Passersby can’t help but turn their heads as they pass the colorful corner at 2a Sur and 2a Poniente. Whether they decide to enter or wait until the next time, it’s clear that this spot is grabbing attention.
But what’s turning heads exactly? Three rooms filled with books, and a palpable energy that emanates from the space out onto the street.
Cecilia McQuinn moved to Puerto Escondido from Colorado a couple of years ago. Initially, she thought she’d volunteer at the local English lending library. However, when that unexpectedly closed down, she was faced with an opportunity: use the 6,000 books from the previous library to start her own.
She decided to take on the new project. “We moved 150 bags full of books we brought with taxis. It was definitely a labor of love. It was so much fun.” However, she was in no rush to find a space right away.
As Cecilia organized the books from the previous library along with her own collection of 2,000 books accumulated in her many years of teaching, she noticed a “for rent” sign in her neighborhood. And the last four digits of the number to contact were the same as her son’s. She took it as a sign.
From there things began to fall into place. “It happened so organically that this was just what was supposed to happen.”
The lending library opened in January 2022. At that time local schools were still closed due to COVID and parents were looking for books for their kids. Cecilia notes that the timing helped them to fill an urgent need in the community. “I think that really jump-started us.”
And it seemed like she had the community on her side from the start. People reached out to her about installing shelves and even creating a logo to be painted on the side of the building.
As a multilingual teacher for many years, literacy and language exchange have always been among Cecilia’s top values. That’s evident to anyone who has come through the library. With the goal of making books accessible to all, the process of borrowing a book at her library is much simpler than at others in Mexico.
Cecilia observes, “People are so surprised by how easy it is.” All anyone has to do to borrow a book is fill out an index card with their name, phone number, and book title. That’s it.
“People always ask, ‘What if people don’t bring them back?’” Cecilia’s not worried about it. “I’m confident that they’ll all keep coming back,” says Cecilia. And they really do.
Cecilia’s passion for cultural exchange through this project is evident. She exudes positive energy. And the community can feel it and have been receptive to the new installation.
“It’s a really fun little corner.”
Cecilia mentions how when the library initially opened, during the hours it was closed people would return their books to the store across the street. “They didn’t know what to think.” However, every time she opened they’d bring the books over.
One day, Cecilia was throwing a birthday celebration for one of the library’s frequent readers. The store owner across the way came over with juice and cups for the kids. “It was really cool.”
Cecilia’s even been recognized around town as the “library lady.”
So, what does Cecilia see for the library’s future?
“The focus is just getting books to people … Eventually, we’d like to open a fourth room. We’d like to dedicate one room to all Spanish books as well.” And the library’s process will remain simple: just take a book and later bring it back.
This corner library is an excellent example of an inclusive, multicultural community. While there are currently more books in English, there’s a pretty even split between Mexicans and foreigners who are frequent visitors.
And that’s just what Cecilia wanted. “The mix is so awesome. We even have a lot of college-aged Mexican kids who come looking for books in English.”
There are even a couple of young local kids who come and help out regularly, volunteering their time. It’s provided them with a unique opportunity where they gain experience and responsibility.
The library expenses are taken on by Cecilia and her husband. Cecilia explains, “No one gets paid. We aren’t a [registered] nonprofit. We want it to be simple. If you donate money, it goes to the rent unless you say you want it specifically to go to books.”
Inside one of the rooms of the library, visitors can leave a monetary donation. And book donations are always welcome.
The positive contribution Cecilia and her library has made in the community is palpable after stopping in for just a few moments. People stop by, neighbors wave and smile, and cars even slow down to see what’s going on.
But, Cecilia says, “I feel like for me I’ve gotten way more than I’ve given.”
Everyone is welcome here. If you’re a book lover or looking to be one, then stop by and see what’s up. One thing is for certain, Cecilia and the volunteers will make you feel right at home.
Come check out the library Mondays 9 am-12 pm and 4 pm-7 pm, Wednesdays 4-7 pm, and Saturdays 9 am-12 pm.
El Sol de Puerto