El Centro resident Maria Limon is a soft-spoken 72-year-old woman who describes herself as a book fanatic who doesn’t like movies or any other forms of entertainment aside from her books.
“I think I have a book addiction,” said Limon with a smile and added that her fascination with books and reading is so strong, that when family members invite her to the movies she asks to go the library instead.
Limon even got depressed when the library on State Street closed after the Easter earthquake damaged the building in 2010.
“And I would often pass by the library and look through the windows to see if it was open,” she said.
“The thing is, I read day and night,” Limon said, noting that because she doesn’t drive, going to the library has been difficult after 2010.
Limon was one many residents and city officials who gathered Thursday morning to celebrate the much-awaited reopening of the El Centro Public Library at its new site next to the Imagine School.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony featured the Great Spartan Band, the Imagine School Color Guard and a poem reading by Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School students. A book-signing by children’s author Nan Rebik also took place. Rebik collaborated with various artists, including local illustrator Tyler Burch, 19, who died earlier this year, when writing “The Herman Chronicles.”
Library Director Roland Banks hosted the celebration and after welcoming attendees he introduced El Centro Chamber of Commerce President Randy Taylor, City Manager Ruben Duran and Mayor Sedalia Sanders for remarks.
“It was a struggle, but I think what’s important is how the struggle got accomplished,” said Duran, who then praised the City Council, the staff and some 80 volunteers who helped by shelving more than 100,000 books ahead of opening day. “Thank you, all of you,” he said.
Sanders followed. “So here we are, and it brings a smile to my face and I think I can say that with the complete understanding that each of my colleagues has a similar view and sentiment. It brings a smile to my face to be able to provide this facility to this community,” Sanders said during her last ceremony as mayor before Thursday’s council reorganization.
Councilwoman Cheryl Viegas Walker was one who was indeed smiling throughout the ceremony.
“I’m so happy I’m almost speechless,” said Walker, adding that “education is the great equalizer in our democracy, so it’s so important for us as a city to provide an opportunity like the library for those that maybe don’t have the resources to have books in their homes.”
When asked if Thursday was the end of a tragic chapter, Viegas Walker promptly replied that Thursday was “a dawn of a new day.”
Thursday’s reopening also brought a sense of relief to Banks, who faced the longest library closure since 1936, when the old library had to be closed for a year following earthquake damage. “Earthquakes (are) nothing new to the library,” Banks said jokingly.
“I’m glad that we got it back in operation so people can use it (library). It’s been taxing upon the community to not have a library,” Banks said, “and maybe my neighboring cities will feel the relief, too, because people were going to Imperial because they couldn’t get stuff in our library.”
One of the residents who went to Imperial’s library was Limon. But now a trip to the library is going to be much easier, she said, because the new library is within walking distance from her home.
“So I’m very happy,” she said as she pointed to the four thick books she was checking out that day. “These books I’ll finish in a week,” said Limon, who was planning to be back for more books in about a week.
Meanwhile, El Centro resident Richard Sessa, who volunteered in reshelving books for a week, was reading the newspapers like he used to before the closure.
“This is fantastic,” said Sessa, who ironically said he wasn’t going to check out books on Thursday. “I’m (actually) thinking about checking out some DVDs.”
The library, now with more computers and free Wi-Fi, is located at 1140 N. Imperial Ave and it is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or email@example.com
Join the discussion and add your comments to this story! Scroll down or click here and tell us what you think.