Luncheon with the Executive Committee of the Friends of the Smith College Libraries

Today we had the incredible opportunity to attend a luncheon with the Executive Committee of the Friends of the Smith College Libraries. The meeting was a fantastic experience for us. We met a number of Smith Alumnae who have remained involved with the college, particularly with the college libraries.

The members of the committee had excellent advice for us concerning the project. They stressed the importance of aligning ourselves with a registered US non-profit in order to make the donation process easier and more legitimate. We agree that this will be an important step for the project as we move from the design phase into the fund raising phase. We plan to meet with the Smith Engineering department within the next week to discuss the possibility of setting up a fund through the department.

The committee members also connected us with a number of valuable resources and contacts, and we look forward to contacting them and seeking their advice and support with the project. The luncheon was a valuable experience for us as we move forward with the project, (not to mention, the food was delicious!).

We offer our sincere gratitude to the the women of the Executive Committee of the Friends of the Smith College Libraries!


Article in the Gate

"The Gate," Smith's online news source, wrote a great piece about our project last week. You can read it here!


2011 Davis Projects for Peace Grant

Exciting News for the Project! We found out last week that we are one of two proposals chosen by Smith to be sent to the Davis Foundation for funding consideration. Projects for Peace is a program that supports and encourages students to design their own grassroots projects - anywhere in the world - which promote peace and address the root causes of conflict among parties. "Peace" is intentionally left undefined so as not to limit students' imaginations. We're very excited to have been chosen as finalists for this incredible grant! Final decisions will be announced on March 11th.

Us with an early version of the library (Genevieve on the left, me on the right)


Article Online

The Taos News just put their most recent issue up online, so if you are interested in reading the article they wrote about our project, you can do so here! Again, a big thank you to my hometown newspaper!


Toas News Article

The Taos News did a wonderful piece about our project in this weeks issue (Jan. 20th issue). For any of you who don't know, Taos, New Mexico is my hometown! A big thank you to Chandra Johnson, who wrote the article. If you were referred here to our blog by the article, we're happy you heard about us and wanted to learn more about the project!


The One You've All Been Waiting For...

Finally! Geneviéve and I have finished making our final model of the library. After working extensively on the project during the final weeks of the semester, we are very pleased with the outcome!

The Exterior Model

The first floor (already in existence) consists of a laundry room and a storage room. The storage room will be renovated into a classroom. The second floor will house the library's 2000 book collection.

Strategically placed windows allow for a cross-breeze, eliminating the need for a central cooling system.

A balcony offers a nice space for outdoor reading.

The interior model:

I made the couch out of sculpey clay! The floor is made from coffee stirrers cut and staggered to look like floorboard, then coated with hardwood floor varnish.

A fourth wall, containing the majority of the shelving, was removed to allow us to better photograph the model.

The library includes a desk area where electronic resources such as computers will be placed. There is also a "kid's corner" (blue shelving), and a comfortable couch to encourage reading and spending time in the library.

We'd love to know what you think of the design!


Library Design and a Mantay Success Story

Hi everyone! We're getting into the final stages of the design process now, and plan to have two finished, final models of the library within the next couple of weeks. One model will be a detailed representation of the exterior of the library (complete with the pre-existing first floor), and a second model will be roofless and show what we have imagined for the interior of the library. For the interior, we have decided to place the books on shelves around the walls in order to keep the weight on the the building's supports. In terms of the exterior, structural design, we have decided to go with something simple and aesthetically pleasing. But I won't give away too much just now.

In other news, I thought I'd share something very exciting that Raquel told me. One of the current mothers at Mantay, Nélida, who was sent to a local secondary school rather than being educated at the home, has recently graduated first in her class.

Nélida's story goes to show what the young women of Peru are capable of accomplishing if given the chance. Nélida and her child have a promising future ahead. Had Nélida had been denied an education, like so many other teenage Peruvian mothers, her intelligence could easily have been overlooked, and she and her child would have been confined to a life of poverty and educational disadvantage. I hate to think of Nélida's wasted potential had she been removed from school. But of course, for every Nélida there are many more young mothers whose potential does go unrealized. We hope that by providing Mantay with a library—an invaluable educational resource—we can help make stories like Nélida's more and more common.

Congratulations Nélida!

A poster, made by the mothers of Mantay, promoting a woman's right to education.


Building Site Photos

Raquel sent us some photos of the building site a while back, and I thought I'd share:

The roof will be removed to accommodate the second floor (the library!), and the room on the left side of the first floor will be renovated into a classroom.

What a beautiful view of the mountains!

From above

We can't wait to eventually post photos of this building when it's a library!


Mini Library

We finally have a detailed model of the library finished. This model was meant to be simple and functional, but also aesthetically pleasing. The porch faces North, which is the direction the sun comes from most directly during the Peruvian dry season (April through October), the nicest time to read outside. We maintained the simple, sloping roof that currently exists on the first floor of the real building. Two square windows on both the East and West facing walls allow for good natural lighting, but also leave plenty of wall space for shelving books. The South facing wall is windowless and will be the computer area.

Nice, huh? Compare this to our last model!

We chose this green to match the color of the building we'll be adding onto.


The Design Process

Geneviéve and I have started thinking about a more developed model of the library. During our meeting with Paul today, he suggested that we make a few different models and compare the pros and cons of each design. For example, a larger porch means more outside reading room but less space in the actual library. Shelving below the windows means books that are easier to reach, but such placement runs the risk of damaging books in the event that someone forgets to close the windows during a storm. More windows means higher cost, but better natural lighting. You get the idea.

