The Arenal Area Magazine

Canadian Students Build Library in Costa Rica


This past spring, a group of students in the Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS) Program at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, got a taste of humanitarian librarianship at its finest.

Western’s Librarians Without Borders (LWB) organized a trip to Costa Rica earlier this year with the purpose of building a school library for the village community of El Humo.

The project was spearheaded by MLIS student Jessica Luet, who had previously worked in El Humo and partnered with VIDA, a non-profit organization with goals to support development in Costa Rica.

The project was a new experience for both the LWB committee members and VIDA, who made the necessary arrangement s for the project on the Costa Rica side, including meeting with the town’s citizens to determine the need for a library, arranging host families for the project volunteers, ordering the building supplies for the library and building sightseeing tours for the project volunteers.

For nine months prior to the trip, the LWB Student Committee fundraised and was also supported generously by the dean’s office at the Faculty of Information & Media Studies with a $1,000 donation.

The committee used collection tools to select the books for the library and create a catalogue.

Books were ordered from Costa Rica publishers first to support the local economy. Other books for the collection were either donated by Canadian publishers or purchased prior to the trip.

Project volunteers brought stationary supplies with them, as well. Upon arrival, the project team, who consisted of students Luet, Courtney Lundrigan, Megan Thomas, Kristina Porr, Erin Walker, Debby Ng, Kris Meen, Jessica Kipp, Aubrey Kirkpatrick and FIMS staff member Steve Patterson, were set up with their host families for the duration of the trip.

The team built the library from the ground up-leveling the plot of land, digging holes, mixing and pouring cement, building the walls, floor and ceiling and painting the newly-built space. When complete, the actual library space measured about ten by six feet and housed 150 items.

“The best part was seeing the structure complete with books and supplies inside. It was a great feeling to see a field transformed into the village’s first library,” says LWB project volunteer Courtney Lundrigan.

“We hope the trip will initiate future international aid efforts and that Librarians without Borders specifically will continue to grow from that experience. We were very happy to represent FIMS through this project.”

In recognition of their efforts, the LWB project team received a Costa Rican flag and a plate signed by the host families. Each group member was also presented with a medal with their name engraved at a communal dinner organized by the host families.

Due to lack of resources, the principal and teachers of the school currently look after the new library. A volunteer library student is also available to assist for a few months and the school is applying for a grant from the government to install a few computers for student use. Internet was just recently set up in the village.

About Librarians Without Borders: Librarians Without Borders (LWB) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advocating for equal access to information for all people around the world. The Western Student Committee of LWB accomplishes this by facilitating access to information both locally and internationally through partnerships and raising awareness about information access issues. Librarians Without Borders was founded in 2005 by a group of socially minded librarians at The University of Western Ontario. The organization is now based in Toronto, and it includes members from libraries and library schools across Canada.

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