School of Information Students Participate in Librarians Without Borders Service Trip to Guatemala


MLIS students Mary Block and Amy Moskovitz recently visited Guatemala for a service trip with the organization Librarians Without Borders. The students cataloged books for the school’s library collection and developed programs to promote literacy.

San José State University (SJSU) School of Information (iSchool) students Mary Block and Amy Moskovitz recently had the opportunity to put skills acquired in their courses for the Master of Library and Information Science degree to good use by participating in a service trip to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, with the organization Librarians Without Borders (LWB). The students spent April 22 – May 2, 2016, in Guatemala, cataloging books, developing a storytime program, and engaging in other activities to support the school library at the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in Quetzaltenango (Xela).

Like other iSchool students who have participated in LWB programs in the past, Block first learned about the work of the organization and its partner, the Asturias Academy, when she took INFO 281 Examination of Global Library Issues Using Project-Based Learning taught by LWB co-executive director and founder Melanie Sellar. According to Sellar, the work of LWB in Quetzaltenango formed the context of the course project.

LWB Asturias program manager Debbie Chavez had nothing but praise for Block and Moskovitz. “[They] were great volunteers on our trip this year,” she remarked. According to Chavez, Moskovitz worked with the children at the school, developing programs to promote literacy. “Amy was on the Library Day team,” she explained, “helping develop and carry out a storytime skit, dance, and crafts with the children of the Asturias Academy. She led the children in some yoga poses that spelled out, Leer Libros, which in Spanish means ‘read books.’”

Chavez also noted that Moskovitz’s musical skills came in very handy in Guatemala. “Amy was a lot of fun on the trip because of her background in music,” she commented. “She would often lead the group in singing while riding in our shuttle or on the buses in Quetzaltenango!”

Pictured right: Amy Moskovitz helps the children with a craft project. Photo courtesy of Debbie Chavez

Not only was working with the children fun for Moskovitz, but as an educator and MLIS student, she also appreciated the opportunity to “share what I’ve learned with others, learn more about global education and librarianship and broaden my understanding of other locations, cultures and ideas,” she said. Moskovitz was “honored to have been chosen for the Librarians without Borders Guatemala service trip,” and added, “It was a truly incredible and unforgettable experience! The LWB team, Asturias staff and students, and the Guatemalan people I met taught me so much!”

Block’s stellar work as a cataloguer was also a real asset to those working to support the school library at the Asturias Academy. “Mary was a vital member of our cataloging team, which cataloged over 170 children’s and teen books over a four-day period,” stated Chavez. “Those books were added to the school library’s collection.”

Pictured left: Mary Block works on cataloging a picture book for the library’s collection. Photo courtesy of Debbie Chavez

According to Chavez, Block’s knowledge of children’s literature was also highly valued during the trip.  “She also helped select books for our group to purchase at Piedra Santa, a publisher in Guatemala City,” said Chavez, and added, “We enjoyed Mary’s storytelling skills, especially one stormy night, when the power went out and she decided to start telling scary stories!”

For Block, the service trip was inspiring and has continued to influence her work back in the United States. “I loved getting the chance to meet with the amazing librarians in public and school libraries in Guatemala—although our locations and resources are very different, we have the same mission: to educate and empower,” she noted.  “Since returning from the trip, I have felt newly inspired to continue serving my own community in the best way I can.”

More information about the LWB Guatemala trip team members and other LWB programs is available on the LWB website.