“The moral of the story? Be careful what you wish for.”
Mayrose Munar spoke those words while standing in a Redwood City elementary school cafeteria, surrounded by 40,000 books she is now faced with boxing and shipping all the way to Hawaii.
And she couldn’t be more pleased about it.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Munar said. “And happy.”
Last fall, Munar’s son’s school, Adalente Spanish Immersion, was one of four slated for closure by the district as a result of declining enrollment. While sad about the fate of a school her son loved, Munar also saw an opportunity to help others.
Knowing there would be a surpluss of books as school libraries were consolidated, Munar sent an email to the district with a simple question: “What are you guys going to do with the books?
The answer? Munar could have them. All 40,000 of them.
While it is an astonishing number of books, it is not Munar’s first experience with handling large-scale donations of books.
Last year, in an attempt to help the elementary school in her hometown in Hawaii, Munar asked her Redwood City neighbors if they had any books they could donate. She expected a few hundred. She got 5,000.
Munar personally accompanied the delivery of the books to the school and the children there.
“When they started seeing the books come in and they opened those boxes and they looked at the books and heard the stories about the families dropping off books, it made them feel loved and special,” Munar said.
With this new influx of books, Munar says she can expand her donations to schools and children across the Hawaiian islands.
One of the new ways she is distributing the books is through Free Little Libraries, mailbox-sized public library exchanges that are usually stationed outside a volunteer’s house.
“One of the issues we had was, 'How do students during the summers get to libraries?',” said Munar. “I researched little libraries and thought that would be a great idea.”
The little libraries are being built by elderly veteran volunteers and Munar said the first of these libraries will be installed in Anahola, which is on the north shore of Kauai, as well as one in front of Munar’s home in Kekaha.
Munar said she wishes to reach more rural communities.
All 40,000 of the books now sit in the gym of Adelante elementary school while Munar and her son, Ansel, pack them away in boxes one by one.
The sea of books left Munar in awe, she said.
“It really hit me what 40,000 books look like,” she said. “To the kids in Hawaii it's going to be something as simple as, 'There are people out there thinking about us, we're not forgotten', which means a lot.”
What began as a sad goodbye for her son’s elementary school, turned into new opportunity for Munar to continue her work in spreading books for children across Hawaii, she said.
“Knowing that we're going to have 40,000, that just told me how many more kids that we're going to be able to reach,” she said. “Not just on Kauai but throughout Hawaii there are other schools in need.”