LONDON – For Robert Isquierdo, Jr., another dream came true on Dec. 8. It was the second anniversary of the opening of the small Tulare County Library Branch in London he helped come to fruition.
“This is my dream to come read to you,” he told the children, parents and special visitors to the one-room library in the heart of the rural community.
It took years of fundraising and coordinating with the property owners, volunteers, local politicians, community members and the county’s library system to make the facility a reality. Documentaries have been made, interviews were written and the grand opening finally took place October 2016. During all that hubbub, Isquierdo, who happens to be an English teacher at Hanford’s Sierra Pacific High School, never got a chance to do one of the things that he does best: read.
For the second anniversary celebration, a documentary filmed by Johnny Soto for The Big Tell Film Contest was shown, Tulare County librarian Darla Wegener spoke about other plans for the small town and Isquierdo finally had a chance to read a favorite book with library-goers that day.
As he read “What I Do Best” by Allia Zobel Nolan, Isquierdo said he hopes the children take the message of the book to heart and make something positive happen in their own lives.
“It’s one of my favorites because it reminds us we all have something we’re good at, but we forget sometimes. It’s a confidence builder for the kids.”
Isquierdo shared Nolan’s words that even though we all have different talents, it feels good to share those abilities with the world.
“So we’ll hold up our trophies and smile real wide because being good at something feels really good inside,” he read. “My hope with this book and this library is that it stands as a reminder that when we all work together and use our talents for good that something can come out of this. I want to remind everyone that we all have something great we’re really good at. We need to remember that and use it to serve either your country, serve your community, serve your library or serve your county.”
Librarian Wegener said at least 200 people contributed to making the library a reality. She credited Isquierdo for his efforts of initiating talks with the former County Librarian Jeff Scott to get the project started. The initial plans were to build the library with a used modular school building, however the County realized it wouldn’t cost much more to build a new structure. But filling it was another matter and that’s where community support filled in the gaps.
“We had so many people donate to support the community,” she said of the donated books, computer and furniture now used at the library.
Wegener said the County has even more plans for the town including bringing a health clinic to town.
“I can’t say too much, but I will say that’s a real possibility in the very near future,” Isquierdo said.
“I’m hoping that will be the next great thing we hear about London,” Wegener added.
Branch manager Lia Rosales said the library is used not only by the children, but by adults in the small town. Since many are not familiar with computers, they often need help understanding how to navigate websites to obtain legal documents or deal with banking matters.
“We help the customers not just locate books, but also find information,” Rosales said. “They need to get on their Social Security account or get on their bank website. We show them how to search on the internet and if they need help, we’ll give them one-on-one help.”
And once school is out for the summer, the library gets even busier.
“We get the little, little kids coming in now but we’re busiest in summer when school is out. They like to come in after school and play games, do the crafts and during summer it’s a different presentation every week.”
The library is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays so even though it wasn’t officially open for business that day, it was packed with parents and children. Looking around the packed one-room library, Isquierdo said it was satisfying knowing he’s helping London become a destination of literacy.
“For a long time, London was designated as a place you could come and score some drugs. We want to redesignate this area as a place of hope, inspiration and literacy. I’m just happy to have a designated place that when you come in here, you explore books, do homework and get on the computer to do research. This is a designated place of knowledge. That’s my hope. That it continues to exist.”
Cary Joslin had inherited the land where the library now sits. He said he was offered a variety of proposals for the property but he wanted it to benefit the town, not just his pocketbook. Looking at how busy the facility was just that day, he said he knows he made the right choice.
“The librarian said it’s used quite often for after-reading programs. I’m glad and it makes me feel good that it’s being used for a great purpose. It could have been a whole lot of other things and I had offers, but I chose ‘no.’ I’m happy I chose this so kids can get even more education.”