In 1994, Elizabeth Dunkel stood up at an International Women’s Club Christmas brunch meeting and said “Let’s start an English library.” She couldn’t picture herself living in a community without a place for sharing books.
As Elizabeth tells it, “I don’t know how I got hooked up with Chloe (Pacheco), but she is the true Godmother of the Library. I put the idea into the universe and did the physical labor, but she made it happen. Chloe was the one who took me to her lawyer and we got the papers drawn up. She also had Elie Guidotti in a Spanish course at (her school) CIS and was pleased to tell me that Elie would let us use her house as the first home of the library.”
Soon others joined in to help. Colleen Leonard and others shelved books as donations began to come in from the English-speaking community. Marilyn Estes Smith did the reference books and directed the cataloging. Ellen Lipscomb sort of ran things. Paulie Williams arranged for a couple of volunteer librarians from the US to vacation in Mérida and lend some expertise to the enterprise. In the first 18 months, the library moved three times, finally coming home to Calle 53 between 66 and 68 in Colonia Centro. Marilyn always said that when she died she would want MEL to have her house and that is where MEL is today.
It is not always easy being a subscription library in a community of members who are used to having a local library paid for by their taxes. MEL receives no funding from any level of government in Mexico, and is always searching for U.S. or Canadian foundations that might have funds for an oasis of English language books in a foreign country.
Meanwhile, the fundraising goes on. Once a year, MEL hosts “The Big ChiliCook-Off,” focusing on fun for everyone in the family, prizes, and recognition of the greatness and diversity of recipes for chili sin or con carne. MELL conducts an Annual Capital Campaign to raise funds. In this way the monies needed to keep the doors open at MEL and to fulfill the mission of the library are raised.
Twelve times a year on the third Friday of every month, MEL hosts the MEL-O-NITES get together. This is a great opportunity to network with many English speaking people living in Mérida, to find out what is happening, where to go, and how to get things done. Spanish-speaking people who want to practice their English are also welcome.
The annual membership fees are kept low to remain affordable. A Family membership is $350 pesos for the year; an Individual membership is $250 pesos, and Yucateco Students pay $100 pesos for a yearly membership. To fulfill the mission of the Mérida English Language Library, a variety of other services are offered besides the loaning of books, videos, DVD’s, audio tapes, and magazines, including:
On Monday evenings at 7 pm, there is “Conversaciones con Amigos,” a chance to practice your Spanish or English in a relaxed social setting. This is a very popular evening at the library.
There are several AA meeting in English every week, check our Events (Weekly) page for details.
MELL offers a place to drop off used clothing and household items no longer needed in your home, to be passed along to the AIDS Hospice in Conkal.
There is a bulletin board at MEL where you can find information posted about many services in Mérida, places to stay, tutors in English and Spanish, items for sale, and other news.
There are garage sales in the patio where one is provided the opportunity to have a table to sell items no longer needed in the home, as well as pick up a few bargains. This is a fundraising event as well as a great social occasion for the neighborhood.
MEL also provides a volunteer opportunity for those who want to spend a few hours a week helping the library. We could not exist without our volunteers.
And don’t forget there are books for sale. Book donors are so generous that duplicates may be sold at a very low $10 pesos each.
The story of MEL is a story of generosity and dedication. So many people have come forward to give time, energy, books, and money. Without this cooperative effort the library would not be what it is today: a library that exceeds its mandate of providing educational materials to the community. MEL has become a model of sharing and partnership.
Presently, the library is open from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm weekday mornings and additionally from 6:30 to 9:00 pm on Mondays. Saturdays, the Library is open from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and it is closed on Sunday. To find out more about the library, please go to their website.
Merida English Language Library
Calle 53 No. 524 x 66 y 68 Col. Centro, Mérida, Yucatan 97000
Tel. (999) 924-8401
Here is a video about the library, courtesy of our friends at intheyucatan.com:
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