E-JASL: The Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship


Date of this Version

Winter 2009

Document Type



Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship (Winter 2009) 10(3). Also available at http://southernlibrarianship.icaap.org/content/v10n03/griner_l01.html.


Copyright 2009, the authors. Used by permission.



Many universities are encouraging study abroad and international service-learning opportunities to provide their students with the necessary knowledge and skills to operate successfully in an increasingly global environment. Academic librarians have unique opportunities and perspectives which enable them to participate in the educational mission of the University. During a trip to Mexico, two librarians from the University of Maryland recognized an opportunity to engage students in a learning service opportunity in Nicaragua. Using their knowledge of the university community and their campus connections, they formed a partnership with a faculty member in the University’s College of Information Studies to develop and offer the College’s first study abroad course.

Americans take for granted that they can walk into a public library and, with minimal identification, borrow a book, videotape, or compact disk to take home for a period of weeks or months. Until recently, such was not the case in Nicaragua. Nicaragua did not have a public lending library until 2001, when Jane Mirandette, a transplanted Colorado native, opened the San Juan del Sur (SJDS) Biblioteca Pública. She subsequently extended library services to the surrounding rural community with the San Juan del Sur (SJDS) Mobile Project.

Two University of Maryland (UM) librarians learned about these projects at a book fair in Mexico and realized that the projects would provide a unique opportunity for UM librarians to connect the UM faculty and students with a service-learning experience in Nicaragua . The eventual partnership resulted in a transformative educational and service experience through the creation of the UM College of Information Studies’ first study abroad course. This article documents the history of the SJDS library projects and the ensuing partnership with the University of Maryland.