As school begins again, I am joining with the thousands of others who are writing their standard back-to-school “What I did this summer” essay. So…what I did this summer was to visit the Friends' Library of Monteverde, Costa Rica.
Monteverde is a mountain town of approximately
250-300 people, located three and a half hours from the San Jose, the capital
of Costa Rica. It’s the kind of town in
which there’s a whole lot of friendliness, some tourism, and many small shops,
but not the kind of place for a rather large English-language library in the
midst of a Spanish speaking country, I presumed. Just
by chance I learned that my presumptions were profoundly incorrect. I had the serendipitous opportunity to visit
the very interesting Friends' Library supported and maintained solely by volunteers
who are the founding ancestors of Monteverde, the Quakers (again, another
It is surprisingly large,
containing more than 18,500 books in English and 2,500 books in Spanish, making
this one of the largest English-language libraries in Central America.
The interior space is cleverly divided into three-levels: the top level houses the adult materials, the middle level contains the middle school level books, and the elementary level books are found on the bottom level.
An old-fashioned, typed card catalog is
maintained for the users to look up and locate books which are shelved
according to the Dewey Decimal System.
Anyone is allowed to check out books and return them using the Honor System.
As a librarian, it was an amazing experience
for me to see such a highly organized, well-maintained library completely kept
up by volunteers and open to all users situated just off of a bumpy, sort of paved
road, 4,600 above sea level in the mountainous cloud forests of Costa
As a Texan who has traveled
abroad, I always seem to find other Texans far from our Lone Star state, and
this trip was no different.
one of the library tables directly across from the entrance was an expatriate
whose roots go back to Austin, Texas.
Small world, isn’t it?