Biblioteca’s Social Enterprises

By Jaci Winters

Normally, when you think of a library, you think in books, computer access, DVDs and CDs that you can use at the library or borrow. The Biblioteca provides all of those wonderful library services. But did you know that in order to staff and operate the library, provide education classes and scholarships for Mexican youth without government funding it manages a host of social enterprises and employs 35 full and part-time Mexican staff.

One of the biggest money-makers for La Biblioteca is the wonderful bilingual newspaper Atencion which is published every week. This newspaper provides news in English and Spanish about the community of San Miguel and is an encyclopedia of current events in San Miguel that is read by both residents and visitors. Copies of Que Pasa with its calendar of events are used to promote tourism in the city and widely distributed through hotels and tourism offices. Visitors don’t have to try to figure out where to go and what to do. This is immensely important if you are visiting only for a week-end or week. Atencion is also available on line, so when people cannot purchase a copy or they are out of the country they can stay in touch with happenings in San Miguel. I find it amazing that we have this resource, as there are not many places in the world where you can arrive and instantly be in touch with what is happening. Atencion employs 10 staff and has numerous volunteers who write articles and proofread the newspaper.  2100  copies of the Atencion are published and distributed every week at the very reasonable price of 10 pesos a copy. However its level of profit is contingent on continued business of its advertisers and sales of the newspaper.

Café Santa Ana is also an enterprise staffed and operated by La Biblioteca. You will notice that some refurbishing has occurred the last two years. A new and colourful paint job, new chair cushions and refinished copper tables are just some of the new changes. There is also a new menu to ensure that the café is meeting customer preferences. The new cups and coffee we are now use to produce a substantial and stronger cappaccino and tasty treats like lemon bread and chocolate cake, as well as the regular breakfast and lunch favorites. Our staff are very personable and provide good service to the many people who come for meals or an afternoon drink. The café is also used to exhibit some outstanding art produced by local artists and for small receptions after theatre productions or lectures. The cafe employs four local people and makes a profit for La Biblioteca. The Cafe served 10,194 customers in 2011.

La Tienda, a small store operated by the Biblioteca near the entrance to the library employs one staff but  has volunteers who also help keep the store displays looking inviting. The store occupies a very small space so it carry only a limited number of items. Books have always been one of the main products.  Since there are many local writers who like to feature their books in the library store these are generally carried on consignment. Small gift items like cards, aprons, craft items etc. and jewellery are also carried on consignment so that we do not invest major funds in inventory.  In 2011, 920 people visited the store. The store is also where Ticket Centro is located; it is a one stop shop for purchasing tickets to various events in San Miguel.

These are just three of the enterprises that help keep the Biblioteca doors open and allow it to provide the great library services and community and free education programs people have come to expect. Next week I will outline the other three enterprises including the Theatre, House & Garden Tours and Bodega Sorpresas that contribute to the Biblioteca bottom line.

The Biblioteca de San Miguel de Allende A.C. Board election will be Friday, March 2, from 10:30am to 2:30pm. The Nominating Commiteee has made the following nominations:

Se invita   a los miembros de la Biblioteca a las votaciones que serán el viernes 2 de Marzo de 10:30 am a 2:30 pm. Las votaciones serán en el patio principal afuera dela oficina del bibliotecario. Se requiere credencial vigente.



Scenes From Village Life by Amoz Oz

Review by Bill Grinager

I grew up in a town of about 1,200 people, in southcentral Minnesota. I have, now and then, memories of that town, of the people, of myself in various scenes, most of the memories almost theatrical in some way. Some sort of significance was and is still attached to the panoramas of merely being there and observing what was going on .

Like the time an older cousin and I took a walk to the edge of town (it didn’t take long) where the last houses opened on to fields of corn. There was an abandoned house in front of us, small, ramshackle, no door, empty and foreboding. We looked in, knowing that it would not be a good thing to be caught inside. We went inside. Broken plaster, holes in all the walls. A decrepit bathroom, gloomy light. I went into the kitchen. Nothing except for a very blue bottle on the windowsill above the sink. I lifted it and brought it closer. Empty, no label, but intriguing. I thought that it must have had some deep significance, some important but unknowable use.

We left and since no one had seen us we didn’t have to explain ourselves to our parents. But the blue bottle was on my mind. I asked my mother if she had ever seen anything like it. Days passed and I asked her again. After a moment she showed me a bottle just like it with a label that said “Milk of Magnesia.” She said people who had stomach problems drank the contents. I went away with a mental picture of an elderly, sick older person who had lived in that abandoned house. I didn’t know what it all meant, but I knew it meant something.

And here is Amos Oz’s new book Scenes From Village Life. Eight short stories, each describing what appears to be a simple drama about one of the inhabitants of the village of Tel Ilan. In “Heirs,” Arieh Zelnik is sitting on the swing on his verandah when a stranger comes to sit with him. Who is this man? And what can he possibly want?

In “Relations,” Dr. Gili Steiner is waiting for a bus from Tel Aviv. Her nephew Gideon Gat is supposed to be on the bus. She waits and waits. In “Strangers,” 17-year-old Kobi Ezra is in love with a woman twice his age. He walks her to the library where she works at night. His hopes, in a sense fulfilled, cause them both immediate pain.

In “In a Faraway Place at Another Time,” the protagonist lives where “All night long, poisonous vapors blow in from the green swamp.” What is this place, why is he here, who are the people? And then at the end of the story we suspect that the protagonist is the author, the people his people.

Oz is a craftsman. Enjoy.

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