Located near the town center, the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca Pública offers a safe and inviting space that serves multiple purposes for the community. It houses over 12,000 books, primarily in Spanish, including nonfiction as well as current fiction and poetry, for all age groups. Members of the community borrow an average of 600-800 books a month with a 97% return rate. The library has a large space that is equipped with computers to use free of charge. Children and young adults gather daily to read, do homework, study, and participate in library and community-sponsored activities. Classes held here include English as a second language, public health, and arts & crafts led by our library staff members. The library also supports local schools by providing curriculum materials and basic school supplies for students and teachers if they have a need for them.
The library adopted an automated system for loaning books in February of 2015 thanks to our sister library, Poudre River Public Library District, in Fort Collins Colorado. Both the public library and the Mobile Project are operating on this system and all of the books in our library have barcodes that we use to check books in and out. This system has helped us remove our paper logging system and has made it much easier to keep track of the books we loan.
The library is a member of ANIBIPA, which is the Nicaraguan Association of library professionals, and the Red Nacional de Bibliotecas Publicas, Nicaragua’s network of public libraries. Director Jane Mirandette is committed to increasing literacy options around the world and is a member of the American Library Association (ALA) and their International Relations Roundtable (IRRT). Each year, Jane and other advisory board members, try to attend the annual ALA conference to connect with other international libraries and to see our favorite publishers.
In 2002, Jane Mirandette founded the Hester J. Hodgdon Libraries For All Foundation which raises funds to support the library and the Mobile Project. The HJH Foundation is a Colorado-based, tax-exempt charitable foundation established in 2003 to support the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca and to promote lending libraries in Central America.
The San Juan del Sur Biblioteca Publica and The HJH Foundation are committed to helping other lending libraries be successful across Central America. If you are interested in starting your own library, or in how the process works, please see our Library in a Box Recipient Program and Initiating Lending Libraries in Developing Nations pages for more information.
History of the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca Publica
The San Juan del Sur Biblioteca Publica was established in 2001 on the patio of Hotel Villa Isabella by owner Jane Mirandette. It was the first public lending library in Central America. The library’s first books were provided for the hotel’s patrons but Mirandette quickly realized that for most people in the community, and in the country, access to books and information was, and is still, very limited.
When Mirandette first opened the library on her hotel patio, it began to fill with children and adults daily and many books were out in circulation. In January 2002, the library was able to move to its own location just a few steps away from the hotel and it became the first stationary public lending library in Nicaragua. The concept of lending libraries in Nicaragua was unfamiliar up until this point, which led many people to think that the books would not be returned. Books are very expensive and a familiar saying is “to lend a book is to lose a book” but this proved not to be the case in San Juan del Sur. Our return rate has stayed at about 97% since the doors first opened which is much higher than any return rates in the US. Adults and children in the community are more than willing to return books if it means they can check out a new one.