After some thought, we drew three different design options. After we get the pieces cut and the models built, we are planning to send photos of these models to Mantay to get their input. We are also hoping to have the mothers of Mantay generate a list of qualities they would like to have in a library. By involving Mantay in the library design as much as possible, we hope to get them invested in the project and promote the idea that the library is not ours, but theirs. We believe that the more active a role the members of Mantay take in the creation of the library, the more likely they will be to feel at home in the space and want to use it.
Eventually, after gathering input from Mantay and evaluating the positive and negative aspects of each model, we will begin drafting the final library design.

In addition to building our three preliminary models, our major goal for the next few weeks is to come up with an accurate budget. We believe that—although our project is ambitious—it is feasible with enough prior planning. Budgeting has proved to be a difficult task since I am the only one of us who has been to Peru, and when I lived there I didn't tend to buy things like masses of bricks or cement. Luckily, Raquel has been able to help us determine the cost of labor and construction in Cusco. She has a great deal of experience building in Peru, since Mantay was nothing more than a plot of land when she founded the home in 2000. Geneviéve and I have been using the information Raquel has sent us to begin making a detailed budget for the project.


An Email from Mantay!

I woke up to a lovely surprise this morning—an email from Raquel, the truly remarkable woman who founded Mantay. She told me that one of the newest mothers, who arrived in ill health (as many of them do), has since gained 2 kilos. This is about 4 pounds. She also let me know that she is adapting to life at the home and that she gave birth last Thursday to a healthy baby boy who she named Kevin. One of my favorite things about Spanish is the phrase for giving birth." They say "Dar a luz," or in English, "to give light."

Raquel's email was also packed with information that will be extremely helpful when designing, and ultimately building, the library. She gave us the average price of common construction materials. As I guessed, these materials are brick and cement. This is actually wonderful because neither of these materials are expensive or hard to come by, and they are sturdy and provide a nice thermal mass. She also gave us some average prices for materials so that we can get started on drafting a more accurate budget for the project.

Finally, the library will be built as the second floor of a preexisting building and Raquel sent us a number of photos of this building. We now have a better concept of the space we have in which to build. Thanks Raquel!

The library will be built as a second floor above the green building. On the first first floor, the room on the left will be renovated and become a classroom. The room on the right is the laundry room. Luckily the building was built with the intention of eventually adding a second floor, so no major structural changes to the first floor will be necessary.


First Mock-Up Finished

After struggling for over an hour to get the laser cutter to work, we finally were able to print the drawings of our first model. We are very excited about the way it looks after assembly. Paul suggested that we break up the long narrow space we have to work with by adding a small portico on the entrance side. This would mean a little less inside space, but also would allow for an outdoor reading area and a less awkward entrance. Not to mention, the smaller volume would mean that our library would heat up faster!

We were also able to find a great deal of data about Cusco's climate. The climate is perfect for a library with no central heating or cooling system, because the temperature does not change dramatically over the year. Instead of the traditional four seasons, Cusco's year is divided into the rainy season and the dry season. Because of this, the difference is not so much in temperature, but in precipitation.
Finally, we are exploring options for funding the project. More about this soon!

Our First Mock-up of the Library


EGR 100 Memories...

Just found this photo of me and Geneviéve working in the engineering studio last year (We built a miniature, sustainable lighthouse!). We're excited to be working together again this year on a project with such amazing potential!

Charlie's Angels...Engineering Style



Today we made a great deal of progress on the library design. After wandering around Bass library weighing books on a bathroom scale, we were able to determine the average weight for a set number of books. This knowledge is essential for determining the number of books we will be able to put in the library. We determined that our ideal goal would be to have 3000 books. Of course, we will be restricted by the amount of funding we are able to raise and the amount of weight the first floor of the building is able to support. To counter problems with weight we will place the books along the walls (where there is the most support), and distribute the books evenly rather than concentrating them in any specific area of the library.

In other news, we had a wonderful time drawing sketches of the interior of the library, deciding window placement, furniture needs and arrangement, and flooring. We even got so ahead of ourselves towards the end that we were talking about paint color! Afterward, Kelsie made an AutoCAD drawing of the library. We plan to have this printed and a second, more detailed 3D mock-up finished by next week when we meet with Paul. Of course, we will be flexible about the design when it comes time to build, but we want to have well developed concept of the library initially.


La Casa de Acogida Mantay

La Casa de Acogida Mantay is home to approximately 15 Peruvian mothers between the ages of 11 and 18. Since its founding in 2000, Mantay has been home to over 145 minors (mothers and children). True to Peruvian statistics, most, if not all, of the mothers have been victims of rape and sexual violence. Although there are several shelters in the Cusco area serving women in need, Mantay is the only one of its kind. Instead of being merely a temporary shelter offering a roof and a hot meal, Mantay is a home.

At Mantay, women are given a new life. The mothers, many of whom have never learned to read, are given a proper education. Professors at Mantay tutor the mothers daily since, due to their circumstances, they are unable to attend traditional school. During school, the children of the mothers are cared for in the home's guardería (“nursery”). A psychologist visits the home regularly to work with both mothers and children. In addition, the mothers are taught leather-working in the home’s workshop, giving them a skill that can provide them with a means of income after leaving the home. Perhaps most importantly, Mantay operates under a strict “no violence” policy. The home is often the first place these women have ever been where they feel truly safe.

Mantay is taking the first steps towards decreasing the prevalence of rape in Peru: providing assistance to the victims while giving them the education and vocational training they need to escape poverty. While volunteering at Mantay in April of 2009, Victoria witnessed firsthand the remarkable influence the home has on the mothers who live there. Through our project, we hope to provide a much needed educational resource for the women and children of Mantay and help stop the cycle of sexual violence against women in Peru.

To learn more about Mantay, visit their website at

Victoria and Alexandra, age 4 months. April, 2009


  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP