Xela Civic Libraries


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Community libraries have been playing an important role in daily life across rural Central American communities by offering access to books and other resources to help encourage reading habits and other opportunities for learning. However, there has been a global trend to rethink the traditional function of these libraries by transforming them into spaces that can help foster greater citizen participation. This reflection is also taking place in Guatemala, as libraries affiliated with the Riecken regional network of libraries are prime locations to explore these new civic possibilities.

Guatemalan rural library. Photo by Carlos Reis and used under a (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license.

Three rural libraries located in the villages of Huitán, San Carlos Sija, Cabricán in the Quetzaltenango Department of Guatemala will launch a project in partnership with the Guatemalan NGO Acción Ciudadana (Citizen Action), an organization that helps advocate for greater citizen participation and transparency in the public sector. Now that the Guatemalan Congress passed the Law for Free Access to Public Information and has pledged to join the Open Government Partnership, there is a huge opportunity for all, but access and training are necessary to ensure that these initiatives will benefit rural communities.

Now that many of these rural libraries in Guatemala are connected to the internet, the trainers from Acción Ciudadana will help guide these communities how they can best take full advantage of these access to information policies. The project will also provide citizen media training to users of these three libraries so that they can tell the stories of some of the ongoing problems facing their communities and document the process how they can request information that may potentially solve these issues. All of the information will be uploaded to the library's blog and be a model for dozens of other rural libraries within this network.

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