|Greenville Junior/Senior High School and Indian Valley Academy share this library space.|
“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”
~ Anna QuindlenThe ancient Greeks inscribed "this is a healing place for the soul" above the entrance to a library in Thebes. I can't imagine not having a library or books.
I remember my first library card. The excitement of signing my name. The joy of searching shelves and selecting books to take home! My library card was my ticket to ride! To this day, I don't leave home without it!
When I saw the above picture and a post from Margaret Elysia Garcia about Just.One.Book, I contacted Margaret for an interview.
Janie: Margaret, how are you connected/involved with the schools that need books?
My voracious reader, Paloma, starts 7th grade in the fall. I was thinking about how she only really goes to libraries when we go see my father in law in Santa Monica or my family in Whittier, CA.
It occurred to me that going to school where she does, she might never have a library experience on campus. Also my son, who begins 9th grade in the fall, often used the library space for study hall last year (I tutored him in English ---I’m 17 year ex-English adjunct faculty).
Every time I walked in there I was depressed. There weren’t any books on the shelves we could ever refer to for anything and even if there was, the public unified school district treated the antiquated books like they were gold and would not let students touch them!
Janie: What made you jump into action?
I asked last year and the year before that. The two schools that occupy the building have a new MOU (Memo of Understanding---basically spells out what the two small schools can do) and partnership going into Fall 2016.
I figured since so many changes were being implemented, that something was needed to bring them (the schools) together---getting kids to read and become readers who ENJOY books—would be something they’d have to be crazy not to get behind.
Janie: How did the idea for #justonebook evolve?
I’m a writer as are many of my friends. Many of us have books. Some write YA. I originally thought to just augment the ancient books with a few 100 books from writers I know or am aware of. I didn’t expect to get retweeted by Neil Gaiman! That was awesome! (Also I’m a huge Sandman fan so part of me is just fangirl elated).
Janie: Will this be an annual event?
Some publishers wrote us and I sent them emails about future donations of their upcoming titles. I think this will evolve. I plan on adding a page to my blog just about just one book and finding other libraries in need to be highlighted on it.
Janie: Do you have a team set up to catalogue books?
The old library we found out this week was never digitized. Wow. We have a non-profit in mind who offered to help us set up a system in August so we are going to follow up on that this week.
The school district has a system in the other libraries but never implemented one at the closed library. So we can try to get on board with that one too, but because one of the schools is not a district school and because the district tends towards censorship we thought an independent system might be the best way to go.
Janie: Do you have enough bookshelves?
No! We are looking for donations of three book cases. We want to create an “L” shape in the room to make a space just for the junior high school books with bean bag chairs and a rug to look inviting.
Our middle school junior high boys tend to be non-readers. We’re hoping between comics, graphic novels and an inviting space, we might be able to change that around.
Janie: Do you plan to have a community celebration when the school library is ready with the new books?
Yes we do! We plan to have a party when it’s done. Sort of like an open house and invite the postal worker ladies who have been so super cool about this and all the extra work they’ve been doing.
Janie: What else would you like to share with our readers about your project/ community/ schools/ students?
We live in a county with the highest opiate death rate, a high suicide rate of young people, high teen pregnancy rate, a high number of kids who leave traditional school for charter because of being “different” in whatever way you want to define different—gay kids, introverted kids, too intellectual kids, not into football enough kids—I think of books and ideas as a way to preserve and save ourselves.
I was so happy to get donations of LGBTQ youth oriented books in particular because we have some gay kids who don’t even know that their experience of feeling isolated and alienated in school is happening all over the world.
My daughter—one of the only Chicanas in school and my son have been told by Trump supporters to ‘go back to where you came from” (which in both my kids cases would be here because they were born here—my husband and I being from Los Angeles).
In the neighboring town of Quincy where Feather River College (community college) is –locals sometimes have gone full throttle racist when African American students go downtown. I hear sweet kids say stupid things about Asian Americans too. I just figured a little diverse information could go along way in helping stem rural American racism, sexism, and homophobia.
I think so many of our kids are sweet loving kids. I’m hoping that books help support that. And DVDs And music. Because it‘s the same. There’s only one theater up here and it’s one town over and shows maybe 1/3 of the movies that other places get.
The only radio stations (other than the cool one I work for) play religious music or bad country western or both. (I like the good kind).
The thing is—there are no jobs up here. When these kids graduate from high school, they leave town to find work or go to college. I want them equipped. I don’t want them to just look like bumpkins. I want them to thrive. And it goes beyond the small mindedness of racism, sexism, etc. I also want them prepared for science and technology. We have kids we’ve graduated that don’t know how to use an email account.
But we also have kids who can run ranches. Indian Valley Academy had an alumni this May graduate Harvard. All things are possible with support and great reading material.
Janie: Will you accept gently used books?
Yes, we’ve been taking them.
Janie: Any quotes from kids about the project?
One quote I hear over and over again as the kids themselves are helping to open the boxes:
“I want to read this!”and
“This looks so cool! This looks so interesting!”
and best yet,
“People sent these? For us? They want us to have books?”
They cannot even fathom the generosity of complete strangers. I love that they now have a hope that in a world where the news tells them every night how violent and horrible our world has become that they know for a fact that complete strangers can also be kind—and to never judge.
Margaret is spreading the wealth and said, "We are collecting all over flow books for two more high schools in the area, one 30 minutes away and one an hour away. The teachers from those schools will come to us next week."
If sending donations during the month of July (when school is closed) please send to:
Library Project/Margaret Garcia
PO Box 585
Greenville, CA 95947
You can reach Margaret at her email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, Margaret. Thank you readers. You have set in motion a beautiful plan to connect kids and books. You are giving them a ticket to ride and a healing place for their soul.