Introduction: the Library (Biblioteca)

La Biblioteca--the library at the Cultural Center of Batahola Norte

When I first caught a glimpse of the library, it looked like some kind of Disney world-esque dream, in the best sense of that adjective. It’s two-story structure with a wooden balcony, wood floors on the second level, lots of open windows, and lush green plants surrounding it on all sides. Almost as if someone built a paradise library in the rainforest (perhaps an exaggeration). I worked in a library for three years at Goshen College, so have a soft-spot for libraries, especially unique ones.
The construction of a biblioteca (library) at the Center was always a dream of Sister Margarita Navarro—one of the co-founders. There is a huge need for children and youth in Managua to be able to access information for their schoolwork. What began as a small biblioteca in various rooms at the center eventually grew into the current library, founded in 1997 and housing a collection of more than. A group of students in a woodworking class offered at the Center one year added the second-story to the current library.
What started as a small service to just students from the immediate neighborhood has blossomed over the years into a far-reaching gift. Since my arrival, I’ve always noticed a lot of activity happening in the library each day, but didn’t understand what was going on until my week of observing there. Over 1,200 people visit this tiny library every month, which goes to show how needed it is. The library houses reference books, literature for all ages, technical resource books, and especially educational resources for school children. Almost anyone except the youngest elementary-ages can borrow books, which is also rare in Nicaragua. There simply isn’t a real library-system as I’m used to seeing in every county in the U.S.
The library is staffed by scholarship recipients of the Center—usually high school or university-aged—who have to complete a certain number of “social service” hours at the Center in order to continue to receive their scholarship. While working in the library, they are learning organizational and leadership skills, all while helping young students and other visitors find information.

Signs upon entering the library are familiar to me, although all in Spanish: PLEASE KEEP QUIET WHILE IN THE LIBRARY! Some children study together quietly; one tiny girl puts together a puzzle; a middle-aged man reads up on Nicaraguan constitution (perhaps in preparation for upcoming elections?). All seem to be enjoying the nurturing refuge of learning offered here.

Quiet work, with a few giggles, in the Biblioteca


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