ALHAMBRA, Calif. — There's a new library in Alhambra, and this one is on wheels.
Library staff launched the traveling program — a mobile library in a van — to bring literacy to all the community, where many young residents are learning English as a second language.
Alhambra is a community where 72% of residents speak a language other than English, so the library director said she's using books as a vehicle for resources.
Connor Chong is every librarian's dream. At just 5 years old, he truly loves to read.
"Yes! So many books!" Connor exclaimed as he put each one of the 18 books into his bag to check out at the mobile library at Alhambra Park.
Connor said he's planning to read every single one of them — with a little help, of course.
"Yes?" Connor asked his dad. "Yes," his dad, David Chong, answered.
Chong said he's grateful Connor is so eager to learn at such a young age. It helps with his language development. They use these books to help teach Connor English since Chinese is his first language.
"We're worried that he'll forget Chinese once he goes full-time to school," Chong said. "So we speak Chinese at home, but we use books to help reinforce his English."
They're the exact type of family Library Director Hilda LohGuan had in mind when she pitched the idea of a mobile library to the Alhambra City Council.
She said this van will meet the residents where they are, transporting hundreds of books weekly to different parks, schools and neighborhoods. It targets the families who don't have the time, access or ability to travel to the library and immigrant families who don't realize it's free.
"To learn not only the English language for communication, but for writing, for learning science, for learning social science, for learning other cultural literacies, a lot of that is rooted in print literature," LohGuan explained.
LohGuan has been working in the public library arena for more than 25 years, and this is her passion project. She was motivated by her middle child, who struggles with a learning and development disability.
"I would not want other families to see their child have to struggle or fail. I am lucky to have a support system, but not all of our community members do, so we can play that role," she said.
LohGuan said she's grateful that when she presented the idea, the city sprang into action. The police chief donated the mobile library van — a former law enforcement vehicle they didn't use much, and the Department of Public Works helped design and wrap the new graphic.
Library staff is on-site to lead a summer reading program, issue library cards and check out the children's books. For Connor, it's a dream come true.
"Are you really going to read all of these?" One of the librarians asked. "Yes!" Connor exclaimed.
He can't wait to get home to get started as he yells "bye!" to everyone at the mobile library.
Library staff said they are working on securing additional funds to add mobile hotspots and Chromebooks to the mobile library.
In the fall, they plan to visit senior venues as well, but for the summer, they'll travel to another park each week.
For the mobile library's full summer schedule, visit their website.