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A new community library in Central America

The founder, Allen Andersson, cuts the opening ribbon

The founder, Allen Andersson, cuts the opening ribbon

On February 24, 2014, more than 300 people from the community witnessed the opening of the new Community Library “World of Knowledge” in the town of Parramos, Chimaltenango, Guatemala. This is the 65th library in the network of Riecken Community Libraries in Central America. The library represents an opportunity for the residents of Parromos to build a spirit of discovery through access to information and technology. The library, equipped with quality books and new technology, will connect isolated communities to the world so they can become global citizens.

Board of Directors of volunteers of Community Library Riecken in Parramos

Board of Directors of volunteers of Community Library Riecken in Parramos

To ensure the quality of the library’s programming, the Riecken Foundation launched its community training plan to librarians and community volunteers. Two librarians received training on library administration, how to promote reading for pleasure, and how to access information, research and basic technology. The library’s board of directors, composed of eight volunteers, also received training on strengthening their identity, specifically their roles and responsibilities.  The board was also trained on the concepts of a modern library, promotion of social participation, and community volunteering. Eventually community volunteers will develop their negotiation skills with local government authorities and other actors for the benefit of community library.

Child programming of the library

Child programming of the library

The library has an average of 347 visits per month (children: 180, young people: 114, and adults: 53). Weekly training is provided in story times to children aged six to nine, working jointly with elementary school, and care for the elderly. The transparency corner and thematic exhibitions of books and resources are kept updated. Monthly free computer workshops and crafts, as well as cultural and education activities are provided in coordination with teachers. In short, it is intended to promote youth leadership development programming.

The largest investment for the construction and allocation of resources amounted to $50,000 thanks to the generous gift from the Kilkenny family. The municipality of Parramos, local community management, and the Riecken Foundation supplemented this donation.

Thanks Kilkenny family for sharing our mission of promoting prosperity and democracy in Central America through Riecken Community Libraries!

Plaque of appreciation to the Kilkenny family

Plaque of appreciation to the Kilkenny family

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Parramos, a new Riecken Community Library

The building

The construction of the library began on September the 30th with the delivery of the first round of materials, right after signing the agreement between the Municipality, the Community and Riecken.   Almost a month later the building is about 35% completed.  The community has been very active raising funds to cover the 20% of the construction cost, as agreed during the selection process and stated in the agreement, and it has been a big challenge for them.  Their fundraising efforts have been addressed to community teachers, parents, local businesses and a couple of international organizations.


During the first week of November we will provide the second payment so that they can make the second purchase that will include materials for windows, doors and electrical accessories.


From the middle of September to date we have organized three workshops to train the members or the community committee.  Topics include: Transparency and Riecken’s values, accounting systems, Modern Community Libraries, Roles and Responsibilities of the committee members, Process of selecting library Board Members and Librarians.

The process of selecting two librarians has started and we expect to have final candidates by the end of November.  The first week of December we will begin the training of the selected librarians.

Next steps


The construction and training process is going as planned so that the library will be ready for inauguration in late February 2014.  During November/December we will begin to deal with publishing houses and technology providers so that in January we will have the book’s collection and technology equipment ready to be delivered to the library building, which will be ready the second week of January, according to the construction schedule.

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Khan Academy Available Offline in Spanish in Rural Communities

Recently we had the benefit of a weeklong visit from a volunteer engineer from World Possible ( who installed their newly developed Spanish language version of RACHEL (Rural Area Community Hotspots for Education and Learning) in four of our libraries in Guatemala.  As you might imagine internet connectivity is challenging in these rural communities. Often when it does exist it carries monthly limits and bandwidth limits. Additionally, it is beyond the financial resources of many of the communities. Using a donated conventional network router and an inexpensive device called a Raspberry Pi it was possible to give library users immediate access to over 2000 Khan Academy math and science videos, a fully indexed and searchable Spanish language version of Wikipedia, hundreds of books, health guides, educational games and more.

Young library visitor in Huitan, Quetzaltenango exploring the educational games in RACHEL.

Interest was very high among not only the library users but the librarians who had lots of questions. Aging computers were brought back to life with software upgrades and were soon broadcasting math and science in Spanish.

Norberto Mujica, World Possible volunteer, spent time showing the librarians the content available in Rachel and how best to use it with their community members.

Showing the librarians the contents of RACHEL and how to use it.

RACHEL content continued to be available to tablets, cell phones and laptops during a power outage with the addition of an inexpensive battery pack.

Raspberry Pi running RACHEL during a power outage.


In San Juan La Laguna, Sololá, Guatemala the location of the network router allowed the signal to travel outside making the RACHEL content available to anyone in the community space outside of the library seven days a week.

While our dream is for a high speed internet connection for all of our libraries RACHEL is an interim solution which can give the libraries an “internet like” experience and also something that can be used offline leaving the bandwidth for other uses.

RACHEL in the Park in San Juan La Laguna. Norberto Mujica, Riecken staffer Israel Quic and Diego Cordova.

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Reading Takes You Far!

Riecken Community Libraries and Project MIDEH/USAID are fostering social participation to improve the quality of education in Honduras.

Through the “Reading Takes You Far” project, Riecken Community Libraries promotes the strengthening of skills in librarians, teachers and reading promoters.  Based on the Basic National Curriculum aimed at developing reading habits, the goal is for students from 1st to 6th grade to improve their performance in their Spanish language class.

Practicing doing story hours with children in Nueva Ocotepeque.

The project promotes the active participation of citizens through a program that provides donations to civil society organizations that focus on improving the quality of education, especially in villages that have critical educational, socio-economic and criminal indicators.

With technical and financial support from USAID/MIDEH, the involvement of the Education Secretariat, local governments and the participation of different civil organizations, it is expected to achieve significant advances in the improvement of the Basic National Curriculum design, its application and social involvement in the following of National Education System achievements.

To learn more about our project click here.

Launch of the project in La Paz: Santa Maria

Teachers and parents practice reading out loud in Lejamaní, Comayagua.


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New Business Center for Women

In January the Community Library Rija’tzuul Na’ooj in San Juan la Laguna, Guatemala, inaugurated their business center thanks to funding from the BFB Foundation.  This space is now providing the opportunity to local producers, such as weavers and artisans, to access technology and use it to improve their sales and promotion activities. Also in this space they will be participating in different technology and marketing seminars, as well as sharing experiences with each other. Right now the women weavers are learning how to use internet, create their email accounts and soon they will have their own blogs to promote their products. Juana, who participated in the Beyond Access Conference last year, is coordinating the business center and working with groups of weavers.

So far there is an average of 12 users per day.  They have to take turns to use the computers because now the center only has three.  Most of the women using the facility have never gone to school and they are learning how to use a computer and internet.  Besides learning to use technology, so far they have received a seminar on “customer service”, with the attendance of 28 women and people from the local government, and have put together a grant application, with the guidance of the business center coordinator, to get seed funding for developing new products. The business center opened just a few months ago and great things are happening and more are yet to come!

Our own Romeo Rodriguez, Development Director, was recently featured on the blog of Beyond  Access talking about the new business center.

Inauguration of the Business Center January 2013

Trying out a mouse for the first time.

And away they go!

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Riecken Community Libraries
c/o Riecken Foundation (A-712)
P.O. Box 669004
Miami Springs, FL 33266