02 March 2008

Road Map:: San Antonio, TX:: Bazan Branch

Personal anecdote time, baby.

When we moved from Mexico to the West Side of San Antonio in the late '80s, our mother took us to the Bazan Branch Library (pronounced bah-ZAHN). At the time it was housed at some other building with a ramp connecting the ground floor and the basement, and I used to love to run down the middle. Of course the librarians were not happy with me running wild and about to trip myself. *SNIFF* It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

I remember being nine or ten and still loving to play with the wooden blocks in the children's section. And wasn't there a plastic rocking chair in the shape of a kangaroo? Yeah... Something like that. Good times.

Anyway, here's the old building, back when it was Prospect Hill Branch in the 1950's. I love how the "u" in "Public Library" is actually a "v." How historical.

We used to pass by this tiny building each time we went to the Bazan. I seemed to just know that this was the first place where the library was at. Now it houses a WIC office, but it was abandoned for awhile.

Due to a horrendous lack of space, the library was moved to another building a few blocks down, probably in the 60's or 70's. (I should totally research that.) Unfortunately I didn't get pix of the second building. These are pictures of the third *improved* library, built in 1993.

Oh, the services!
The failed guitar lessons!
The numerous internet sign-ups!
The Mexican trash celebrity magazines!

This is definitely a library where employees *need* to speak Spanish to get by. You don't have to be great at it grammatically but ya gots to be able to lay it all down en español. I know of various library employees who have suffered simply because they can't communicate with their public. I mean, that's hard stuff. You don't get in the profession so you can feel clueless and unhelpful.

To me, this library branch is a piece of home. It's totally not perfect. Teen services there have struggled, and not for lack of trying. They have a bilingual and energetic teen librarian but I've heard that public interest is just not what it should be. Although, I don't know. Maybe it's better now. It's definitely one of these branches that has its own vibe going on. That's not necessarily all negative. Hispanics who do not speak English well-- which, granted, tend to live on the West Side, among other areas-- have a library that definitely does what it can to cater to their needs.

Part of me feels like I should give back to my community, you know? I am likely to end up back in the homeland at some point. I still got San Antonio West Side written all over me. I know this sounds like the same old thing. I mean, librarians talk about this kind of thing constantly-- getting kids to read, getting them to take their education seriously, blah blah blah. I've met many brilliant and literate Latino teens in my time, but we're still waaaay behind. I want to do something about it! I want to focus on those that have not yet been given the opportunities they need. I want them to take a bite out of books, the way I am doing in the picture above. You know what I mean? I want them to feel like they have *options* and that they can go for it with a little bit of animo (energy/desire/focus).

So... yeah. That's a long-term goal. Do my kick-ass librarian thing with struggling Latino kids. Not for my own glory but because I feel like I was given guidance by my teachers and mentors all along. Maybe because I was cute, but hopefully because I was intelligent and constantly looking for something interesting. I don't want to be the only one who had it good.

¡Mucho animo! ¡Si se puede!