I like to call myself an avid reader. I always have a book on hand, by my bedside, and usually in my purse when I travel (just in case I have to wait). You never know when you’ll have a free 15 minutes. However, because of my propensity to exceed weight limits on airplanes, I had to carefully limit myself as to the number of books I brought with me to Ecuador. Of course some books, like a Bible and journal, were absolutely necessary. Despite my mother’s constant warnings to pack light, I also carried with me the esteemed cookbook for all mission interns in my program. More-with-Less, it’s called. How to eat better and consume less of the world’s limited food resources. I felt like it was worth it. In addition to these three, I chose three books simply for pleasure reading.
Now three books would only last me about 3 months maximum, so I knew I would have to find a library. This became one of my first tasks in exploring the city of Quito: to locate the nearest public library. Not to check out books right away, but it’s always comforting to me to find a niche in the library simply to have some down time amidst a busy schedule. Maybe this is due to the fact that I worked in a library every summer during college, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Anyway, I was determined. I looked up libraries in Quito, and found a few results, though not a good website.
The next day I set off on my adventure to find the library. With my map and previously-written-out directions in hand, I confidently walked the two miles to the park where the said library was to be located. Upon arriving in the park, I passed by several families with children playing and people walking dogs. As I wasn’t certain where to find the library, I asked a few different people. Two looked at me strangely and said they didn’t know of a library near here, but finally one woman pointed me in the direction of a small building with high glass windows in the center of the park. When I approached the tiny library, it turned out to be closed. From outside I could see that it contained no more than 10 shelves and a few small desks. My best impression told me that it was a small children’s library. Not exactly what I was looking for…
Round 2. That night I found another alleged address of where a library would be. The following afternoon I packed my bag and started off again, ready for a relaxing afternoon browsing the shelves. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some classic Ecuadorian literature! After about forty minutes, I found the corner where the library should be. Hmmm, the only thing there was a Domino’s Pizza, interestingly enough. I wandered around the block, peering closely at each tall building, looking for a sign that indicated biblioteca. Finally, after no success, I inquired at a security station, to no avail. The guard didn’t have a clue where the library was. Same response from the man on the next corner. Thwarted yet again.
On my way back home, I decided to ask the taxi driver, on the off chance that he might know (after all, it was part of his job description to know the layout of the city, right?). He didn’t know of one nearby, but he mentioned that the National Library was located next to the Presidential Palace. When I arrived back at my apartment, I found the Presidential Palace on the map. No library was marked, but that will be my next try. It’s quite a distance away, so until then, I will have to be content curling up on my bed reading Cuentos Folclóricos del Ecuador, a book I borrowed from the Spanish institute. In case you’re wondering, one of my favorites so far has been the Ecuadorian version of Hansel and Gretel, “Los Niños Perdidos.”