Our library was born out of a clear need: there was no space in Chajul for learning outside of structured classrooms.
We saw middle schoolers struggling to read; they were not getting the support they needed in their four-hour school day. We saw students with nowhere to do their homework; it was hard to focus sitting on the dirt floor at home while a baby brother cried and smoke from the cooking fire crowded out the little light from the window. We saw teachers without access to educational materials; they received little support from the government’s department of education. And we saw parents, wishing but unable to help their children in school because they themselves had never been.
We saw kids who wanted to learn but didn’t know where to go. So, we changed what we saw.
The Saber Sin Límites (Limitless Knowledge) Community Library opened in 2010 as the first and only community library in Chajul. With a membership of approximately 1,500 users—ranging in age from 4 to 40—and counting, 3,783 titles, 3 librarians, and many helping hands, the library is making reading fun and popular in Chajul. We know it when we see Maria come in every day to pick out a new book to read. We see it in Gaspar when he arrives early so he can help set up for story hour. And we hear it in how much Juana has improved when she reads aloud in reading club.
Saber Sin Límites hosts 2 bilingual Spanish-Ixil story hours each week for different reading levels, a weekly reading club, and Reading Adventures literacy camp during school vacations. Librarians help with homework, cultivate students’ literacy and research skills, and create a space in which where learning is fun and celebrated. Local teachers also visit the library, using its variety of resources to plan lessons and prepare for their classes.
The library is immensely popular and the increasing demand for activities and support from librarians demonstrates its success. Many of our regular users are under 8, the age at which most students in Chajul start school. Their time in the library is a powerful introduction to both literacy and learning. By starting early we help bridge educational gaps in the under-resourced local school system.