Historic Read-in to Save Public Libraries
The Salinas 24-Hour Emergency Read-In
Looking around the Cesar Chavez library at 5 am was a sight to behold. To my right I counted 32 tents pitched in the grass, tents of library-loving campers who had come from San Diego and Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Sacramento, Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo, as well as local campers from Salinas. In the front of the library, where we had set up a "Seat of Wisdom", a group of students was quietly reading a novel to each other. On the main stage Carlos, a 12-year-old boy who was there with his mom and two brothers, was reading heart-warming stories from the book Chicken Soup for Kid's Souls about families coping with alcoholism, violence, floods, and death. Carlos' mother, laying back in a lawn chair with a baby sleeping in her arms, was beaming as she listened her son read in the dark, his lovely face illuminated by a lantern.
The police had told us to turn the sound system off at 10pm. We kept it on throughout the entire night, and none of the neighbors complained. On the contrary. They came with big vats of cinnamon tea, sweet Mexican hot chocolate, pan dulce. Someone was constantly walking around offering free food and drink and giving thanks for the support to keep their libraries open.
"It's amazing that we pulled off such a great event," said Tony, "but if we just finish the Read-In and go home, people are gonna say 'So what? We read a bunch of books but nothing changed.' So what do we do next?"
We looked up at Carlos on stage reading from Chicken Soup. "We've got to get these kids to Sacramento, we've got to take the Read-In to the doors of Arnold Schwarzenegger and demand that he come up with the $3 million," said Sergio. "I say we rent a bus to take the kids and their parents to Sacramento."
I suggested that we do something during April 10-16 because it's National Library Week. But since that was only a week away and a bus is really expensive (about $1,000), I suggested we do something simpler, like take just a few community reps.
"Why take just a few representatives when lots of us want to go?" asked
"I say we go for the bus."
"But where are we going to get the $1,000?" I asked. Maria got out a plastic bag, put it on the table next to the tamales, and stuck a $10 bill inside. "I made the first contribution," she said, "Now we're on our way."
Sure enough, by the time the Read-In ended at 1pm on Sunday, we'd raised over $1,000, much of it from the community itself. We decided to go to Sacramento on April 12 to try to meet with members of the Appropriations Committee and with the Governor. And if the Governor won't meet, we'll hold a Read-In at his office.
"We'll call it From Salinas to Sacramento, the reading continues,'" said Tony.
So stay tuned for the next chapter, when library-lovers from Salinas and beyond take our weapon of choice, books, to Sacramento to read to the governor. If you can join us, meet on Tuesday, April 12 at noon on the Capitol steps, books in hand.
For more info, call 415-575-5555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.