Posted on December 8, 2016.
Please join us for a special 20th Anniversary MEL Night on Friday, December 16, from 7:00 to 9:30 pm.
20 YEARS OF BOOKS AND CULTURE by Dan Karnes, Board President
2016 marks the twentieth anniversary of the Merida English Library. The MEL Acta Constitutiva — the document that brought the library into official existence under Mexican law — was enacted in 1996. It set forth the purposes of the new nonprofit corporation, including teaching and spreading “the culture and customs of Mexico and other countries”; operating libraries and cultural centers; and promoting events to raise its members’ cultural levels and to foster good relations between the library and the local community.
Although MEL was started as a lending library, its role in promoting cultural activities and understanding was clearly important to its founders. Our current board and administrator have worked hard to maintain a balance between these two major functions: serving as an English language library, while facilitating cultural exchanges between our expat members and our Mexican hosts. (MEL’s Yucatecan members also play an important part in this second goal.) Of course, everyone also recognizes the library’s importance as a community center and a source of information about living in Merida.
As MEL embarks on its third decade, maybe it would be of interest to recap some of our ongoing programs and recent accomplishments.
On the book side, we’ve installed a computerized card catalogue and book check-out system. We’ve also recently installed custom-crafted wooden shelving for our books and DVDs. (We also spruced up our building and garden last year with some new paint and new bodegas. This doesn’t specifically affect the books, but it does present a more attractive face to our members and guests.)
On the cultural side . . . . . well, it’s hard to know where to start. (1) For 15 years, Conversaciones con Amigos has provided a weekly opportunity for English-speakers-studying-Spanish and Spanish-speakers-studying-English to meet for two hours to hone their language skills together. The program has been so popular that we recently started Unite Tonight!, a Wednesday night program that provides additional opportunities for cross-cultural community building and language practice.
(2) We’re entering our third year of the OneWorld/Two Languages program, the MEL-UADY partnership that pairs local college students with English-speaking host families for a semester of cultural and language exchange.
(3) From time to time over the years we’ve presented children’s story time on Saturday mornings. About a year ago, our administrator Susanna McKibben re-inaugurated the program, and we now have 10 – 20 young participants each week, from both expat and Yucatecan families.
(4) Several years ago, we started an annual Artist Studio Tour which has allowed our members and supporters to visit the work spaces of local artists and talk with them about their creations.
(5) One of our most popular programs is the Saturday Lecture Series, which presents speakers on a wide variety of topics, from Maya culture to Mexican history to back yard composting.
(6) Wednesday for Writers is a fairly new program that offers a monthly gathering for local writers to meet, share their work, sell their books, and hear featured guest speakers.
(7) Each Tuesday during the fall and winter seasons, we sponsor our House and Garden Tours, offering access to some of Centro’s most interesting homes and gardens.
(8) Once a month we conduct a sommelier-led wine tasting in an interesting home or other location, with talks about the selected wines and the paired botanas.
As this partial list indicates, we offer a wide range of activities and events to our members and the local community. None of these, of course, would be possible without your support and participation and the tireless efforts of our many volunteers. Muchas gracias!