Because of the nature of my regular job, I sometimes have to go to meetings in oddball places without previous notice. On my latest venture I had to go to a really hard to find conference room in Toluca which is a city I despise to go because the public transportation system is abominably bad. After being dumped by the taxi around 2 miles away I had to tread to the right place and discovered the conference room was located right besides this new park that was opened a few years ago called Parque Ambiental Bicentenario.
Once you enter the park from the main entrance you are greeted by a cute ceramic statue that was made by artisans in Metepec.
The artwork of the figurine is indeed really cool. However even though the park sure looks nice it has all of the traits of a PRI white elephant. The place was inaugurated by President Peña Nieto himself several years ago but some parts of the park haven't even been officially "opened" yet.
Yes, the very cute jungle gym paid by my tax pesos has a bunch of plastic wrapping and a yellow police cordon "Do not Enter" sign. I mean, this park was opened in 2011 or 2012 and after 4 years they still haven't taken the annoyance to remove the plastic.
I do not know if the map fell off or they never bothered to install it in the first place. What an informative white box!!!
Continuing the tour of the park to the library, you can see the sidewalks are being filled with concrete. I have no idea if they were replacing damaged concrete or they simply opened the park 4 years ago without even bothering to at least sort of finish the job and they are barely finishing the Captain Obvious final touches.
The signs inside of the actual park are functional and it's a pretty straightforward path to the library.
As you approach the library there is a building arguably called "El lugar de la Tierra" or an Earth center. I have no idea what that is. I wonder if public schoolbuses ever bring busloads of kids to visit the park. Seems a bit like a white elephant to me.
We then reach the library. Most libraries I have been to in Mexico are dilapidated and unwelcoming buildings but I will give props to this place. The library looks unusually stunning from the outside and unlike some parts of the park it's 100% functional.
Once you go inside you realize it's still a very young library with a lot of open spaces on the shelves. It's indeed not a large library, I doubt it has more than 2000 books and it pales in comparison to the impressive Vasconsuelos Library in Mexico City.
However the place looks welcoming and cheerful in the inside, rare for a public library in Mexico. There were only around 5 people inside, two of them students doing homework and the rest were using the computers with free internet.
I browsed around the shelves to see what kinds of books were available. The place has a somewhat "odd" catalogue system. While it has a surprisingly decent stock of medical books that is better than the Vasconselos Library some of the medical books were scattered among the Physics and Chemistry section.
The fiction section has a really nice array of books (including some in english!). They have Twilight and the 7 Harry Potter books.
I think having welcoming libraries with a decent book selection is a good start for a country that doesn't have a book reading culture. The sad thing about the location of this library is that the public transportation system stinks. You leave the park and for starters there is no official bus stop per se. I was standing on the sidewalk getting exhausted after a 6 hour meeting for a whopping 45 minutes until the Metepec-Crisa bus showed up. Maybe people in Los Angeles don't mind buses that arrive in such a long interval but in urban areas of Mexico you seldom wait for 10 minutes for the right bus to show up. Even in the super rural village I work in has buses zipping by at steady 20 minute intervals. The buses weren't even empty; it was packed to the brim like sardines.
After 40 minutes of waiting in the cold I simply sat on the sidewalk and hollered insults to the arsehead drivers that honcked at me even though they had more than enough space. Not my fault the PRI builds fancy white elephants without decent bus stops or buses that show up at sufficient intervals. Oh but don't worry, In the 45 minutes I waited for a bus to arrive more than 90 empty taxis zipped by. Good job Toluca, I don't want to be stiffed with a taxi that doesn't even know it's own city for 90 MXN when I could ride a bus for 9 MXN. The only conforting thing about waiting here like an idiot was that the park's free WiFi was working.
If you wander around Mexico City and the metropolitan areas of the State of Mexico you will bump into dozens of posters like the one below featuring flashy mexican stars (many of whom aren't even avid readers in real life). Curiously enough Sherlyn is well-known to be a bookworm and they have never made an ad with her. Mexico logic.
I think opening decent libraries is a good start but if the bus service stinks and public schools don't take the tykes to these places people just won't go. The bad part about this park is that it's very far away from where large conglomerations of people are. They should seriously build a public library right next to the Toluca bus terminal. The place is oozing with people rushing everywhere. Chile has book rental joints in busy subway stations in Santiago. Mexico should bring the free books to the places where people will conglomerate as well.
At the end, when my ISBN number arrives of the spanish translation of An Ominous Book I'm still going to donate a copy of the book to this library. If at least one kid becomes inspired by my fantasy book I will have done a good job.