The library: Equal access to learning and literature | SierraSun.com

The library: Equal access to learning and literature

Pam McAdoo
Special to the Sierra Sun

A recent piece in the San Francisco Chronicle described a relationship that developed between Beto, an illegal immigrant, and Alice, a student at UC Santa Cruz when they worked together to realize his dream: Building a library in his home town in Mexico to educate and expand the possibilities for his friends, family, and neighbors.

You’ve probably heard of bookmobiles – vans or trucks that deliver library books; but you may never have heard of a library that is carried on a camel’s back to serve people who live in remote areas. Twice a month, semi-nomadic Somalis in Africa walk a mile to meet camels delivering books. Reading to improve English skills will help qualify the Somalis for continued education.

Since Johannes Gutenberg invented mechanical printing in the middle of the 15th century, books have been a treasured part of society. Thomas Jefferson was a powerful advocate for making books available to everyone. Last week’s column looked at Andrew Carnegie, whose passion for libraries led him to fund the construction of 2,509 public libraries during the 1800s. Even today, famous and wealthy people remember the neighborhood library which offered them access to books and learning: Actor Leo DiCaprio recently donated a room full of computers and equipment to a new library built on the site of his childhood home.

Whether they live on the back of a camel or in a brand new multi-million dollar award-winning architectural icon, libraries are an almost sacred element of communities around the world, offering equal access to learning and literature. Our own Truckee library, most of whose outreach, cultural, literacy, and children’s programs are heavily subsidized by the Friends of the Library, offers books, computer access, videos, and audiobooks to everyone.

International students hitchhike from jobs at area ski resorts, the local homeless population stops in, the wealthiest people in our community utilize the library. Kids come to study after school. Laptop owners arrive to take advantage of the wireless internet access. English language learners come to meet with their tutors. Babies and toddlers bring their parents and caregivers along to attend weekly programs.

Travelers come to borrow a book on CD for their upcoming car trip or a guidebook for an exotic vacation destination. Music lovers check out CDs, and movie buffs come in for a foreign film.

The community clearly needs a larger building to house the existing library collection and to expand its resources to offer a larger space for kids’ events, community gathering space, additional comfortable reading and studying areas, more internet-access computers, a welcoming space for teens, and more light and air for this refuge of quiet and calm from our noisy world. The Friends have established a Building for Books fund at the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation to fund the creation of a new library for the community.

During this annual season of giving, the Friends hope you’ll remember the good old Truckee Library with a tax-deductible. Although it’s easy to take your community library for granted, it exists because people around the globe believe in access for everyone to books and information. Even if the only way to provide that access is by camel.

Meets monthly at the Library. Watch for information about January’s book. Participants receive a coupon for 15 percent off a one-time book purchase at the Bookshelf at Hooligan Rocks.

Now through February, 2008 for ages 5 and up. Sign up anytime.

Toddlertime and Babes in Bookland are on hiatus until the New Year.

Thursdays at 11:15 a.m., ages 3-6.

Stories, songs, and fingerplays in Spanish and English, when school is in session. Fridays 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., ages 3-5.

The Library’s Literacy Program is in desperate need of tutors to serve a waiting list of learners. Training at the end of January. Call 575-7030.

“Open to All: What the Library Means to Me” an anthology of library memories by residents of Nevada County, including Sue Cauhape, David Fenimore, Ann Lamott, and Gary Snyder. Proceeds will go toward the purchase of books for the Nevada County library branches.

New art Dec. 4: Portraits by Truckee artist Raphael Jolly. Over the fireplace: “Evening Light on Dry Mountain,” acrylic on canvas by Mike Bond.