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A Surprising Library Lesson

Posted by on April 14, 2012

Hola readers! On April 12 the Grade 3 bloggers had the privilege of Skyping with Geneva again. When we saw Geneva’s beautiful face smiling at us with a great big grin it made our hearts warm up because we knew we would be hearing more about the library. We felt like we were right in Cusco with her! She was planning on telling us about how she finished up the snail mural, the bookshelf labels, and added more posters to the walls. We learned WAY more than that!

The BEAUTIFUL Q’enqo Library … READY to use!

She introduced us to two of the Mosqoy students, Jose Louis and Adrian, because she was Skyping from the Mosqoy House. The Mosqoy House is where the Mosqoy students stay while they are going to University. The Mosqoy foundation has paid for this home because they are helping Peruvian students go to University. Once these students are finished they return to their communities to do great work there. There are about 20 students who live at Mosqoy House.

Warm and INVITING … murals, posters and bookshelves adorning the walls!

After she made the introductions she kind of got a little silent for a second or two. We think she was silent because she was trying to figure out the right words to tell us that the library wasn’t being used without making us sad. She began by saying: Sometimes when you help people you can forget about some of the important things that need to be included in the package. If someone has never had something before and you build it for them or give it to them you have to also teach them how to use it. We all imagined the library would be crowded with people, everyone would be signing out and renewing books, and that there would only be a few books left on the shelves. We thought it would look just like how we use our school library. We were very disappointed and sadden when we heard this news.

All the beautiful books … still sitting on the shelves.

We asked her, “WHY?” She told us the people in Q’enqo are afraid to use the library because they are worried about losing or ruining the books. They are afraid of damaging the room too, because everyone put so much effort into making this project successful. It is such a beautiful, incredible, welcoming place and it is the opposite of their own homes. We think it is probably the nicest possession in all of Q’enqo because we saw photos of the school playground and it was surprising. The playground shocked us because the swings were old and so high up that we didn’t know how we could get up there to use them. The swings did not have a seat on them, it was a just a metal frame for the seat. There were big rocks all around the swings and the ground was all uneven. To use the teeter totter you would need a pillow because it was rusty and made out of bare metal. Geneva said she never saw any children playing here. Instead the children chose to play beside a river which made her feel worried.

Wow. There is SO much that we take for GRANTED. Playing by the river is probably WAY more inviting.

The people in Q’enqo don’t feel like they own the library, and they don’t know how to use it. It is precious and scary at the same time! It was really hard for any of us to understand this because we use our library every day and using books are a part of our everyday lives. We have a school library, a public library, a home library and our friends’ library. We cannot imagine a world without books. In Q’enqo books are so special because they are rare, expensive, and new to them. The people in Q’enqo are so grateful and excited about the library but they are scared to use it.

This library is so beautiful … they want to TREASURE it.

Just when we were feeling kind of glum, Geneva gave us hope and told us about a solution. They had persevered and worked out the problem. On May 5 and 6 the Mosqoy students will come in and provide lessons and workshops for the professors (teachers) and the students so they can learn how to use the library. They will teach them how to handle the books, sign the books out, and how to track the books that are signed out. Geneva explained it is challenging for many of the people in Q’enqo because many of the adults are illiterate, they cannot read and write. Two weeks after the Mosqoy students do the training in the library they are going to go back and check to see how it is going. A couple of weeks later Q’ente will check in again to answer any questions and to make sure it is all working well. Geneva explained this is called capacity building. We all helped with the physical work and now we need to do the capacity building which is the work you do with the people. It is hopeful!

A view of the “playground”. We WILL persevere … and help to build “capacity” along side Mosqoy and Qente.

This was a big lesson for us, including for our teachers and Geneva. It made us feel and think:

  • Confused
  • That we need to help them feel it is THEIR library and books
  • Fortunate to live where we do
  • There is more we can do to help
  • They deserve it and so much more
  • We still want to add to the collection of books
  • We are still learning so much

Together we ARE strong! The journey WILL continue!

We wonder:

  • How could we help them to use the library?
  • Have you ever had something so beautiful that you were afraid to use it?
  • If they were curious and wanted to sign the books out while the library was being built, what changed?
  • Have you ever lived in a developing country like Peru?
  • Have you ever helped someone and not realized what else they needed in order to feel like it is truly theirs?
  • Have you ever given something to someone and they didn’t know how to use it? What did you do to problem solve this?

6 Responses to A Surprising Library Lesson

  1. Daytime Grandma & Grandpa

    The library is beautiful and very precious. We think that your solution of providing some training and follow-up is an excellent one. You know that old saying about teaching a person to fish and they will be fed for a lifetime. This is a good example of human nature. Even in this country we know of people (even myself) who sometimes are reluctant to use our “good” things for fear of damaging them. I have had journals and beautiful paper that I have not used for a long time because I was afraid of spoiling them by writing on them. Keep providing the education and support and we are sure that those children will feel such a sense of accomplishment when they feel the library is theirs.

