Your Name and Title: Christina Kantzavelos, MLIS

Library, School, or Organization Name: San Jose State University

Co-Presenter Name(s): Hope Hills, Heidi Jakal, Manny Navarro

Area of the World from Which You Will Present: US/Guatemala

Language in Which You Will Present: English

Target Audience(s): International Librarians

Short Session Description (one line): The Asturias Community Library Project

Full Session Description (as long as you would like): 

Introduction to the Asturias Community Library Project


The Miguel Angel Asturias Academy of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala is a private non-profit school founded by Jorge Chojolan, an educator and human rights activist of Mayan descent, to meet the needs of Guatemala in ways its traditional education system has not. Inspired the philosophy of Paulo Freire, the Asturias academy aims to create informed, critical thinking and socially conscious citizens who will be able to serve their communities as empowered and engaged leaders. Since 1994, the school library at the Asturias academy has acted as an important resource in the school mission of encouraging students and teachers to explore topics of interest. Currently the library is only open to the students who attend the Asturias school, and a select few after-school groups.  However, the Academy wishes to open the library to the families of students and the broader community. The hope is that by opening the library to the community via an expansion, the Asturias Academy will be able to empower the community just as it has its students.


Asturias Academy Students (MAAA, 2015, n.p.)

With the new community library, the Asturias Academy aims to promote educational equality by shifting attitudes towards literacy and education. Because libraries as an institution are new to Guatemala, the Asturias Academy has partnered with Libraries WIthout Borders to help them bring their community to fruition. As outsiders to Guatemala and the Asturias community, it is important for these international partners to consider the philosophy of Paulo Freire and not impose their own version of a community library and services. Freire writes “[r]evolutionary leaders often fall for the banking method of planning program content from the top down. They approach the peasant of urban masses with a project which may correspond to their own view of the world, but not to that of the people.” (Freire as quoted by Studstill, 2014).  It is in the hopes of the school, that the community will find the newly expanded space a place to call and make their own, serving both their educational and recreational needs in a safe and supportive environment while encouraging academic achievement, continuation and retention.


The heart of the new community library space will be the community as well as the staff that are passionate and provide information services that can foster literacy and lifelong learning. These are the librarians, interns, volunteers, teachers, and trainees who are eager to learn how to become better library and information providers. With the expansion, new ideas for activities and services to fill the space will be considered. As international partners, our team of LIS graduate students has put forth careful and critical thought to some solutions for challenges local to the Xela community and Guatemala as a whole . We believe these solutions can potentially assist the Asturias community library and its staff in overcoming challenge, and in addition support continued growth and longevity. In this document, we present the ideas and findings of our proposed solutions for the challenges that may be important to Asturias and the Xela community.


Team Izel’s Approach


As a team we began our solution pathways project by conducting extensive research to first gain an understanding of the Xela community and secondly to define its users. Taking both into consideration brought the formation of three components that include 1) Community needs assessment,  2) Community Development, and 3) Community Outreach. Moving onto designing services to meet those users specific needs began with three foci that we believe are important to the new library’s sustainability: 1) Academic Continuation/Retention, 2) Community Health and Social Services, and 3) Indigenous Community Services. In the formation of these solution pathways, we examined each solution presented through indirect assessment measures, which includes, but not limited to, articles, videos, webpages, etc, including a thorough review of available literature and resources on Guatemalan history, society, education, and its peoples both Ladino and Indigenous. In addition, we took into consideration Asturias Academy’s identified challenges of “chronic malnutrition, limited access to healthcare, widespread poverty, racism and structural violence against the indigenous Mayan population” (MAAA, 2015, n.p). This helped us along with better identifying the users that will be utilizing the new library services in the Xela community.


We have also elaborated upon collection development, space implications, staffing needs, possible programing and introduced the beginnings of the concept of adding adult services. We chose to focus on these above mentioned solutions because we believe that each of these foci is important in positioning the Asturias Community Library space to be an accepted and useful part of Xela culture from this point forward. At Asturias, dreaming big is not only doable, it is part of “a social movement that is transforming Guatemala” (MAAA, 2015, “Welcome”) for generations to come.

Websites / URLs Associated with Your Session: Libraries Without Borders

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