contributed by Curt Hahn, in loving memory of Cele Hahn.
The library at Entreamigos is full of children’s books of every imaginable description. From a humble beginning of a few dozen books to more than 8,000 today, the children of San Francisco enjoy a library unparalleled in the State of Nayarit and unique for a pueblo its size in Mexico.
The Entreamigos envisioned by Nicole Swedlow ten years ago focused on activities and educational opportunities for the children of San Francisco. San Pancho is the local moniker for this town just 25 miles north of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast of Mexico. The Entreamigos art and crafts activities took place on tables in the street while the library consisted of a few piles of kids books in an old storefront near the beach.
The filing system for the books consisted of looking for the right pile of books on a table or on the floor in a small, crowded second story room. As Nicole added more activities for an increasing number of youngsters who came to get in on the fun and to borrow books, the need to get the library organized became clear.
Organizing meant finding a filing system to keep track of all the books, then setting up a check out system so the children could take the books home. A computer system was set up in 2010 by local volunteer, Jonathon Kingson and the cataloging of the children’s books began. Each book was indexed by its ISBN (The International Standard Book Number), author, title, place of publication, publisher and its own unique Entreamigos book number.
What was the first book entered into this database? We can’t be certain because number 1 was apparently unassigned. The second book is known.
“Disaster” by Claire Franek, a book about historic disasters. There’s nothing more to say about this book, because for some reason it is not in the library today, a tiny disaster of sorts. Happily, the third and subsequent books in the catalog are still there and take a lighter turn with story books, history and art books and familiar authors for Seuss to Scary, and Rawlings to Rudyard Kipling. There are books for reading to two year olds, books on grammar, sports, math and more for every age group through high school.
The majority of the books are in Spanish of course, but there are dozens that are bilingual Spanish/English editions from all over the world. Children’s books published in London, Mexico City, New York, Toronto, Barcelona and San Paolo. The most eye catching volumes are the colorfully illustrated kids books and spectacular photographic essays on the environment, animals and the world.
Book number 8,000 was catalogued in early April this year. It’s a collection of familiar children’s stories by the most well know children’s authors:
“Cuentame un cuento” is a collection of stories known to children around the world and now has a home at the Entreamigos Library for the children of San Pancho. It’s just one of the hundreds of new books added to the library each year.
The library is staffed by San Pancho residents. Yuliana Tovar and her assistant Darcy Lopez, oversee the operation of the library, making sure all books are checked in and out and can be easily found through the color-coded category system. History, art, grammar, and stories for teens are just a few of the offerings. Many volunteers have had a hand in cataloging the library, but none more than Cele Hahn. She arrived from San Miguel de Allende in 2008, about the time the fledgling library was getting organized.
Cele catalogued more than 6,500 of the books in the library. For the six years before her death in April of 2014, she came to the library weekly with the joy of knowing she was helping put books in the hands of San Pancho’s children. An avid reader, Cele believed in the power of books and reading. She also enjoyed being at the front desk of Entreamigos to meet and greet the children and visitors to the library.
As the library continues to grow her husband Curt has continued the “family tradition” of cataloging the books. The volumes come from purchases made at an annual children’s book fair in Guadalajara, donations of new books from visitors and residents if the pueblo, from authors and semi-new books from libraries in Mexico, Canada and the United States.