    • The Grade Three Bloggers

      Hola, daytime Grandma and Grandpa! Thank you for your wonderful comment. Yes, you are RIGHT about the library in Q’enqo … it is beautiful AND precious to all of us. We were so shocked to find out that the community is too scared to use the library for fear of damaging the books and the building. Some of us, even at OUR age, have had things that have been VERY special to us and we’ve been afraid to touch or use them. For example, some of us like to build with Lego. Once we’ve built something that has taken us a long time, we are afraid to play with it, or pull it apart to build something new … because it is so special. Other people in our room like to fold origami. Because it is paper … we want to leave it in a special spot and enjoy it by looking at it so that it doesn’t get ruined. If you check out our reply to Reva, you will see how we are going to help the kids and adults in Q’enqo to get more comfortable with the books and signing them out! Zack and Max (on behalf of The Grade Three Bloggers!) 🙂

  2. Jesse and his Dad

    Hi everyone. This is Jesse reporting live from West Lafayette, Indiana. I just saw a military jet fighter fly right over my uncle’s house. It was very loud and fast. Yesterday I went to the Bug Bowl at Purdue University. I saw all kinds of bugs and I even ate a chocolate covered cricket. It was not bad if you ignore the legs. See you all on Wednesday at school.

  3. Ross Mannell

    Hola Global Grade 3,

    The effort to develop the library has been a work of love and it has paid off. Q’enqo Library looks absolutely beautiful in the photos.

    How could we help them to use the library?
    Perhaps you might share photos of you reading books on a blog. It would be particularly useful if you were to have the English version of one of their books so they could see you reading the same book.
    Also, encourage the young to try a book. Once a few start borrowing and others see them enjoying a book, the idea will catch on.

    Have you ever had something so beautiful that you were afraid to use it?
    There are many people in the world who collect items such as toys but never want to take them out of the box because they are worth more. This was never my problem. When I have something it’s to be used.
    Teachers at one of my schools were afraid at first to use computers when I introduced them many years ago. They saw children use them every chance they could yet the teachers were afraid they might break them. I reassured them if one was to break down I could fix it for them. These days, computers have become an important part of schools.

    If they were curious and wanted to sign the books out while the library was being built, what changed?
    When you have a dream and the dream is fulfilled, it can be hard to accept the dream is now a reality. This will pass in time.

    Have you ever lived in a developing country like Peru?
    While I have visited a few countries, I have only ever lived in Australia.

    Have you ever helped someone and not realized what else they needed in order to feel like it is truly theirs?
    As I have already mentioned, teachers at first were worried about using computers. What I realised was they needed was to be shown how to use the strange machines I placed in their rooms. I had never been taught to use a computer as there was no one around to teach me when I first wrote a simple computer program in 1975. I made the mistake of assuming others would also pick them up as I had. A teacher should have known better. 😉

    Have you ever given something to someone and they didn’t know how to use it?
    See the last answer. 🙂

    What did you do to problem solve this?
    Apart from showing people how to use computers, I had written a number of guidebooks for the teachers in school. Some were how to use a computer. Others were guides to using software and ideas of how the software might be used in class. At one stage I was president of an educational computing group. I made it a point to know how to use a number of operating systems so people could call for help when needed.

    A number of years back I had written the following in a guide to computers for a school…

    “There is nothing wrong with fearing the unknown, providing that fear doesn’t prevent the exploration of what we don’t know.”

    Encourage them, model reading to them, ask them to tell you about their favorite book and what they most like about their new library.

    Keep up your wonderful support of a great cause, Global Grade 3. 🙂

    Teacher, NSW, Australia

    • The Grade Three Bloggers

      “There is nothing wrong with fearing the unknown, providing that fear doesn’t prevent the exploration of what we don’t know.” ~Ross Mannell

      Hey, Mr. Mannell! We are ALWAYS so grateful and touched when you take the time to leave your AWESOME messages for us! On Friday, when we write our NEXT post, would it be okay if we used the amazing quote you put into your teaching manual? We love it … and it will fit PERFECTLY with how WE want to help build capacity with the people in Q’enqo now that the library is built!

      It’s funny, but it is like you were reading our MINDS when you suggested that we take pictures of us reading so that the kids in Q’enqo would see how to use their library without fear. In Q’enqo, they have to use the “good old fashioned way” of signing books out … they don’t have computers yet. We sign our books out by scanning them with the computer system in the school library. In Peru, Geneva had to cut envelopes in half to make pockets to hold the sign out cards … but … Mrs. Renton found about 500 old OFFICIAL library pockets that our school isn’t using anymore. So … we are going to ship them to Mosqoy so that they can take them down to Peru on their next visit. We are also going to take pictures of us “signing books out the old fashioned way” … and enjoying them in the classroom, in hopes that they will ALSO begin to enjoy these books! 😉

      We hope that they will put some of these pictures up on their library walls so that we can help to rold-model how it can be done. We think you are right … with time … the Q’enqo community will begin to USE them instead of worrying about ruining them! We still find it hard to understand why they wanted to sign them out right before the Grand Opening … and now they are not.

      We really appreciate the time and effort that you took to write us such a great comment again! Ross, when you write to us and share your ideas and knowledge … we feel like you are RIGHT here helping us to learn and grow! When you tell us all about the things you have done over your career as a teacher … we are SO inspired! We wonder what kind of computer program you wrote … that is SO cool!

      Have a great day … keep checking back … we will share pictures of us “reading” on Friday!

      The Grade Three Bloggers 🙂

  4. Sarah K

    Dear Grade 3s,
    This made me so heartsore for you! I felt so disappointed that the library you were so proud of and excited about wasn’t being used in the way you imagined or hoped. This is truly a hard lesson. It is a lesson that even grown-ups have to learn sometimes, but it is still a difficult one. I completely understand the feelings of the children in Q’enqo: not wanting to use something because it is too precious. Sometimes I have had beautiful jewellery or delicate dishes that I have not wanted to use for fear of damaging them. I now feel that precious things only have real value if you use them, enjoy them, share them and appreciate them. Keep faith that you can help Q’enqo understand that concept! I know how influential you are as a group! Great job on learning a tough lesson with such grace. 🙂 Sarah

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