How I Ended Up in the YA Section of a Belize Library

Last month I attended a writers conference and retreat…on a cruise ship! Cruising Writers hosts fabulous Caribbean cruises that are a mixture of workshops, writing/editing time, travel, and fun with other authors.

The ports we visited were Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico. I had shore excursions in Honduras and Mexico, but I left Belize open. Instead, my husband and I just walked around downtown Belize City, soaking in the sights, the culture, and the people.

After many blocks of our walking tour, we saw a shop selling Mayan chocolate. I definitely wanted to go in and buy something for myself and a friend. A few truffles later, we stepped back out onto the sidewalk, and my husband pointed two doors down. “Let’s go see the library.” Sure enough, the city’s library was on the same block, and we were eager to pop inside and see what treasures it held.

Now Belize is an English-speaking country, having been a British colony from 1862 to 1981. So the books they had on their shelves were, of course, in English. But the library was small, the fiction section requiring only a few bookcases. I was glad to see titles I recognized but saddened by how few books they shelved.

And then I found the YA section, which put a smile on my face:

ya-section-of-belize-library

Until I saw how little was in the YA section:

ya-bookcase-in-belize-library

My small town library has bazillion more YA books than this! One sweet girl who appeared to be about 12 years old strode in to say hello to the librarian, and as I looked at her, I thought, What happens when a bookish girl like her runs out of books to read?

I don’t know exactly what I want to do about this situation. I am looking into options for sending books to this struggling library (they had a whole empty bookcase they could fill with YA books).

But I thought it worth noting how spoiled I feel in the United States to have books so easily at my fingertips. And that’s clearly not the case around the world — even though we know how important reading is to success for an individual and a community.

As I got back onto the cruise ship (which had a pitifully small library too, but whatever — I was there for a week), I had this nagging feeling that authors and readers need to look for opportunities to share our love with those who don’t have easy access to books. I’m placing this goal on my 2017 resolution list.

How have you contributed to providing books for young readers and teens? What ideas do you have to help struggling libraries like the one in Belize City?

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5 thoughts on “How I Ended Up in the YA Section of a Belize Library

  1. Julie – This is the first time I’ve received an email announcing a post on your blog in ages. In fact, I thought I’d lost all contact with you. It was good to get this. Glad you enjoyed your cruise. I haven’t been to Belize, but I have been to the other two.

  2. What a great experience! But sad about the library. Did you get any contact info from the librarian? An address, or acquisitions person? Maybe we can send them some books.

    1. I plan to follow up and see if they can accept some books. I figured I could tap authors to donate a book or two and gather a good collection. Their adult fiction section was maybe four bookcases and mostly bestselling names. They could use some other niche novels, like mysteries!

  3. Oh Julie how excited I am to answer your question!! In 2012 I got the chance to go to Belize on my first international mission trip. I met a retired teacher who lives in a village called Maya Mopan, which is basically like a suburb of Belmopan, the capital of Belize. She had started a community center of sorts to share the love of Christ with children. But one of her dreams was to bribng a library to the village within the walls of her location. I was so excited about the idea that when I returned home I organized a project to collect books to send for the new library. When I returned the next December I had money with me to help buy lumber for the shelves and over a couple of days we actually made it happen. While the number of books is still low, it is infinitely more than four years ago. If you would like to see pictures and read more you can see it on my blog here: https://faithbyacts.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/so-you-want-to-build-a-library/

    I keep looking for good books to collect and send along so the youngsters can continue to expand their minds. Your experience reminds me of how much I have enjoyed the three trips to see this still expanding mission.

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