Boquete has a new library!

Our very modern new library

I’ve always wanted to volunteer somewhere on a regular basis, but with work related travel, long commutes and wanting to maximize the time I can spend with my family,  it just hasn’t happened. I was excited to hear about a community meeting in Boquete a few months, ago, with the topic of Volunteering in Boquete.  Mark and I went, hoping to find something that was a good fit for us.  7 or 8 groups presented, and with one exception, the message was “Uh, no, we don’t really need any one else to help us, we just need money.” The only exception was  the group that does a spay/neuter clinic once a month, and we were really hoping to have something a little bit more regular than that.

But, luckily for us, we saw a small little note on, our local social networking site (set up in theory to provide useful info on our community — which it does — but wow, lots of small town dynamics and interactions too). The library needed help — so we sent an email, and now  are regulars on the volunteer circuit there.

One of my very first jobs was at the Boca Raton Community Library, and I have  great memories of going to my friend Linda’s house after school, to eat grilled cheese and tomato soup while we watched All My Children, before heading off to work for a couple of hours in the afternoon.  Reading has always been my number one hobby, and that job presented some challenges for me –once I got my hands on those books,  how was I supposed to shelf them before spending time reading them first??  The same challenge presents itself now, but since we aren’t getting paid, the need to resist temptation isn’t quite as strong.

The library doesn’t officially have a volunteer coordinator, so the default contact person is a Peace Corps volunteer.  He is 25, the same age as Kevin, my oldest, who seriously considered going into the Peace Corps after college.( He picked a different path though, by falling in love, getting married and having a baby!)

Back to Jesse, the library volunteer. He’s from the Chicago area, a recent civil engineering  graduate, who decided to get a masters in urban planning, with a program that has some sort of agreement with the Peace Corps — how cool is that? He was initially in Honduras, and ended up being evacuated and reassigned here when the civil unrest started there last year.  Probably not what a mid twenties guy pictures doing in the Peace Corps — working in a library with a bunch of old gringos — but he has an incredibly positive, high energy attitude, definitely a great asset to the community.  (And really, I don’t think he has to spend that much time with gringos. He speaks fluent Spanish and seems to have a great rapport with the kids.)

The library has very specific goals on membership, number of books, and I like the fact that they are shooting to have the proportion of Spanish books be 70%. Right now it’s only 45% — lots of generous gringos parting with their (English) libraries, which is nice for us. (Side note: over the last two years, I’m sure I gave away more novels than the library currently has, too bad my new town couldn’t have benefited!) Hopefully the Spanish donations will catch up soon.

I look forward to our volunteer time each week, and it feels great to know that we’re doing something to help out our new community.


I have always enjoyed spending time in libraries.  The make up and feel of the new library building here in Boquete could not be more different than the library of my youth in Camden N.J.  The Boquete library is an entirely modern building mostly enclosed in glass.

Boquete Library -- the bright and airy second floor

It was obviously designed with the intent of servicing this growing community’s needs as a repository for books and a central location for resource materials to be used by everyone from students, to teachers, to business people. etc.  The library in Camden was a beautiful stone mansion,  I believe constructed in the mid 1800’s, which sat on the estate of Thomas Dudley, a local attorney and politician.  However,  way back when Mr. Dudley began construction on his new home I am sure that no one envisioned that it would some day serve the community as Dudley Grange Library.

Our old library in Camden

 While the feel of the two buildings is totally opposite, the sense of being surrounded by vast knowledge, magnificent creativity and incredible history as soon as you walk through the doors is the same.  Of course, the Boquete library also has a room dedicated to computers and internet research which was mostly the stuff of Science Fiction when I frequented Dudley Grange in my youth.
I am no where near the vociferous reader that Valerie is, especially when it comes to novels and fiction.  However, I have always had a deep interest in researching facts, stats and history.  And, maybe as a surprise to some of you, not necessarily just sports!  Each Christmas, when I was growing up,and even into adulthood, one of my favorite gifts under the tree has always been an Annual Almanac.  I recall many Christmas mornings spent perusing the pages of the Philadelphia Bulletin Almanac.  Most years, after the novelty of the latest game or toy had worn off, the Almanac was always laying somewhere nearby to settle an argument, quench some curiosity or just pass some time.
Likewise, at the beginning of each year, I eagerly anticipated the arrival by mail of the previous year’s edition of Encyclopedia Brittanica’s Book of the Year.  My recollection is that my parent’s began receiving this hard cover leather bound publication covering the year 1957 which, purely by coincidence, was the year I was born. At the risk of disproving my previous comment about sports, the first subject that comes to my mind from that edition is the Dodgers moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.  Why is that the subject that I most recall?  I have no idea!
So, when the opportunity arose to give back to Boquete, by providing a few hours of assistance each week to the new library, it seemed ideal.  Luckily, one of the areas that requires the most upkeep is the Reference Section.  Each afternoon, when schools let out, many students head to the library and go right to this section for assistance with their homework.  By the time the library closes in the evening the section is pretty much in disarray.  Taking note of this, when I arrived for my shift one morning, I quickly volunteered to make its upkeep one of my priorities.
Of course, as I re-shelve and reorganize the encyclopedias, dictionaries and other reference publications I often take a few seconds to peruse the pages and focus in on some item that catches my eye.  Whether the material is printed in Spanish or English there is always something of interest.  I believe that the help we are providing is very beneficial and much appreciated.  Not to mention rewarding in more ways than one.   Now, if I could only figure out a way to better recall this knowledge when needed!