Does it matter how many books there are in the library if no one is reading them?

I recently visited one of the school libraries supported by BiblioWorks and was again reminded of how lucky teacher-librarians in international schools are to have budgets that allow them to chose books that fit their curriculum as well as the interests of their students. They have access to a variety of suppliers from whom they can order quality books from a wide-range of publishers by amazing authors. They can weed books that students are not interested in, that are out-of-date or that are not in good condition. (Not all of them do this weeding but they should!) They are not reliant on donations. International teacher-librarians can engage in discussions about how best to arrange and catalogue their books to suit the needs of their students. They can (and should attend) PD by people like Kevin Hennah about library design, displays, signage, layout and more.

When BiblioWorks sets up a library, they purchase new books for the library. Last week books for a new library in Villa Abecia arrived in the office. And when Silvia and I went to Presto, we took books that had been purchased on behalf of the municipal government for the library there. 



Books are donated as well. Quite a few books on this shelf were donated by the US Embassy in Bolivia. And while many of them are Spanish translations of some great books, I don’t know if any of the students have the reading level or interest to read them. Also as the books must be used in the library (ie not borrowed), I can’t see that anyone would be keen to read a novel.

IMG_9080 I suspect these Enid Blyton books were also donated. Do they have any appeal for the students using this library?


Seeing them reminded me of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story”.

And who knows how these relics ended up in this library (or the last time someone opened them). And who thought a primary school library was a good place for them? 




Even if this one does mention educating children…


Someone has carefully covered these books, I assume to protect them, but if you can’t see the title, why would you take them off the shelf? 


(Other than the old religion books, I didn’t look at the non-fiction books that make up most of the collection. I suspect many were text books.)

The challenge taken up by BiblioWorks to spread the love of reading in rural Bolivia should be made easier by having libraries full of books but as teacher-librarians know, it doesn’t matter how many books you have if no one wants to read them. And if you have good books but they are hidden among old, boring ones, will anyone find them?

Thankfully BiblioWorks has some excellent employees and volunteers who spend time in the libraries sharing good books with the children they serve and hopefully inspiring the librarians and teachers of those communities to do the same. 


Thursday morning I met up with Roxana, Wendy and Sophie at 8 am so we could take a taxi to the bus station. Wendy and Sophie are from the U.S. and will be staying in Sopachuy for about 5 weeks. Wendy is going to help with some English classes at the secondary school in the mornings and run “clubs de lectura” (book clubs) in the library in the afternoon.

The bus left on time at 9 am and we got to Sopachuy a bit after 2 pm. The first part of the journey was the same as when I went to Presto but instead of turning off on to the road paved with stones, we continued on the highway. (Eventually we did turn off the highway but quite a bit further along.) Along the way we passed the towns of Yamparaez, Tarabuco and Tomina, towns where BiblioWorks also has libraries. The bus stopped in Zudáñez (a small town) for a bathroom and food break.

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Once in Sopachuy, Roxana and I checked into our hotel then Roxana went to find out where the apartment that had been arranged for Wendy and Sophie was. When she came back we walked there with all their stuff (including a box of books and a box of things for the apartment). The apartment had been found (and cleaned) by Delmira (who was the librarian when the library in Sopachuy was opened) and her friend, Valentina, who lives across the street from it. They had arranged for beds, a table, some chairs and a small stove (but the stove was missing a few parts – the burners and the thingy on the hose that attaches to the gas bottle). Valentina has a daughter who is a year or so younger than Sophie and despite Sophie speaking only limited Spanish, they hit it off.

A bit later we stopped by the town hall to pick up the key to the library. (The librarian and nearly all the other people who work for the municipality were in Zudáñez for a sports tournament for municipal employees from across the region.) Unfortunately the librarian had forgotten to drop off the key. There were some phone calls and some waiting and Roxana made a trip to the librarian’s mother’s house to pick up the key but she wasn’t home. We gave up and went for a wander around Sopachuy. It is a lovely little town with two rivers, two squares, lots of trees and is surrounded by low hills.

