Many of the 570 municipalities in Oaxaca practice traditional customs, such as tequio, which means volunteer work. Adults are expected to volunteer for various tasks such as looking after a museum or organizing a fiesta. Libros para Pueblos works in concert with this approach. For example, we do not solicit new communities; instead, they come to us. In communities utilizing a tequio system, a person is selected to act as a volunteer librarian. Regional Coordinators provided by Libros para Pueblos provide training. Because communities are invested in the library right from the beginning, they see it as their own—and it is. That is why every time we open a library, there will be a crowd of proud adults, beaming as their excited children unpack box after box of new books.
From the community: Once an application is accepted, communities are required to contribute $2000 mexican pesos toward startup costs to demonstrate its commitment to supporting a library. They also need to provide a space; we do not raise money for, or spend money on, the construction of new buildings. Usually, the answer is to adapt an existing space, such as a room in a municipal building or school. Libros para Pueblos also works with municipal libraries, adding a children’s book section to the existing facility. Finally, communities must also designate a librarian. We have chosen this approach so that libraries become part of their communities and that our limited funds are spent on books, not on buildings or salaries.
From Libros para Pueblos: An anonymous Mexican donor funds the books for the first year of a new library; after that, Libros para Pueblos pays for books through two methods. First, sponsors can “adopt” a library for $800 a year; this covers the entire book budget, plus some other costs. Sponsors get regular updates on “their” libraries. So far, 90% libraries have sponsors. For the rest, Libros para Pueblos covers the cost of books from its central budget. By buying in bulk, Libros para Pueblos pays less than the retail rate for books. We also train the volunteer librarians and help communities with any difficulties.