April and Kevin in Kuna Yala, the northeast coast of Panamá

Friday, June 19, 2009

Grand Opening for the Island Library

It happened!

La Biblioteca (the library) is open! As you may recall, the community had made plans to make bookcases and organize books. Well, the chainsaw never worked out (due to a lack of gas and/or oil and/or machine), and bookshelves never got built. But, there was a spare bookcase from the kitchen in the school, and they decided it would work fine for the library and they would replace it when the chainsaw happened.

So, as scheduled, on 5 June Cecilia and her husband Eduardo brought their boat to our cove and we loaded up the six "Panama" bags we had filled with the books stored at our house and hauled them to the school. We organized them that day and the next with Cecilia and Maria Luisa into little kids (thick pages), easy reads, medium reads, chapter books, Panama information, science and education books, health books, books about adolescence, and English or Spanish books. We confirmed the plans for the checkout system and library hours. They talked to everyone about the Grand Opening on Tuesday, 9 June, and we actually left for the weekend, arriving back on Tuesday morning.

It turned out that Cecilia and Maria Luisa, together with the maestra, were up to a bit more than the Grand Opening of the Library. The maestra had organized all the kids in the school to sing a song or recite a poem for us, and they had a going-away lunch.

Then we had everyone wash their hands (manos limpias para los libros - clean hands for the books) and we held a story time to celebrate. We had all the kids, plus some younger siblings, and numerous parents. I read one of the Guillermo Gusano / William Worm books that the kids have enjoyed. I think it was a good example for the parents of how to read to the kids.

Then April went over the rules of the library and how to treat books well so they last. (And to think, I was librarian's child. :)
(April reviewing the rules of the library, on the whiteboard and posted on the wall. Together with a map of the world - we later added a map of the Gulf of Montijo and one of the island - it looks pretty official. The books nearly fill the bookcase already; they are planning on making another one.)

After the rules, April read them a book we hadn't read in nearly exactly a year, Donde Viven Los Monstruos.
(April with a very attentive crowd of listeners as Max sails back home)

When the wild rumpus started, April shocked them to their feet to dance around, while I joined in banging on a plastic bucket. They thoroughly enjoyed story time, and hopefully Cecilia, who will host the Wednesday Library Hours with Story Time, will carry on the enjoyment. (Maria Luisa will hold Sunday Library Hours.)

But while we do hope Story Time continues, one of our main goals is to encourage kids and adults to read in general. We hope to have something for everyone.
(Rubiel, Carlito, and Kiko reading, while Roxanna and Soray look at books and talk with April)
Thus, this picture is one of the ones we enjoyed the most. These three boys all clambored to find a small book and sat down to read it. Kiko lives north of us and had been by our house regularly on his way home from school to ask for a book to read, and searched out his favorites. Rubiel lives on the south of the island and Carlos near the school, so they had not read any of the books before, and enjoyed discovering the options. I have faith that they will continue to read in the future.
So what came of the donations, which were originally intended for sealable boxes and desecant packs? Since the community decided the books would be more accessable on a bookcase, and donated the bookcase, April searched around online and found another addition to the library that they had wanted: an encyclopedia, to support homework projects and learning. She found one from Encyclopedea Brittanica for $250 (plus $50 S&H once we got an Embassy address; originally, to ship to Panama was $250 as well!) with 20 volumes, aimed at the middle school age range, so it should provide as much as they need. We just spent the rest of the money yesterday at Hombre de la Mancha, one of the few bookstores in Panama (the name comes from Don Quixote, not only one of the greatest Spanish-language novels, but an appropriate label for the jousting at windmills that is selling books in Panama), picking up the fourth Harry Potter, a set of 12 books on nature, the world, and science, and other kids books. In total, the library now has nearly 400 books! Thanks to all of you who shared your love of reading and your willingness to help with our community members!


Mom and Dad C. said...

Okay, so this post finally made the old librarian cry. What a wonderful legacy to leave on the island. They will definitely remember and tell stories about the Peace Corps volunteers who stayed with them "way back when".

Foy and Jeff said...

What a cool project and not just the books. The level of community participation is wonderful. That really is a big accomplishment. Congratulations.