The Long Beach Public Library is sending two staffers to Cambodia this weekend. Once there, they'll purchase 1,000 books to satisfy the reading needs of Cambodian patrons.
Library Services Director Glenda Williams said her staff looked for books online. “Books written in their script in the Khmer language - are not available in the quantity nor the quality that we need,” she said as she prepared for the 17-hour flight.
Her book shopping list includes children’s books, adult fiction by Cambodian authors, books on health, martial arts, and marriage customs. “We’re also going for bilingual material in English and Khmer,” she said.
Staff at the Mark Twain branch in the city’s largely Cambodian neighborhood said books in Khmer – pronounced k'may – as Cambodia’s language is called, are in such demand that many are in tatters.
Many of those books were purchased during a book-buying trip to Cambodia four years ago. Long Beach librarians bought 3,000 books then. They plan to buy 1,000 books on this one-week trip.
Long Beach is home to one of the largest populations of Cambodian immigrants anywhere in this country. There’s a high demand for bilingual books among the US-born children of Cambodian immigrants. Williams said she and her staff have researched which bookstores and cultural institutions to visit. Cambodian American members of the YMCA will join the library staff to help with translation.
Donations from The Miller Foundation, the Friends of the Long Beach Library and the Long Beach Rotary Charitable Foundation through the Long Beach Public Library Foundation will cover the cost of the trip and book purchases, about $12,000. The results should be on Long Beach library shelves in about a month.