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Board Member: Ali Zerriffi

By Karla Ortiz

The volunteers are the force behind the Biblioteca. They are dedicated to giving workshops and helping on its tours or in the thrift shop, or the library sections, proofreading the Atención. Volunteers also work on at the Board of Directors, whose members are devoted to seeking funds and directing the Biblioteca.

One board member, currently the Vice-President, is Ali Zerriffi, a man well-respected by the library community and friends. Ali’s commitment to carry out the projects and goals in this institution is expansive, so much so that he has managed to create great alliances with other organizations.

He grew up in Morocco, attended university, studied philosophy in Casablanca, and sociology, international relations, and languages in the United States. There, in 1968, he met his wife, Naomi. They lived in Morocco for a while and then decided to move to Canada with their son, who was three years old. Ali arrived in Canada with his diplomas and, after looking for a job for a while, he started in a business he initially knew nothing about. He learned quickly, entering the internet era and starting his business of distributing electrical components through e-commerce. It was a great challenge that gave him a lot of experience. He stayed there for 30 years.

With the passage of time, Ali and Naomi’s two children grew up and found their own way. They went to the US for university study and stayed there. By that time, Ali and his wife were already looking for a place to retire. They searched several places in the Caribbean, Europe, and Morocco, but, thanks to a recommendation, they found San Miguel a little more than 16 years ago. Their decision to stay was very sudden. “We arrived on Thursday, fell in love with the city on Friday, visited the first house for sale on Saturday, and bought a house on Wednesday.” They returned to Canada on Thursday asking, “What did we do?” After 16 years of living here, they do not regret it at all. They saw a united city in San Miguel and a very special environment. Whenever visitors who are returning to the US meet the Zerriffis, they ask them what they see here. One thing Ali loves is that he can find everything within a mile and a half away from the centro: museums, movies, plays, restaurants, music, art galleries, and get there on time, using only feet for transportation. “You can watch a movie from 5 to 7, attend the opening of a gallery at 7 o’ clock, and have dinner at 8 o’ clock, without any setbacks, all on foot, and that’s something very special,” Ali noted.

Since his arrival, Ali has kept his commitment to give back to the world something of what he has been given. He began providing help to the Casa Hogar de Mexiquito and organizing several fundraising events with friends. The income went to various NGOs. Ali was also involved with CASA, and he collaborated with Opera San Miguel from the beginning, but his passion has always been the Biblioteca Pública. Although he wasn’t looking to be on the Board of Directors, in the end he was invited and agreed. He began this work 14 years ago, passing through various positions: Assistant Treasurer, Vice-President, and President for two terms, and then doing fundraising from afar. More recently, he returned as a member and later assumed the position of Vice-President. Ali has a lot of respect and a deep affection for La Biblioteca which, for 63 years has been operating under the same objectives and has been maintained, thanks to the efforts of hundreds of people who have passed through its massive doors.

“Although the building is the same, times have changed, and the way of operating an organization is different. The Board of Directors has discussed how to cope with these changes, and they have been carried out a series of activities to integrate new operational methods: analysis, training, discussion tables, monitoring, advising, strategic plans, goals, etc., in order to bring a breath of fresh air into the library and manage it correctly as a social enterprise committed to youth. The goal is to fund the building and library expenses so that all resources and donations go directly into the programs. It has been a pleasure for me be involved in the creation of new alliances since our goal is to offer scholarship students not only their scholarships, but training, English classes, and personal counseling as well, and to give many more scholarships so that all San Miguel’s youth have the possibility of achieving success.”

Currently, Ali plans to take a break and begin enjoying his retirement. Although he plans to continue supporting the library, he has decided finish his work as a Vice-President on the Board of Directors and to retire from the elections for the presidency next year. “I cannot provide enough time that the position requires.” He claims, though to have the right replacement—“a person with the energy and the kind of disposition that the library deserves. This is the moment for new people to get involved in La Biblioteca.”

Although he is retiring from the Board of Directors as soon as his term as Vice-President ends, Ali is willing to continue supporting networking and alliance building. For now he wants to travel and get to know more of México and the world through his travel, but he doesn’t want to leave San Miguel and La Biblioteca.

“All members of the library have a jewel in our hands that we must take care of. People can say many things about books online, but a public library always has a collection of tangible books, will always be a public space, free and open, where people can get together. Public spaces are like lungs, because people live together, talk, connect, and get to know each other and create alliances. And this is very important, that’s why we have to maintain it, especially this institution with so much history and with a strong commitment to the future of the community, the youth,” concluded Ali.


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