Emma Magana wants to read about alternative medicine. Rosa Guzman wants to read something that would interest her kids too. Justine Damaso wants to read about the migration of Monarch butterflies.
As members of a women’s support group that focuses as much on community as mental health, the women will manage a local mini-lending library at Bienestar de la Familia, a program of Multnomah County’s Department of County Human Services.
“For me it’s a great idea,” Damaso said Tuesday as the women celebrated the library’s launch. “It seems like an excellent idea, instead of TV or cell phones, to fill our brains, our spirits.”
The self-serve lending library is a modest collection in Spanish and English, intended to serve Latino, African American and East African visitors to the social service office and adjoining La Clinica de Buena Salud Medical Center. The women’s group will decide what books to rotate through each month, but for now there’s a whole array, from novels by Isabel Allende and cookbooks on low-fat Mexican cuisine.
To be sure, clients from Bienestar can go to any public library for a much wider selection. But Leonila Villalobos-Salvador, who lives in Gateway, said this fits her schedule. “When we have free time, we come here,” she said. “So it’s a good system.
The project is a partnership between Bienestar and the Multnomah County Library, but spearheaded by women who use social and health care services at the Baltazar Ortiz Community Center. The women have discussed expanding the program to include workshops on narrative writing and poetry, inviting published authors to speak, and connecting with the library program, Everybody Reads.
“I’m really excited about this,” said Ana Ruiz Morillo, the library’s Spanish outreach coordinator. “I like the idea of them building their library.”
The library maintains an outreach collection to share with apartment complexes and community centers. Ruiz Morillo said they’re working now to reach immigrant and refugee adults who might be avoiding government agencies as a result of federal immigration policy changes.
“We want to put books in people’s hands,” she said. “We are looking at how to connect communities to library services, to make sure patrons continue to hear that this is their library.”
More than a dozen regular members of the women support group, led by mental health provider Fernando Sanjines, gathered Tuesday morning for their regular weekly meeting. They shared their favorite authors and easy-reader series. A client confided in the staff that she had never before read a whole book. This will be her first.
“Books are a connector, Sanjines said. “Reading is a good habit, one we can pass on to our kids.”
Once staff from Bienestar had finished stacking the little library shelves, the woman carried out pitchers of coffee and a cake, shaped like a book.“H-birthday Bienestar lib,” was written in icing across the top.