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Letter from the Bookmobile to Cuba Project

Dear Supporters of our Bookmobile to Cuba Project:

We want to share with you some impressions from our most recent visit to Cuba to observe the Bookmobile in action in Granma Province (see http://bookmobile.wordpress.com). We traveled to the city of Bayamo in January 2011 to spend time with, observe and learn from the Bookmobile librarians and its many users.  We took daily trips with library staff on the Bookmobile, and visited 14 sites on the Bookmobile’s many school-year routes.  In this way, we met hundreds of patrons of the bookmobile in the towns and schools along its routes. We talked with teachers and librarians in their classrooms and in the school libraries.  At the schools, we were also treated to several specially-prepared children’s plays, song and dance performances and delightful presentations on the books that the students had read and liked.  The students summarized their books and then shared the moral of the story, or el entendimiento que tuve con el libro, i.e. “the understanding/learning that I got from the book.”

It was a great pleasure to see first-hand the children’s excitement when the visiting Bookmobile which had arrived at their town or school.  The children ran to the bus and shouted to their friends that the Bookmobile was there. At several stops the entire school yard filled with animated students in lively discussions about new books they just found on the Bookmobile.

As a result of our visits, we gained valuable information about the uses and needs of the Bookmobile. We confirmed also that the Bookmobile had become an integral component of the provincial library’s Outreach Services. We were happy (and somewhat surprised) to learn that there was an immediate need for more children’s books. Not only did the books show signs of wear, the titles were always in extremely high demand circulating among patrons. At nearly every stop, ¾ of the children’s books were checked out.

To assist us in this new challenge – to refill the children’s titles on the Bookmobile shelves – we applied for and received this year another generous grant from the Christopher Reynolds Foundation (with our first grant of $5000, we also purchased books for the Bookmobile).  We will use the latest grant monies and combine it with money from other loyal donors (like you, dear reader!) to supplement and replenish the children’s book collection on the Bookmobile shelves.  Please consider donating again to our latest drive to support children’s materials on the Bookmobile, which has assisted Cuban libraries and librarians greatly expand their services to users.

To share more about the findings of our January visit, we have prepared a slideshow for our blog describing the new and improved outreach services implemented with the Bookmobile and contains the most up-to-date information about our continuing support of the Bookmobile to Cuba Project.  Additional information is on our blog at http://bookmobile.wordpress.com. We presented the slideshow this month as part of a panel on Cuban culture at the City University of New York’s Bildner Center conference, titled “Cuba Futures:  Past and Present,” on April 2, 2011.  It was fabulous! Cubans (among them economists, sociologists, historians and many others) were allowed to attend the conference because the U.S. granted visas to a couple of dozen scholars and researchers from various Cuban institutions (universities, research centers, journals, and many, many authors). This is a nice change in U.S. travel policy.

To conclude this update, we would like to mention another project that we’ve been working on this year.  In 2010, we started gathering titles for the Young Adult Book Project, a new venture we have undertaken with the Ruben Martinez Villena Provincial Library, located in Old Havana. Together with the children’s librarian there, we have selected award-winning and nominated/recognized young adult books for their Library, helping fulfill the reading needs of teens and high school students in Old Havana. We will organize, box, and ship these with the 22nd annual Pastors for Peace Caravan organized for this summer. For more information and/or to donate titles to this project, visit our blog at: http://yacubaproject.wordpress.com.

We continue to collect donations and Spanish-language books from progressives, librarians, union members, activists, and supporters. If you would like to support our projects, we have a “wish list” of titles listed on Alibris (http://www.alibris.com)  which you can purchase and send to us for future shipments to the Bookmobile. Or, you can send donations of cash or books to 978 Norumbega Dr., Monrovia, CA 91016.

We thank you in advance for your new and continuing contributions, your in-kind donations, and your best wishes for the enduring success of the Bookmobile to Cuba Project!!!

With warm regards and many thanks,

Dana Lubow
Los Angeles Valley College

Rhonda L. Neugebauer
University of California, Riverside

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