HANFORD — When Sierra Pacific High School teacher Robert Isquierdo started his journey of bringing a library to his hometown of London, he never thought it would lead to a documentary on his effort.
In 2014, when Isquierdo started trying to get a library for London, a small town several miles southeast of Kingsburg, he said he was contacted to do a series of interviews for a short documentary.
He said he did the interviews, but forgot about the project and assumed nothing came of it until he was contacted this summer by the documentary’s director, Johnny Soto.
Soto, an independent producer, said he learned about Isquierdo through a colleague who came up with a pitch about doing documentary films on inspiring Central Valley stories.
“I said, ‘London? Where is that?,’” Soto said, adding he thought Isquierdo had a great story and wanted to tell it.
So Soto said he attended the library’s groundbreaking in October 2016 and shot some video. After that, he said the project was put on the shelf and he wasn’t sure anything would come out of it.
Then Soto heard about the idea for the Big Tell Showcase, which was giving grants to filmmakers to do mini-documentaries.
The Big Tell Showcase celebrates the Central Valley with five-minute mini-documentaries by local filmmakers about the inspiring people and places that make this region special.
Soto said he decided to finish the project and has since shot more film and interviews. He said he is just finishing the edit on the documentary in time for the showcase on Friday.
Along with Isquierdo, poet Gary Soto and Tulare County Librarian Darla Wegener were interviewed for the documentary. Isquierdo said he had no idea they were interviewed until recently, which was a pleasant surprise for him because he said they were instrumental in making the London library happen.
Soto said what drew him to the story was the compassion behind Isquierdo’s actions and how it shows how human will can succeed with determination.
“It’s a great example of what one person can do for an entire community,” Soto said. “It has a lot of heart and soul.”
Isquierdo said he knows a lot of people have never even heard of the town of London, so he not only wants to bring attention to the community but also the needs of other towns in the Valley that are similar to London.
“I hope this propels people to care about literacy and access in every community,” Isquierdo said.
Growing up, Isquierdo said he would have to go to Reedley to use the library, where he participated in its summer reading program. He said not a lot of kids in London were as fortunate as he was to have parents who were willing to foster his education by driving him to the library in another town.
He said libraries are a great way to learn outside of the classroom and he truly believes visiting the library as a kid was a catalyst for him to further his education after high school.
As an English teacher at Sierra Pacific’s Business Academy and also a creative writing teacher at the school, Isquierdo said it’s important to him to show his students how to collaborate, communicate and create in the real world outside of the classroom.
Isquierdo said he invited students and staff to watch the documentary Friday at the showcase in Fresno and also invites anyone in Kings County to watch it as well.
Although he is excited about his film being shown and said the experience was “lovely,” Soto said he is more excited for Isquierdo, the library and the whole town of London because the film can give more exposure to their story.
“They put a lot into the library,” Soto said. “Hopefully this can get them more support.”
Right now, the library is open two days a week and Isquierdo said it’s his goal to generate enough money to keep it open for at least five days a week. He said he’s also working to potentially get a medical clinic in the town as well.