiful sunset. We finished with a scrumptious dinner prepared by the local "chicken lady" and some great brownie sundays. Tomorrow is a an early morning, so off to bed.

Un Día en la Playa

After a whirlwind four day adventure, today was a day para caminar (walking), relajar (relaxing), ir a la playa (going to the beach), y por su puesto comer (eating, of course). My name is Alesha and I am a visiting student, a temporary Terp, if you will, from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I am in the final semester of my LIS program. I am primarily interested in the application of multimedia, web 2.0, and instructional technologies in librarianship.

We began our day with a made-to-order breakfast in Villa Isabella. The special of the day was a Nacatamal, a steamed corn cake (tamale) filled with eggs and vegetables served on a banana leaf. The dish is typically reserved for special occasions and Sunday morning breakfasts. While the presentation was striking and the smell was divine, I was not feeling particularly adventurous this morning so I opted for a waffle, which was equally striking and divine-smelling.

After breakfast, some local artisans selling beautiful handmade wares greeted us. There were hand-whittled wooden pots and bird-shaped whistles (that sounded like birds!) and a local painter had set up an exhibit in the lobby of the Villa Isabella. Though tempted, most of us were able to leave the hotel with our purses and wallets intact as Jane led us on a walking tour of San Juan del Sur. As we walked, Jane shared a brief history of the town, noting points of interest along the way.

While walking about, it did not take long to realize that the town of San Juan del Sur is a far cry from Managua. The slow-paced beach town was just what we needed to recuperate from the last few days and to rejuvenate before the final days of our Nicaraguan adventure.

We dispersed into smaller groups for the afternoon and sampled the local cuisine. (I highly recommend the breaded shrimp at Las Brisas.) We all took advantage of our down time as some read, went to the beach, or napped in the hammocks on the Villa Isabella’s front porch.

Later we met up for a group dinner at a quaint Mediterranean restaurant where we placticabamos (chit-chatted) about the various treasures that we’d found throughout the day. Looking around the table, all of us seemed to be catching our second wind. Judging from the smiles and laughter, all of us were content with our experience and the work that we’re doing here, or maybe we were just bemused by the fact that our dessert included chocolate salami!

NB: Technical difficulties prevented me from uploading photos, but I am hopeful that I will be able to add some images from our walkabout tour soon.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Help Us Grow the San Juan del Sur Library Program

Hola, mi amigos. Me llamo Jeff. It's not my turn to blog just yet (I'll be our final blogger with all things summary-tastic), but I wanted to take the opportunity to talk a little about money. We have seen some great things here in Nicaragua regarding library development and the cause of providing information in an accessible way to your average Nicaraguan. Now that we've seen what we've seen, we'd like to do a little fundraising.

The work of the HJH Libraries for All Program has such an impact both in San Juan del Sur and in encouraging changes throughout the library field in Nicaragua. A number of individuals have asked us how they might contribute to the work and so we would like to give you the chance to make a small donation to the program. Now on the blog in the right-hand toolbar is a widget for contributions. Please consider donating $10, $20 or more in order to support this continually growing program. We think the work being done here is truly for the betterment of the local community and would like you to help us support such work. Thank you so much in advance for your kind support of this project.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dia 4: Volcan Masaya y Biblioteca en Diriamba

Apologies for the late posting. It was mostly due to issues with internet connection and partially due to just being on "Nica-time"

Hola! I am Kristin. I’m a graduate student at UMD, College Park. My specialization in the iSchool is archives, and I have worked with a couple different types of archival institutions over the last couple years.

We left Managua today to make our way to San Juan Del Sur; however, before we arrived in San Juan we had to make a couple of stops.

Our first stop was at Volcán Masaya, an active volcano. Yes, we climbed to the top of an active volcano. There’s nothing like the smell of sulfur in the morning!

Right next to the active Volcán Masaya was another volcano that’s extinct called San Fernando. Seeing both volcanoes was amazing! For many of us it was the first time seeing a volcano. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

After a brief stop at the Museum of Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya, we continued on to the town of Caterina. In Caterina we saw a beautiful view of the Apoyo Lagoon. We also took the time to stroll through the town and shop for a little bit.

After a quick stop for lunch, we moved on to Diriamba where we went to Biblioteca Semilla to do crafts with the children. We were greeted by about 25 excited and smiling children eagerly waiting for us. They were also excited to see Mario, a Nicaraguan singer/song writer and children’s writer.

Kelsey started us off by reading Un Naufragio Inesperado. Then Mario sang some songs with the kids and told a story in a very unique style.

Then it was time for us to make crafts with the children! We made little books, bookmarks, snowflakes and, of course, face painting. We all had fun talking with the children and helping with their crafts. Even those of us, who are not so familiar with Spanish tried our best to join in the fun.

Then we were back on the bus to San Juan Del Sur, where we checked into to the Hotel Villa Isabella and had a wonderful dinner.