Oaxaca Lending Library & Community Center
English Language Books, Social Events, Outreach Programs & Charities

The Oaxaca Lending Library (OLL) has been in existence for over 40 years, and is one of the largest English language libraries in all of Mexico. Over the past decade it’s grown into a vibrant community center, in large part due to the dedication of its many volunteers.

The library supports and sponsors various charitable outreach programs, and as such is a valuable resource which benefits the broader Oaxacan population. Donations it receives from American taxpayers are deductible through a U.S. Foundation (Canadians can give it a try, but be prepared for CRA to reject the write-off, since to my knowledge a Canadian foundation has not yet been formed). The OLL also facilitates the learning of English and Spanish for respectively Oaxacans and expatriates (mainly Americans and Canadians), with special emphasis on children and youths.

Charity Work & Outreach of Oaxaca’s English Language Library

The main, ongoing charitable project of the OLL is its support of the Libros Para Pueblos program. The goal of Libros Para Pueblos is to create Spanish language libraries in neighborhoods, villages and towns where none exist, and to stock and replenish the supply of books and related educational tools. The object is to improve the level of learning of those who would otherwise not have the ability or resources to enhance their literacy. The program has created over 30 libraries.

¡Kids Go! is a pre-school program which teaches underprivileged children basic socialization and learning skills prior to their entry into public school. The program currently has about 60 participants.

Youth Adelante addresses learning of Oaxacan teens by assisting them with their Spanish, library and computer skills, through supporting their socialization with visiting foreign students.

Linda’s Kitchen teaches mentally and physically handicapped young people to function productively in various types of restaurant work. After completing the program the graduate youths are assisted by the Kitchen personnel and others associated with the OLL, to find paid employment in Oaxaca’s working world.

Raising Resources

Aside from outright donations to fund the foregoing programs, there are other ways that the OLL receives resources. Both native Oaxacans and expatriates are encouraged to donate excess books, computer equipment which they are no longer using, and items of clothing, furniture and even foodstuffs.

[I have my own program independent of the library, wherein I encourage visitors to Oaxaca to fill the empty suitcase they’ll be bringing down (earmarked for craft, clothing and rug purchases) with new or gently used clothing, toys and educational tools. I pick up the bounty from hotels and B & Bs upon receiving a call or email, and then distribute directly to families I know to be in need, or to the administration of rural schools, which often has a better handle on identifying the families of students clearly living on the edge.]

With the support of Oaxacan restauranteurs and other benefactors, charity dinners are held on a regular basis. There’s also an annual rummage and bake sale, the occasional fine art auction which is generously supported through donations of works by Oaxacan artists, and additional ongoing efforts aimed at fundraising.

And of course there are periodic book and DVD sales on the premises. Occasionally it’s necessary to cull the collections, especially after a large, new donation has been made. There are always books and DVDs for sale, but the best time to find real bargains is when sales first begin.

Social Programs and Language Learning at the Oaxaca Lending Library

The Library is a hub of activity for its members and visitors, six days a week. Expatriate residents, part-timers and snowbirds, those traveling through Oaxaca, and tourists, are all welcome to participate in all social programs. Activities include: lecture series on a regular basis, a bridge club, gatherings of musicians anxious to jam, monthly garden club meetings including field trips throughout the central valleys and further abroad. And of course every day there are informal chats over coffee, pastries and bagels, whenever passersby yearn for familiarity of language and culture, or have questions about anything to do with Oaxaca or Latin American travel.

A monthly newsletter keeps members and visitors up to date. At the library premises there’s a bulletin board with postings for personal and professional services, as well as other announcements and news; a binder with accommodations wanted and being offered and homes / land for sale; and other helpful resources.

On Saturday mornings, Spanish and English speakers, children and adults alike, gather at the Oaxaca Lending Library to assist one another to better their language skills, on a semi-formal basis. There are opportunities to arrange for ongoing intercambios, whereby on a fixed schedule hour-long sessions can take place to assist Oaxacans to better their English, and Americans and Canadians to improve their Spanish. These informal discussions often supplement more formal language training.

Become a Member of the Oaxaca Lending Library

The OLL offers modestly priced annual memberships, as well as a short – term program which enables snowbirds and avid readers on a short vacation to Oaxaca, to avail themselves of the library’s vast selection. And by joining, part – timers can become permanent members on the OLL mailing list, enabling them to keep abreast of activities and events pending their next visit to Oaxaca. And for those who winter at the beach resorts on Oaxaca’s Pacific coast, such as Huatulco and Puerto Escondido, it would certainly be worth a call or email to the OLL to inquire about making arrangements to have a rotating selection of books available to read while soaking up the sun.

Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com ) ©


Alvin Starkman has a masters in anthropology and law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. A resident of Oaxaca, Alvin writes, takes couples and families to the sights, is a consultant to documentary film companies working in southern Mexico, and operates Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com ), a unique b & b providing accommodations which combine the privacy and amenities of an apartment, and comfort of Oaxaca hotels with the personal touch and service of country inn lodging. Alvin also leads culinary tours of Oaxaca with Chef Pilar Cabrera Arroyo (http://www.oaxacaculinarytours.com).

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