Lewis Griswold

Teacher’s passion for hometown gets a library for London

Supporters stand in front of the new London branch library. From left to right, Dinuba schools superintendent Joe Hernandez, King River Elementary School superintendent and principal Sherry Martin, Tulare County librarian Darla Wegener and King River Elementary School library tech Eunice Quiring.
Supporters stand in front of the new London branch library. From left to right, Dinuba schools superintendent Joe Hernandez, King River Elementary School superintendent and principal Sherry Martin, Tulare County librarian Darla Wegener and King River Elementary School library tech Eunice Quiring. Special to The Bee

For Rob Isquierdo Jr., next Saturday will be a day of pride when the new London branch of the Tulare County Public Library opens.

“After three years of diligent work, our dream to create a library in our small struggling rural community is finally a reality,” he said.

Isquierdo started the Library for London project and is recognized as the founder of the library.

“This monumental event is part of a much bigger vision to redefine our community  and provide a sense of hope for our residents, especially our children,” he said.

Isquierdo grew up in London, a tiny town of about 1,800 in northern Tulare County in the heart of fruit tree country where low-income households and difficult circumstances are the norm.

But London is a place where children can and do grow up to be productive members of society, he said. He became an English teacher, for instance.

One thing the old hometown didn’t have is a library.

Isquierdo was teaching English in Santa Clarita (he now is at Sierra Pacific High in Hanford) when the department head asked him whom to invite to campus to inspire students.

Isquierdo suggested a personal favorite, poet and author Gary Soto, who has Valley roots, and Soto agreed.

“I met Gary and he brought back a lot of memories (about the Valley),” Isquierdo said. “I started thinking, ‘What are the children of London doing?’ It planted the seed.”

Later, he told Soto about the library project. “He was a big believer in the project,” Isquierdo said. “He is a huge advocate and financial donor to this cause.”

Soto will speak at the grand opening. Local author and Selma native Genevieve Galvan Frenes also will be there.

Three years ago, Isquierdo sent out a news release announcing the start of the Library for London Project and got some news coverage.

He reached out to the Tulare County Library, where County Librarian Jeff Scott said the project could be viable with the right funding for a building, books and part-time staff. Later, County Librarian Darla Wegener took up the project.

Isquierdo said he would raise $25,000 to get it started. The Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary clubs in Dinuba and Kingsburg made donations, as did the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation in Kingsburg.

Supervisor Steve Worthley of Dinuba was behind the project “from Day One,” Isquierdo said, and library board member Lali Moheno of Visalia advocated for it.

Finding the right spot for the library was a challenge until Isquierdo – whose middle name should be Lucky – talked to Pastor Mike Naylor, who introduced him to Gary Joslin, who owned a lot in London with an old house on it.

“It was right across from the community center and a preschool,” Isquierdo said. “It was the ideal location.”

Joslin agreed to a long-term lease, the house was torn down and the 1,400-square-foot county branch library went up.

“The library will house books, DVDs, magazines, and computers to assist the London community with their informational, recreational, self-educational, and cultural needs,” the Tulare County Library said in a statement.

Library Assistant Miranda Hillan will staff the library from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays.

The grand opening with a ribbon cutting will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at 5711 Ave. 378. Activities begin at 10 a.m.

BUZZBEE: The Tulare County Sheriff’s Department showed off its new mascot to the Board of Supervisors last week.

Deputy BuzzBee is the brainchild of Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, who got the idea after noticing his own children were enamored of the costumed characters at Disneyland.

Deputy BuzzBee debuted last year at the Tulare County Fair and has been a hit ever since, Boudreaux said.

The mascot visits schools and has reached about 40,000 children at 45 schools, bringing with him an anti-bullying message, the sheriff’s department said.

“My goal is to reach every child throughout Tulare County with a simple yet powerful message: Bee Nice, Bee Honest, Bee Safe,” Boudreaux said.

BuzzBee doesn’t speak, but Deputy Ixchel Franks goes with him to tell the anti-bullying story.

Lewis Griswold covers the news of the South Valley for The Fresno Bee: 559-441-6104, lgriswold@fresnobee.com, @fb_LewGriswold

London branch library grand opening

When: 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 15

Where: 5711 Ave. 378, London, Tulare County

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