An effort is underway to establish a library in London, an underserved community of 2,134 in northern Tulare County.
“The overall purpose for this library is not just simple literacy but to improve the lives of the people of London,” said Robert Isquierdo, the main force behind the Library for London Project. Community organizations such as Citizens for a Better London, Proteus, Jaron Ministries International, First Baptist Kingsburg and Kings River Elementary are also active in the effort.
“Studies have shown that the presence of a library in a community increases academic performance and literacy rates,” Isquierdo explained. “I felt this was a big need in our community.”
Although he left London in 1991 to attend college in Santa Monica and the Bay Area, and is now a teacher in Santa Clarita, Isquierdo remembers growing up in London.
“It can be a struggle there because of the environment, but it also can be rewarding because as small as it is, it’s like a family watching over each other,” he said. “I felt like I was finally in a position to give back, so I decided to give back to the community that raised me.”
The project’s goal is to open “a fully functional library” in London, with a computer center providing Internet access, and “an adult literacy center for people who did not have an opportunity to finish school as children and are now in the work force,” said Isquierdo. Plans also call for a study center, where high school and college students, along with junior high students, can work on school research papers.
Following a Facebook campaign and events such as a book drive, a library location on Avenue 364 was found about two weeks ago. Plans call for the property to be leased to the library, and for a cement foundation to be created there to accommodate the 30’ x 24’ portable building donated by the Dinuba Unified School District. The building served as a classroom for about 15 years.
So far, more than 15,000 books have been collected for the library, exceeding the original goal of 5,000 to 10,000. “We have to sift through the books and decide which ones are a good fit for our library,” Isquierdo said, adding that the rest will go to home libraries in the community.
About 500 to 1,000 of the London Library’s books will be in Spanish, according to Isquierdo. “Our priority is to offer Spanish language literature, but we will try and cover as many genres as possible,” he said.
The Library for London Project is not yet eligible for library grants, explained Isquierdo. “The criteria is that you already have to be established. The concern is that if you don’t follow through, then the money is lost.”
The Library for London Project currently needs money for the cement foundation, estimated to cost between $3,000-$5,000. “We also need money to hire a full time certified librarian,” said Isquierdo, adding that this person would oversee a team of volunteers. Another expense for the new library is utilities.
To help raise money toward meeting these expenses, the Library for London Project 5K Run/Walk & Kids’ Fun Run is planned for Saturday, July 27th. The event, which starts at 8am at Kate Road and Denver Avenue in London, will feature celebrity runner Fernando Cabada, an eight-time Team USA member and former 25K record holder.
“A goal of this event is to bring people into London to see all of the positive things that are happening, in order to redefine its reputation,” said Isquierdo.
For more information about the Library for London Project or to register for the July 27th event, call Robert Isquierdo at (818) 482-8140, email [email protected] or visit www.libraryforlondon.com.