After experiencing success in the corporate world, Bertie Lee Murphy, affectionately called “Miss Bertie” joined the Peace Corp at age 70, where she was tasked as a literacy volunteer assigned to Hopkins, Belize.
When Bertie arrived in Hopkins, she noticed there was not a school library or a community one. Since there was no physical building, Miss Bertie set up a “mobile” library system of some donated books and passed out library cards. Books were loaned on a weekly system. Fortunately, the old pre-school classroom was converted to the library and books becan filling the shelves and many other benefits of a “store front.” In her blog “Bertie in Belize” she shares of her surprise at being able to establish a library in Hopkins, with over 1500 books, in just 11 months.
Miss Bertie died the following year, in 2008. Lacking lacking volunteers to run the newly-created library, it closed. Thankfully, it re-opened in 2011 and has flourished since. Books continue to be donated. Shelves continue to be added, and there has even been an expansion of the building. The library received electricity in recent years, and now has fans and some donated computers.
Miss Bertie’s Hopkins Community Library became part of the Belize National Library Service, in 2011 as well, ensuring its continuation for the Hopkins community even if the availability of local volunteers disappears. There is no government funding, except to provide for one part-time librarian. All funds for book maintenance, building repairs, building book shelves, and bills are raised by the community.
After school programs are daily, where children read and do their homework. There are science days, art activities, and Friday “game days.” However, puzzles and learning games are hard to find in Belize and typically expensive. Children’s library cards are free. Adults are $2.50US/$5BZ, and anyone is welcome to be a member of Miss Bertie’s Library. Tourists included.
Miss Bertie’s has a bi-annual yard sale to raise funds, as well as a few smaller events throughout the year. Donations of books, pencils, games, and money are welcomed!