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Later, after Wendy had a bit of an unpack, we attempted to find out about getting parts for Wendy’s stove. The first shop we asked at had the hose part but not the burners. We decided to come back for it if we could find the burners somewhere else. We tried a few more shops with no success. When we told Delmira and Valentina, they went off to find the  original burners which were quite rusty but they figured they would probably work. Valentina took the stove home as it was going to require tools to change the gas hose. We went back to the shop to buy the hose but it was “closed”. It was wide open but there was no one inside and a broom and mop were crossed across the entrance to indicate it was closed. We hung out for a while but eventually gave up.

There is another library in Sopachuy set up by a German organization so we went to visit it. It had three rooms – a sort of back room with the books and then two larger rooms with tables where there were quite a few students doing homework. The librarian was a very friendly Bolivian woman.

The store had “re-opened when we passed by so we picked up the hose and went to drop it off at Valentina’s. She was home but her daughter (and some other girls) were playing with Sophie at her house so we passed it to her to give to her mother. When they brought the stove back with the hose attached, we discovered that they had actually gotten Wendy a brand-new stove!

In the evening, Wendy, Roxana and I went for dinner (Sophie had managed to have dinner with Valentina’s family and her new friend). We went to a restaurant in the hotel where we were staying. They were out of meat (which was better for me anyway) so we had rice, potatoes, fried eggs and “salad” (a few slices of tomato and some chopped cucumber and onions – more like a garnish). Restaurants tend to have one choice, not a menu to order from. At lunch time, there is a soup and some sort of meat served with rice, boiled potatoes and usually a bit of “salad”. At dinner time there is no soup. Many Bolivians just have a snack in the evening instead of a full meal.

Friday morning, we met Wendy for breakfast at a kiosk in the main plaza. I had coffee which was made by pouring some thick, syrupy coffee from a small pot on the table into a mug and adding hot water from a thermos that was also on the table. When I asked for some milk for it, the woman brought over some milk in a measuring cup and poured it in for me. I also had some bread (on which I spread some of my peanut butter). Roxana had an apple tea and some pastels (fried turnovers with a bit of cheese inside them). Wendy went for the coffee and had bought some fruit.

Roxana went and picked up the key to the library from the town hall (the librarian’s mother had dropped it off at some point) and we went to visit the secondary school to see about Wendy helping with English classes. It is a brand-new school a bit out of the centre of town (but the town isn’t that big so not really very far). We had to be let in as the gates was padlocked. 









The principal was very welcoming. He explained that there are German volunteers helping with the 3rd through 6th years (equivalent to 9th to 12th grades) but that Wendy would be most welcome to help with the 1st and 2nd year English classes (7th and 8th grade). He said he would meet with the English teacher to sort out times and for Wendy to come back on Monday at 9:30 am.

We stopped by the library after to take a look. It has two rooms but it quite small with lots of the space taken up by tables and benches. Roxana, Wendy and I hashed out a plan for her book club and then headed to the primary school to promote it (picking up Sophie along the way). We decided we would invite the students in the 3rd and 4th year classes (equivalent to 3rd and 4th grade). The second recess was just ending when we got there. The primary students have classes from 8 am to 1 pm. The principal was very welcoming and assigned someone to take us to the classes we wanted to speak with. It turned out there are three classes at each grade level.

IMG_8918Roxana and Wendy invited the students to come to the library at 3 pm to sign up for the book club which will run Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3 to 4:30 pm. Wendy had brought several books with her as well as Pigeon hats for herself and Sophie and there was a lot of interest. We had put a cap on the book club of 12 students because that is how many can fit in the library!

Sophie’s new friends are in the 5th and 6th years and when they spotted her in their school they all stopped to say hello. It was like being with a celebrity.

For lunch, we went to a place near Wendy’s apartment. As it was lunchtime, they were serving a soup (rice) and a main of “Milanesa”, a very flat, battered, fried piece of chicken. Roxana ordered me a fried egg to go with my rice and potatoes instead. She went for soup and Wendy and Sophie had the Milanesa. There was a bit of a mix up in the order so after her soup, Roxana also ended up with Milanesa.

