That quiet peaceful Friday at home changed suddenly when I read on instagram of a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the West Fresno Library for the County Library’s digibus. I was quite excited to do this because 1) I had just learned that West Fresno (where Columbia Elementary is located) has a county library branch, and 2) the digibus sounded like something I wanted to know more about.
The West Fresno Library is fairly new. That’s why I didn’t know about it. The building wasn’t even there when our daughter was attending high school right across the street. It was a big vacant lot back in the 90s. Now it’s a Fresno County Service Center as well as the library. Lots of parking there, too. The digibus was sitting in the lot when I got there. There was plenty of seating and a ribbon around the bus that would later be cut and everyone invited on the bus to take a look at what it offers.
This was a joint effort of many local groups (and even the California State Library) to reconfigure a Winnebago into a rolling computer lab that will head to some of the most remote areas of the Central Valley where people lack access to technology and skills with which to use it. The digibus has wifi and 12 computer stations where people can learn computer skills, job-seeking skills, and be better prepared for jobs other than agriculture field work, which is quickly fading due to reduced acreage planted and more mechanization.
I met many people at this ribbon-cutting. The man who designed the bus’s exterior gave me a quick tour and told me how he had come up with the logos and designs. The woman who does the library’s social media made the connection with me and comments I had left on her postings. The library staff person for the West Fresno branch (there is no librarian). I also got to visit with an old friend who is the managing librarian of the area in which the West Fresno branch resides. We had a bit of a conversation about the lack of a librarian for this area. She firmly informed me that it would not be changing any time soon.
One lady with whom I chatted for quite awhile is on various committees and works with various organizations for the betterment of the West Fresno community. One of the questions she asked me, after learning what I do at Columbia, “are you afraid to come to this part of town?”
Although I understood her reasoning for asking this of an older white woman, I was saddened that she even had to ask it.
“No, of course not. I’ve been coming over to this side of town for decades. I actually requested to do my student teaching, 30 years ago, on this side of town, at Edison High. My university supervisor came twice to watch me teach and said he wouldn’t be back because it was too scary to come out to that school.”
All this time and nothing much has changed. West Fresno is still getting short-shrift. Abandoned properties. Retail desert. Few parks, and those that are there aren’t well maintained. Crowded schools. High poverty. And now I learn that the beautiful library doesn’t have a full time librarian. This is what I call injustice.