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Bookshelves via Trnava University

What is the OLL?

OLL Mission Statement

Our mission, as a nonprofit Asociación Civil, is to be a living library and cultural center serving the Oaxacan community. We are a lending library that offers materials for loan to our members, along with onsite access to the general public.


The OLL fulfills its mission by providing: 


  • Multimedia and bilingual reading, educational, and entertainment materials for all ages; 

  • Language programs to encourage biliteracy and cross-cultural competence; 

  • An inclusive venue for cultural and social events that foster solidarity and appreciation; and 

  • Collaboration with other local NGOs to promote community empowerment.  

We seek to inspire a love of reading and learning across generations and cultures.

About us

The Oaxaca Lending Library (also known as the OLL) at its heart is a Library with a collection of books, periodicals, reference materials, and audio-visual offerings in both English and Spanish. Pieced together from financial and material donations across our history, our collection owes its existence to the generosity of our members, friends, and other organizations. The "lending" part of our name is significant, as the OLL is one of the few libraries in all of Mexico that allows its articles to be lent out to its members.

The OLL  has evolved over time from a collection of materials into a community center, educational events hub, and an integral part of the greater Oaxacan community. 

We partner with local Mexican organizations—such as schools—providing some free or discounted memberships to make our resources more accessible to everyone in the Oaxacan community. We also promote local NGOs and other organizations to spread the word about worthwhile causes and resources serving our community. 

The OLL is essentially a volunteer organization. While we have three wonderful paid employees on our staff, the governance and many of the day-to-day operations for the library would be impossible without the more than 100 volunteers who give their time and efforts to maintain and grow the library.

History of the OLL

Founded in 1966 by a group of Americans and Canadians living in Oaxaca, the OLL's doors opened without fanfare one Sunday morning and have remained open for more than 50 years. 

The OLL started with a bequest of 600 English-language books from Benjamin Crowell donated on his behalf to create a local library. Thanks to the support of the US Embassy in Mexico City, a number of Spanish-language texts were added to supplement and expand the now-bilingual collection. These materials constituted the original OLL.

OLL 1971 reunion photo

The US Embassy also sent a professional librarian to the OLL  to teach volunteers many essential library skills. With these systems in place and more than 2000 materials to lend, the library set its earliest regular membership price at 25 pesos and, within its first year, it had nearly 100 members. 

In 2000, the OLL Constitution was drafted and accepted by the Mexican government, making it a legal nonprofit organization in Mexico.​ 

Today, the library continues to function with several hundred members and many thousands of items in its multimedia collection and, much like the greater Oaxacan community, it has weathered  political disruptions, natural disasters, protests, and a pandemic, never forgetting its mission to serve as an accepting, safe communal space within Oaxaca.

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