After lunch, we set off to buy gas for Wendy’s stove. We picked up the empty tank and were ready to carry it but Valentina and Delmira spotted us and Valentina went off to get her wheelbarrow. Valentina also has a little boy named Moisés, who is about 3 and has Down’s Syndrome. Delmira has a little girl about the same age, named Mayra. We all set off down the street to exchange the gas bottle. Valentina also has 8 dogs and 8 cats (most of the cats are part of a litter of newborn kittens). Sophie is already quite attached to one of the dogs, a small black puppy named La Negrita, so the puppy came too. Back at Wendy’s they hooked up the tank and made sure the stove was working.

We arranged to meet at the library at 3 pm and Roxana and I went back to check out of our hotel. We also stopped at the bus ticket office to ask if the 4 pm bus (we had already bought our tickets) could pick us up at the other square where the library is. We knew it has to pass that way but we didn’t want to get left behind!

We ended up going to the library early, at 2 pm and there were already a couple of students waiting on the steps to sign up for Wendy’s book club. Over the next hours more showed up and they read books and played games while waiting for it to be 3 pm.


By the time Wendy and Sophie arrived at 3 on the dot, we had them lined up on the sidewalk in order of arrival. As we started the signup process, Wendy made a quick decision to run two clubs – one on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the other on Tuesday, Thursday. Each club has slightly more than 12 students on its list but Roxana figures they won’t all show up each time.

Wendy pulled out one of the books she has brought, a Spanish translation of The Library Lion and read to group of kids while some other worked on homework in the other room. They finished up just before our bus arrived so we said our goodbyes and left Wendy with a library full of kids.

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Several people we talked to during our time in Sophachuy mentioned that the current librarian isn’t a very hard worker and that they were happy to see a volunteer coming in to hopefully get the library running better. It is especially hard for Delmira as she was previously the librarian and by all accounts did an excellent job. However in the municipal libraries, the local government hires the librarians and they tend to share the job around. BiblioWorks provides a profile of characteristics and background that they think the librarian should have but the decision rests with the government. Roxana will be returning fairly soon to meet with the mayor (who was elected earlier this year) and will hopefully convince him that the current librarian needs to pull her socks up or be replaced.

Our bus ride back to Sucre was much more eventful than on the way to Sopachuy. The driver was a bit of a speed demon, the people one row back and across from us had a puppy with them and the man in front of me had a large green parrot in a cage on his lap. At one point, a group of people who weren’t going very far got on and a rather large older lady with no upper teeth decided it was easier to sit on my armrest rather than moving back to where there were free seats. I scootched over closer to Roxana at that point. The buses we took both ways had a wall and door between the passengers and the driver (and the other random people riding in the front – one had his kids with him and the other his wife and a kid). When people want to get off at an unscheduled stop they have to knock on the door. At one point the driver put the music on extremely loudly and one woman had to bang really hard on the door for quite awhile before she was heard.

It was just started to rain as we left Sopachuy and thankfully when the rain got harder our driver decided to slow down. It rained off and on all the way back and there were even two bouts of hail. Luckily for our driver, it wasn’t raining when the bus blew a tire. He managed to change it fairly quickly. We had quite the lightning show coming into Sucre. Roxana and I shared a cab and I got home a bit after 10 pm.


I got up really early on Tuesday morning (was that only yesterday?!?), finished packing, made some sandwiches, gulped a cup of tea and at 5:15 am, as instructed by Roxana, I called a taxi. Thankfully she had given me two numbers to try because no one answered when I called the first one. I told the operator where I was and where I needed to go, picked up my backpack and headed out to street. There was cab pulling up as I did so. It seemed awfully quick so before I got in I asked if he was the one I called. He said he was so I hopped in. He then asked where I was going and radioed in my answer (using a radio that resembled the walkie talkies we took out on duty when I taught in Ottawa). I texted Roxana to let her know I was in a taxi. About ten minutes later, the taxi driver said we had arrived at the place I wanted to be. There were several mini-buses loading up as well as food stalls along the side of the road. I couldn’t seen any sign of a bridge in spite of apparently being at the first bridge on the way to the airport but one of the food ladies told someone else that was where he was so I just waited. A woman approached and asked where I was going (I assume because she wanted to sell me the bus ticket). I explained I was waiting for a friend. Eventually Roxana showed up and apologized. She hadn’t been able to get a taxi via telephone and had to resort to one down in the street. She had a glass of tohorí (the hot, chunky corn drink) and offered me one but I declined.

Around 6:15 am, our ride pulled up. It was the principal of the school in Maragua along with two teachers. The teacher in the front seat has her toddler on her lap. The teachers at the school are all from Sucre. They leave for Maragua early Monday morning and return to Sucre Friday afternoon. With financial help from Japan, a new school was built beside the old school about 5 years ago and some of  the old classrooms have been converted into accommodation for the teachers.

The trip to took a bit over 2 hours. The road started out paved, then paved with stones, then gravel and finally dirt. It was windy and we basically went up and over a mountain. The scenery was gorgeous. We went through a pine forest (apparently a reforestation project), a eucalypt forest and then started down. The earth was amazing colours – red, green, purple, yellow – but I was in the middle of the backseat and couldn’t get any photos.

We arrived in Maragua around 7:40 am and agreed to meet the director in his office at 8 am. (photo) We then headed to the guest house down the road, dropped off our bags and went to find Don Basilio (Don is title of respect), who lives next door and runs it. No one at his house knew where he was so we left a message and headed to school. 


The meeting with the principal went well. He is new to the school and has only been there a few weeks so he didn’t know how the library worked in the past. We set a full staff meeting for 5 pm in the library so that Roxana could do a presentation about the library and help create a library timetable. He also agreed to release the 8 student libraries from their morning classes so they could help us reorganize the library. (There is no librarian in the school libraries. The principal or a teacher holds the key and student libraries staff the library after school.) IMG_8747

There was then a full school assembly which consisted of the student lining up at the flagpole in their classes, one behind the other – both primary and secondary students. A teacher spoke about it being the birthday of Sucre, some students recited poems and other sang. It was hard to hear anyone and the students were fidgety and chatty. 

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After we headed to the library which was in quite a state – dirty, littered and books out of order. With the students, we managed to pull all the books and other materials (games, art supplies, musical instruments etc) off the shelves, rearrange the shelves, clean them, inventory the books and put them back on the shelves. It took all morning and I did have to remind the students at one point that they were there to work not to play the instruments or do puzzles. There was a break at 10:30 am when the students went and had their school breakfast – bread and some white cloudy drink that I didn’t ask about. (I had one of my sandwiches.) At some point, Don Basilio stopped by and gave us the key to the guesthouse.








Around 12 the students left to get their school lunch. Some of the mothers come to cook lunch but the students have to bring their own bowl and spoon – and many seemed to have forgotten their spoon. At 12:30, Roxana and I headed back to the guesthouse to have our lunch. The guesthouse has a “kitchen” with two gas burners at one end and some odd dishes and cutlery.

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There is a laundry sink outside as well as a covered area with a table. There are two bedrooms with 4 beds each, one bathroom (that did have a shower after all) and one single bedroom. It was set up in partnership with Condor Trekkers (who also run my favourite vegetarian café in Sucre) because they run hiking trips in the area. There were lots of foreigners passing through. Some stopped to have lunch, some stayed the night and a couple camped across the road (their guide stayed in the single room). I stashed my bag of food in the kitchen and we headed out for a walk to “La garganta del diablo” (the Devil’s Throat). We along the river and met up with the kindergarten class and their teacher who were carrying an assortment of bottles and jugs. They were heading to the river to get water for their plants. There was very little water in the river which was good because we had to cross it and then take a path down to the Devil’s Throat which is next to some waterfalls.


We spent a bit more time sorting things out in the library in the late afternoon and had everything ready by the time the staff showed up. Roxana gave a presentation, we gave the teachers some time to look at the games and then the principal worked with the teachers to create a timetable. They managed to schedule all of the primary classes and some of the secondary.


It was nearly 7 pm by the time the meeting ended and we got everyone out of the library. We headed to the boarding house down the road to sort out a schedule for the student librarians who keep the library open in pair from 5-7 pm Monday to Thursday. (This had been in place in the past but had stopped for some reason.) The boarding house was quite large but there are only about 20 or so students who live there.

