Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Wilshire Branch Library Trades Books with Mongolia

Mongolian book exchange volunteers pose with mascot Wilshire the bear.
Mongolian book project workers Debbie Willis, Madeleine Ildefonso (Wilshire Branch librarian), Ruth Silveira, and Chima Anyadike-Danes…with mascot Wilshire (the bear).

mongolia6aThe Wilshire Branch Library, 149 N. St. Andrews Place, serves a very diverse population and includes book collections curated for its specific ethnic communities, including those who speak Spanish, Korean and Bengali.  A few months ago, Wilshire Branch librarian Madeleine Ildefonso was chatting with frequent customer Enkhtuya Sonompel, the education director for the Los Angeles Mongolian Association (LAMA), which works with Angelenos who have roots in Mongolia (in fact, the Wilshire-Western area is home to one of the largest populations of Mongolians in the United States).  Ms. Sonompel explained that Mongolians in Los Angeles are eager to both study and celebrate their own language, as well as learn English.  So Ms. Ildefonso felt that it would be a natural extension to host a small Mongolian collection at the library.  Ms. Sonompel brought the director of LAMA into the conversation , along with Chima Anyadike-Danes, a student learning the Mongolian language, and they came up with the idea of a book exchange with a public library in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.  The Los Angeles library would send books in English to Mongolia, and librarians there would, in turn, send books in Mongolian to Los Angeles.

Ms. Ildefonso shared the idea with the Friends of Wilshire Library (FOWL), and FOWL’s volunteers eagerly went to work seeking book donations.  They collected nearly 180 books – mostly children’s and young adult titles – to make the trek to Mongolia.  LAMA representatives made the final selections, then FOWL volunteers, including Ruth Silveira, Debbie Willis, Debi King and Mary Rajswing, packed up the shipment, and LAMA, which is paying the shipping costs, will soon launch the books on their way overseas.
mongoliabooks3But they didn’t stop there.  To make sure the books have company on their months-long journey, and to more personally represent the donors, Ms. Silveira created “Wilshire,” a stuffed California grizzly bear dressed in a Los Angeles logo T-shirt and Mongolian-style vest, to go along for the ride.  According to Ms. Silveira, Wilshire and the books will travel by ship to Tianjin, China, then by rail to the Mongolian border, and then another train to their final destination in Ulaanbaatar.  And when the library there receives the English books, it will send back a shipment of books in Mongolian, which will become part of Wilshire Library’s permanent collection and will be available for local Mongolian community members who want to keep up with their own language.
Ms. Ildefonso invites everyone who would like to learn more about their neighborhood, and the populations who live there, to visit their local library.  She also invites local residents to join the Friends of Wilshire Library volunteer group.  The next meeting will be held on Thursday, September, 17, at 6:30 p.m. (at the Library).  There are also many special programs at the library showcasing local communities.  On Saturday, September 19, James-Beard-Award-winning restaurant Gueleguetza will demonstrate how to make its famous mole – with free samples.  All ages are welcome; RSVP to Wilshire Library at (323) 957-4550.
And be sure to check back in a few months to see if the new Mongolian books have arrived.  Maybe the folks in Ulaanbaatar will send their own mascot along for the ride…perhaps a yak?
Wilshire Branch Library 
149 N. St. Andrews Pl.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 957-4550
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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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