La Biblioteca Legion Americana, located in a Northwest Antigua Guatemala neighborhood, is a real find for book lovers of all kinds.
Packed inside narrow centuries-old walls at 7a Avenida Norte #49, this English-language book lending library has been run by American Legion volunteers for over 12 years now. All proceed go toward supporting children and their families in two nearby pueblos: San Antonio Aguas Calientes Guatemala and Santa Maria de Jesus Guatemala.
Yolkobsens fell upon this piece of heaven while scouting used bookstores in town. This is not a store; it’s a real library where you will find 30,000 books, meticulously organized on board and brick shelving. All of the books have been donated by local expats and Guatemalans.
This 12-by-40-foot library contains a compact span of titles and subject matter. Selections include: popular fiction; literary classics; history; philosophy; biography; religion; cooking; how-to books; poetry; travel guides for a variety of countries; Spanish and other language tomes; and even a film collection, featuring 200 videos.
Library service is available to anyone who wants to become a member. They even stamp your books with a due date like an old fashioned library. For 100Q a year (about $12.50 US) you can become a member. Of course, membership has its privileges. This membership allows you to borrow up to four books every two weeks. There’s a 1Q fine for every day a book is overdue and this policy is strictly enforced. Take heed you two-headed demimondaines from the evil Galaxy Overdue. (Okay, they also have a small science fiction selection too).
Mrs. Y immediately handed over her 100Q and was sure glad she did. In the language section she found a Spanish verb primer, which would have cost her about $25 new at the tourist book shop across from the Parque Central. Ditto the fabulous and extremely helpful Spanish grammar review and practice lexicon I found. I can also renew these and others as I go.
Most of La Biblioteca’s proceeds go toward supporting children and their families in San Antonio Aguas Calientes Guatemala, a highland pueblo about 9 kms southeast of Antigua Guatemala. Projects include: providing 300 children with a nourishing breakfast during the school year at Hermano Pedro School; and establishing a clean water source at the school and in the students’ family homes.
As well, La Biblioteca has provided funds so that 13 students have been able to stay in school for 9 years. Cost per student for a 9-year public school education is $2,600 US, well beyond the reach of almost all pueblo families. There are currently 3 students from the pueblo who are attending university thanks to La Biblioteca.
A new project in Santa Maria de Jesus Guatemala has brought clean water to 30 local families. More water sources are planned.
La Biblioteca’s foundation is namesaked for one of the library’s founders. Stephen Skelton was a volunteer who started the project with 200 books in his Antigua Guatemala home a little over 12 years ago. His vision has since turned books into positive outcomes for so many.
So if you sign up as a member you’re doing yourself a big favour if you love books. Also, you’ll be helping children and their families get clean water, school nourishment and education.
The library is always looking for volunteers to help out with book tending and lending duties. Drop by, sign up for membership, help families and children and volunteer. More volunteers mean the library can be open longer hours.
La Biblioteca is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 7 days a week.