Rio Hondo library marks next 40 years

RIO HONDO — “God bless this library.”

The words were etched in black marker across the light blue canister that would serve as a time capsule for the next 40 years.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday at Rio Hondo Public Library celebrated the facility’s 40 years of service. It also welcomed the next 40 years. Dozens of citizens and local officials attended the event.

“Today is a very important day,” said Ben Medina, city administrator. “Forty years ago this library was dedicated, and today we’re celebrating that birthday by placing a time capsule. Citizens, patrons of our library can put something inside.”

The time capsule already contained the city budget, names of city commissioners and family photos.

“I’ve asked children to sign the outside of the capsule with a permanent marker so when that’s opened maybe their grandkids will say, ‘Hey, that was my dad or that was my grandmother,’” he said.

And so they had.

“Alondra and Fidel,” read one message. “Jaden Vasquez,” read another. And still others more prophetic. “In 40 years from now this library will turn 80. I was here in 2019.”

Carolyn Dawson, library director, looked ahead to the day when some of those children might indeed attend the opening of the time capsule.

“The next time we have a big celebration like that, people can go back and see what was happening in Rio Hondo today,” she said. “We have some items from children that have been participating in our activities this week, so they have discovered the fun things that can happen in a library.”

A large blue cake sat just inside the door along with coffee and tea, but the people filling the library eagerly exchanged greetings and swapped stories. Many of those in attendance had been present at the first ribbon-cutting 40 years ago and helped get the library going.

“It was very, very slow because we didn’t have customers,” said Ernestina Zuniga, 86. “I used to come in here from 4 to 6 p.m. three times a week. My husband and I donated the World Book encyclopedia and a big dictionary.”

Filling the library with books was a big task, remembered Joan Reiff, 87.

“We had them from people’s attics, we had the leftovers from San Benito and Harlingen, anything to get our count up,” she said. “Then gradually of course we got to where we had money for the new books, much different and much more usable. It’s wonderful. It’s like walking back into your old bailiwick. It’s fun to see the wonderful changes.”

Those wonderful changes are aplenty, as Dawson told it.

“I think the library is a vital part of the community in that we have books but we also have current resources,” she said. “We have computers that are free to use and free WiFi and Internet access. One of the ways that we’re updating the library is to also offer ebooks and audiobooks.”

When the time capsule is opened in 40 years, they’ll see something else. A copy of Saturday’s Valley Morning Star.