When we got back to the guesthouse, we were exhausted and neither of were hungry which was good because there were lots of guests and Don Basilio’s wife was cooking for some of them. (We found Don Basilio having a nap on one of the other beds in our room…) Around the time I was heading to the bathroom, the power cut out. I grabbed my headlamp and wet wipes. (The showers heat the water by electricity and I wasn’t up for a cold shower in the dark.) We crashed early and didn’t get up until after 7 am. (The principal had told us we could get a ride back into Sucre the next day around lunchtime so we didn’t have to get up early and start walking.)

In the morning, we discovered that a teacher had dropped off dinner for us (bowls of rice and lentils) and they were sitting on the table, oops. When I went into the kitchen to grab my food, the bag and everything in it was gone! I was quite baffled but decided to check with Don Basilio later. Roxana had two bananas and we had some packets of biscuits that we were given to us the school so I ate a banana and biscuits. My bottle of coke was in my bag in my room so I decided to have some (I hadn’t brought tea bags with me). I went to open it and it exploded all over my pants and the floor. I cleaned up my pants as best I could and Roxana cleaned up the floor.

We tried to find Don Basilio but he had disappeared so we headed off on a hike to the top of a ridge which gave us great views of Maragua and the surrounding countryside.

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Around 11:30 am we went back. We found Don Basilio and told him about the missing food. He said he had heard dogs fighting and that he figured they got into the kitchen and took it. I explained that I didn’t really care about the food but that my Swiss army knife was in the bag. He wandered off into a ravine to look for the bag while Roxana and I shook our heads at his story. He didn’t find it and when Roxana went to pay for our night, he told her we didn’t have to pay because my stuff went missing (but we did anyway).

We headed back to the library and helped the kindergarten teacher show a film using his laptop and the projector in the library. I am a bit slower when the menus are all in Spanish but I was pretty sure I could fix the problem (his laptop screen and what was being projected were not the same window) and eventually I did.


At noon, we closed up the library and sat outside where we could keep an eye on the principal’s car. A teacher came by and brought us a plate of food – a hard boiled egg, boiled potatoes, chopped up cucumber and tomato, spicy sauce and a piece of dried meat. I ate the egg, Roxana had the meat and we split the rest. A bit later another teacher brought us two bowls of the students’ lunch – which looked like a yellow dahl  but was actually made with wheat with bits of potato and the odd bit of veg and meat. We fed one bowl to an Argentinian hiker who had asked us about a store earlier and split the other one.

Shortly after 2 pm the principal came by and we loaded up for the trip back. This time it was only Roxana and I and I managed to get some photos.

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Tomorrow Roxana and I are taking a volunteer and her daughter to Sopachuy. It is a 6 hours bus ride and we are on a 9 am bus. I better go pack!



A Trip to Presto

BiblioWorks has a municipal library in the town of Presto and a school library in the village of Tomoroco which is not far from Presto. Some of the local authorities have changed recently (there must have been elections) so Roxana and Silvia, our library technicians, have been visiting the libraries to form new library committees and help the committees and librarians with their planning.

Silvia invited me to accompany on her trip to visit two of the libraries that she is responsible for.

We left Sucre at 4 pm on Tuesday and took a big bus to Presto. IMG_8299 We took along 4 boxes of books that were purchased on behalf of the mayor’s office for the library. About an hour and half into the trip, the road became much bumpier. At first I thought we were on a dirt road (I couldn’t see very well from my seat) but when we stopped for a short break in a town, I realized the road was paved with stones.IMG_8298We arrived in Presto around 7 pm, checked into our “alojamiento” (literally accommodation but seems to usually refer to a place where you can rent a room with a shared bathroom). Then we went back and made arrangements with Don Jaime, a member of the town council Silvia, knows to stash the boxes in a shop near the bus stop. This took a bit of time and then we returned to our room, had hot showers and called it a night. (I was thankful I had had a proper Bolivian multi-course lunch and wasn’t hungry for dinner anyway.)

Wednesday morning breakfast was tojorí (a drink made from corn that I don’t recommend) and bread. IMG_8309 I avoided looking at the water the glasses were being rinsed in as well as the cloth with which they were being dried and hoped my stomach would too. I was hoping for tea or coffee but neither seemed to be on offer.

