News: Volunteer Librarian Returns…

3.4.16 – Volunteer Librarian
Sand Castle Library & Bookmobiles, Bay Islands, Honduras

Sarah P’s comments:  As promised, here is the review of Cate Carlyle’s recent volunteer trip to the Bay Island of Honduras.  This was an opportunity I posted last year after I received an introductory e-mail from the Director.  From the start Cate worked hard to make this opportunity work for her.  She corresponded about how best to help the library and the best times to go and then found time in her busy schedule.  I am glad the result was an overall positive experience and I hope this paves the way for other librarians to volunteers there as well.


Cate walking to work.jpg

Cate walking to work

I spent this past week, Study Break Week at the university where I work, volunteering in the Sandcastle Library on the island of Roatan Honduras. I covered my own travel and accommodation costs and used personal holiday time away from work. With the help of a generous donation from Mount saint Vincent University’s Faculty of Child & Youth Study, as well as the monetary donations and donations of school supplies from colleagues, friends and family, I was able to take two extra suitcases of school supplies and ship Spanish childrens’ books and readers to Roatan as well. These books and supplies were very much appreciated by the Partners in Education Roatan (PIER ( and Sandcastle Library staff. The kitchen timers (used to train teachers on how long to plan and deliver lessons in the classroom) and the magnifying glasses I donated were of particular interest, while scotch tape are markers are precious commodities as well. The staff also proudly wore the Nova Scotia and Canada tartan lanyards I took down for them.  I worked from 9am to 4pm most days organizing and cleaning the library, classifying the collection and assisting staff with the translation of language arts lesson plans and the integration of games into lesson planning. I also conducted a brief PD session with staff on book talks, conducting read-alouds, reading response, promoting and modeling reading and selecting materials for children.




There are no other public libraries on the island and only one school library. SandcastleLibrary was created in a former resort dive centre, by an ex-pat couple, for the community of Sandy Bay. The PIER President, Cam O’Brien, and Sandcastle staff (shout out to the amazing Celaura in the library) are incredible people; all highly motivated, generous, caring and committed to improving the quality of life on the island. Plans are in the works to move the library closer to town, off the beach, and to increase its size, scope and influence. PIER also runs two bookmobiles which travel to local schools and PIER and the library staff work on training local teachers in more current educational practices. The island does not have a newspaper, parents share the belief with their children that “reading makes you crazy”, and most reading is of the Bible (learned by rote). Reading for pleasure and reading comprehension are two of the hurdles the staff face when promoting literacy on the island. This year, PIER is facing an extra hurdle of trying to keep their second bookmobile on the road. They face a cost of $4000 US to keep the bookmobile running to the schools with books and staff eager to engage with children, promote literacy and model modern teaching methods for the teachers. Monetary donations are desperately needed in order to keep this program running.


Geckos on the bookmobile, in the books and on the shelves, mouse droppings, and biting bugs were a new challenge for me (bugs and geckos in the bed also made sleeping a bit tricky). I was able to initiate a “Get Caught Reading” campaign which the library will soon implement, as well as plant the seeds for an open house/community day to try to dispel some of the negative images which the parents have of the library and reading.

Library Before.jpg

Library Before…

Library After.jpg

Library After



3 thoughts on “News: Volunteer Librarian Returns…

  1. Hi Cliff:

    The librarian in Honduras preferred it this way. I set up other shelves with display, and covers facing out on the other side of the library but she chose to have items spine out for the “series wall” in the picture. There was a definite lack of space as well that made spine out necessary in many areas. This library is the only one on the island and is in a former dive shack with one overhead light, no heat or air con, not your typical library. The library itself is the size of a small living room.The signage is produced on small pieces of paper (post it size) and is what can be hand printed or printed off of a desktop printer.

    When I volunteer in Central America I make suggestions and offer new ideas but I am not there to take over, change everything and leave. I ask the librarian what works for them and what they would like help improving and then I get to work. The week I was in Honduras was spent creating categories, pulling books and cleaning the shelves, and placing books back on the shelves in those categories…the very beginnings of organization as I was only there for a week. We also created theme buckets of books for display on the tables and an inviting children’s area. I agree with Sara, Sandcastle would love more volunteers to visit and continue the work I barely got to start. It is an eye opening experience. When even scotch tape is a rarity you have to change your point of view and adjust; a very valuable experience if you have the opportunity! I urge you to get involved.


  2. great looking building but why are none of the books on display? I have noticed this with US libraries – all the bookcases are pressed against the walls and the books rarely on display – by this I mean the front covers not the spines. No signage or posters, colourful displays – nothing to encourage readers to browse or promote the stock – I appreciate that this is only one section – I assume there are more? it also looks a bit dark and dingy. Sorry to be critical but as a Librarian and reader I would not be encouraged to browse this collection.


    • Hi Cliff, Thanks for your comments but you know what I am going to say…go on down and volunteer! Then you can set it up the way you think it should be set up. I don’t disagree with you but Cate only had one week to get things sorted out…


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