Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Librarian: Lonely No More

Was it only a year ago that I, the “lonely librarian,” sat on the floor in the library at entreamigos surrounded by boxes, tape and markers, packing books for storage? Last April the future of our small community organization seemed bleak. Staying in the building on the main street that entreamigos had occupied for three years was not an option. Its location near the beach was prime real estate; the landlord had other plans.

A large abandoned warehouse at the other end of town had been given to entreamigos but renovating it into useable space was overwhelming. First, it would take a massive effort to clear the building of years of debris and garbage. Then, even with the possibility of a $36,000 grant from The Three Swallows Foundation, the San Pancho community would have to raise twice that amount of money to begin construction.

Did the community care enough to make the effort? When larger cities, including my home town of Evanston, Illinois, are closing their neighborhood libraries, could a project of this size in our small town possibly succeed?

The answer is a resounding “yes.” Having a library and community center did matter. Today entreamigos has a brand-new home; in cash, more than $100,000 was raised. The dilapidated warehouse was restored inch by inch into a completely “green” space through hundreds of hours of volunteer labor and donations of supplies.

A few months ago I sat on the floor in the new library at entreamigos and unpacked all of the old boxes. The newly painted wooden shelves, recycled tires and crates, were ready to be filled. The large, airy space with brightly-painted tables and chairs and comfy pillows beckoned eager readers. It had been a labor of love for all of us, a commitment to libraries and to education that San Pancho was willing to make.

In Evanston, news of a $10 million deficit in the budget sounded the death knell for the neighborhood libraries. Closing the two branch libraries was not a new threat; in fact, it was almost an annual event at budget time. But this year was different, and the end of the neighborhood libraries seemed imminent.

There was one possibility. The Branch libraries received a six-month reprieve to raise $200,000. Could the Evanston community raise that amount to keep
the Branches open?

To date, 1000 volunteers have raised $65,000 with more commitments of support daily. But a “For Rent” sign in the window of the South Branch library has added to the pressure.

Come on Evanston. If we can do it in San Pancho…


kate.kniffen said...

What a great story. Thanks for sharing it. You write beautifully.

kate.kniffen said...

What a wonderful story (for San Pancho, anyway). Thanks for sharing it. You write beautifully.

Gustavo said...

Gail i love this!!!