We headed to the library and set up for the meeting. Silvia had a powerpoint presentation for the people present (the librarian, representatives from the town council and from the schools). She had also prepared documents to be filled out (by hand) with the roles for the library committee, a change to the library hours and a plan for the library. IMG_8345

Then we spent some time chasing down officials who hadn’t been at the meeting but who had been appointed roles on the committee (such as the secondary school principal).

For lunch we stopped a very local, very basic place. Silvia suggested I have the soup saying it was a rice soup and asked the woman to prepare me a tomato salad. She knows I am vegetarian and has a better grasp of it than many Bolivians but it is still a bit of a stretch. I gave her the chunk of meat that was in my soup (I think it was chicken) and ate the potato and the glob of rice. Then I attempted to pick out the garbanzo beans and a few green leaves that were in the oily broth while avoiding the specks of meat. I was only semi-successful. My tomato salad was fine. By this time I was feeling the effects of no caffeine so I bought a bottle of (warm) coca cola. I managed to drink about ½ of it and stashed the rest for later.

We visited a cousin of Silvia’s briefly. We had to tiptoe past her husband who was passed out on a bed in the front room (alcoholism seems to be rampant among Bolivian men). The house was very basic but the cousin was kind and gave us some bread she had made. Her youngest child has cerebral palsy and is blind. He was sitting on a bed in the kitchen and I spoke to him and sang songs while Silvia and her cousin caught up. I was happy I remember some of the Spanish songs from when I taught preschoolers from Latin America in Calgary many moons ago.

At 2 pm, we headed back to the town hall because we were supposed to be getting a ride to the school library in Tomoroco for another meeting like the one in the morning. The person who was going to take us was nowhere to be found. Various other people offered to take us in 30 minutes, in a hour etc but nothing panned out and finally after 4 pm we gave up. I think the official starting time for the meeting was 3 pm and it is about a 20 minute trip. We were told that someone could give us a ride in the morning at 8 am but nothing sounded very certain and it turned out the principal of the school in Tomoroco was going to be in Presto the next day so we couldn’t have the meeting then.

We went back the the Presto library and Silvia caught up on paperwork while I looked around the library and leafed through a Spanish textbook.

Someone Silvia spoke to mentioned that there was a soccer match that night and invited us to watch. At first I thought we were going somewhere to watch a match on TV but it turned out to be a match between players from the mayor’s office (who all had matching jerseys) and other men from the town (who wore an assortment of jerseys). The match was being held in quite a nice, new looking sports hall. IMG_8401

Before we headed to the match, we passed a woman cooking chips (french fries) and frying eggs on a special cart. IMG_8400Silvia decided she wanted a “hamburguesa” so we stopped. I (mistakenly) assumed a hamburguesa would have meat so I decided I would just have some chips. However it turned out these chips are meant to be part of a dish called “salchipapas” which means they are topped with “salchicha” (slices of neon orange sausage), a fried egg, mayo and ketchup (Bolivian poutine?). The woman was willing to give me them without the egg and sauces but not without the sausage. Silvia said to get them anyway and she would eat the salchicha. Her hamburguesa turned out to be a fried egg and chips in a bun with mayo and ketchup. We added the salchicha to it and I ate my plain chips.

Back at our lodging we discovered there was no water (it was cut off to the whole town). Thank goodness for wet wipes! I had water in my water bottle so we were able to brush our teeth.

In the morning, there still wasn’t any water but the woman at the alojamiento brought by a bucket of water. Apparently it was from the river but it looked ok… I tried to zap a litre of it using my Steripen but the batteries were low and it wouldn’t work. I took my chances and brushed my teeth using as little as possible.

We returned to the same woman for breakfast but today it was api (purple corn juice) and a buñuelo (fried dough). IMG_8404I preferred the api to the tojorí but the buñuelo was pretty greasy. I also had the rest of my coke (still warm and now a bit flat so it was truly medicinal).

Don Jaime went by on his motorcycle with his toothbrush in his mouth as we were eating. Apparently he was heading to the river.

Optimistically we returned to the alcaldía (town hall) to meet with the alcalde (mayor) and see about our ride to Tomoroco. We had decided we should still go in spite of the principal (who holds the key to the library) being in Presto because we needed to check on the state of the playground BiblioWorks built at the school. Part of the agreement when it was built was that the community would be in charge of its upkeep and we had reports that it was a mess.

Several sources informed us that the mayor had had a big night and wouldn’t be in for awhile. We decided to do some library promotion at the primary and secondary schools instead. The primary principal was very supportive and we visited each class to invite the students to the library. My job was to show off a big book with tales and puzzles that hadn’t fit in the boxes we brought on the bus so we had been carting it around. There was one class of 4 year olds, one class of 5 year olds and two classes each of grade 1 to 6. The primary school building looks fairly new and modern. It is built in a circle with the classrooms facing into a central plaza. IMG_8411

In spite of the newness, there were signs of a lack of care being taken with it – broken door handles, a broken window, dirty walls. The classes were not huge, about 20 students max, and many of the teachers had obviously taken care to put up posters and learning aids they and the students had created. Classes were just starting as we went around and in most rooms the students were eating bread (except in a music class where they had bowls of a rice mixture – which I found odd as several students were playing wooden flutes…) Many of the students were enthusiastic about the library and most knew where it was. Teachers were invited to bring their classes to the library but most were non committal. They were more keen on the idea that they could borrow books from the library to use in class if they left they ID card with the librarian.


We then headed to the secondary school. It was just before recess but we managed to talk to the five classes. There are only one class at each level and the classes were again fairly reasonably sized. The secondary students were most excited to hear that the library hours would be changing as of Monday (opening two hours later which means it can stay open until 8 pm) which would mean they could go to the library to do homework and study. The current hours meant the library closed soon after the end of their school day. (The librarian had been far less impressed by the change which had come about due to a request of the secondary school staff.)

The mayor still hadn’t appeared when we got back to the alcaldía. We hung around for a bit and eventually the man in charge of works said he could could give us a lift to and from Tomoroco if all we needed to do was take some photos. We set off down the dirt road in a truck. At one point we stopped and picked up a woman who needed a lift. She hopped over the tailgate and then called out when we were passing where she needed to be.

At the school, the playground was a bit of a mess. Silvia will be informing the village officials that if they do not clean it up, the structures will be moved to Presto. (She had mentioned this to the primary principal who eagerly offered to supply a crew to do the moving if it happened.)

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Back in Presto, the mayor had showed up so we had a quick meeting. He wasn’t very perky but we covered most of what was needed. He seemed a bit put out that the cost of the books we had brought were to be covered by his office as per a previous agreement with BiblioWorks but Silvia can be quite firm.

We then went to have lunch. We went back to the same place as the day before but this time I choose to have rice, boiled potato and sliced up tomato with some slight hot green pepper.

Silvia was going to be leading that afternoon’s book club for children at the library so we headed back to our room to relax a bit and pick up the things she needed for the activity she had planned. The water was back on so we freshened up as well.

Many, many children showed up at the library. A few asked about the book I had shown them in their classes but unfortunately it wasn’t ready. Silvia told a story about a rabbit who didn’t take care of her golden teeth that had a strong message a dental hygiene (very important in this country where children eat sweets from morning to night!) and then passed out a worksheet that covered the guidelines for tooth brushing. Not many children were inspired by the sheet (nor was I) but many stayed in the library to do puzzles and look at books. I offered to read a book to a young girl. She chose a Spanish translation of The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (El Gato Con Sombrero Viene de Nuevo) which gave my Spanish a good workout. As soon as I started to read, we were joined by more and more children. When we came to the part where the small cats join the Cat in the Hat and he calls them my letters, I had the children join in (which is a good reading strategy and helped me as I wasn’t sure of the names of all of the letters!). Silvia took a group outside for a game as well.






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We finished up, made a quick trip back to the alcadía to get another signature on a document and then picked up our things at the alojamiento and headed for our bus. The bus back was a van (it reminded me very much of the dala dalas in Tanzania) and the trip was about 30 shorter than on the way there.

All in all it was an interesting opportunity to see a small town in Bolivia, to see Silvia in action, to visit one of our libraries and local schools, to marvel at the number of dogs, pigs and donkeys wandering through town and to sample local cuisine (which so far my digestive system seems to have been able to handle). It was great to travel with Silvia who was very patient with my questions and happy to share her country with me.