submitted by George Sophios on 19.05.2013
The Municipal Library of Kythera is located just off the central road through Kythera. If you take the Ayios Ilias turn off, it is the first building you see on your right hand side. Within 50 metres on the right hand side of the road you will come to the newly opened Municipal Library of Kythera.
The Municipal Library of Kythera is located near the centre of the island.
MAP Location of Municipal Library of Kythera
To gain a clearer picture download a .pdf of the map here:
MAP Location of Municipal Library of Kythera Lib.pdf
The opening of the Library has been a great source of pride for residents of the island, as well as those living in the Kytherian diaspora.
Dimitris Koutrafouris, Spokesman for the Library, and Manager of the National Bank of Greece, Hora, Kythera. Long term vision for the island, and a deep thank you to the volunteers
It is always a shame when a school is forced to close. But there is always a sense of triumph when a school, like the closed Primary School in Kontolianika, finds an “adaptive re-use”, and reopens. Over the month of May 2013, all the necessary preparations for the establishment and operation of a Public Library on Kythera were completed. After a long period of prevarication, a firm commitment was finally made to establish of a large public library in the centre of the island. That has been achieved as a result of persistent and optimistic efforts of various political and cultural entities on the island, as well as individuals associated with those entities. The Library, in addition to promoting the love of books will perform broader educational missions. This cultural coalition has effectively combined their efforts, powers, intentions, desires, skills and resources for the benefit of the island.
The Library had been administered from September 2012, by the municipal clerk Calliope Kasimati, from the Graduate School of Management of Cultural Resources at the University of Peloponnese. Her appointment was a temporary one. During her tenure she was assisted by an informal and ever-expanding group of volunteers. They arrived unsolicited and ‘magically” grew in number. Working together, these volunteers will ensure that the Library will stay open, irrespective of national and local economic developments, and municipal affairs.
The volunteer’s first task was to organise the seven thousand volumes which occupied the large, single classroom, as well as numerous forgotten books still packed away in boxes. These had come into the possession of the municipality from 14 November 2011, after the Children’s and Adolescent Library in Livadi closed down. They had been packed away properly, and have been rescued from the ravages of moisture, dust and rodents. The losses have been reduced to a minimum.
The volunteers have already completed the registration, sorting, restoration and classification of books. This has been achieved by “working overtime”, including performing extra work every Saturday. The work has been undertaken with big dreams, unexpected improvisations, and with the enthusiastic assistance of volunteers, teachers and children.
Other students in advanced countries with a rich educational and cultural heritage enjoy the privilege of libraries as a ‘given’, and a right. They benefit greatly as a result of having access to public libraries. We, in the circumstances that we find ourselves in, on our favourite little island, have had to struggle to achieve the same privileges. This need to build up the Library ‘from scratch’ has made us appreciate what we have achieved so much more. Working together we will find a way to turn previous shortcomings into creative power. It is not often that people are given the opportunity to become a pioneers, patrons and participants in the birth of such an exalted and beautiful institution.
for the Group of Volunteers
The Municipal Library of Kythera
See also, April 2013 Report by George C Poulos. George is an Honorary Member of the Friends of Kythera Library
The exterior of the Library needs a good makeover and landscaping.
Download a .pdf of the landscaping plan here:
The courtyard as it exists as of April 2013, is inadequate. The design depicted has been created pro bono by architect Elias Vassiliadis.
Re-design of the Courtyard
One of the "finishing touches" that needs to be completed is the re-design of the external (back) courtyard. Architect Elias Vassiliadis has very kindly drawn up - free of charge - a plan drawn for the library grounds. The cost estimate for the work is approximately 11,000 euro's. The Library Committee and overseas friends hope to secure the money, fairly quickly, so they can put this work out to tender.
The design is elegant. There will be two alternative specifications for the covered area at the back, (6), one calling for a lightweight wood and bamboo pergola, and the other for a more substantial tiled roof; this will require two alternative cost figures. One substantially higher than the other. In either case, the covered area will be open at the front and sides.
The curved wall (1) will be of roughly dressed stone with a smooth upper surface, 50 cm high, so as to provide extra seating. Between this low wall and the boundary wall will be an area for planting, as will be area (3) alongside the access path.
Area (2), under the pergola and in front of the steps leading up to the library, will be smooth concrete, probably with some stone and terracotta decorative elements. Likewise the approach path, (4).
The main area of the courtyard, (5) will be fine gravel over a base layer of coarse gravel. Not only is this a lot cheaper and more environmentally friendly than concreting everything, it also allows for natural drainage. If, instead, we were to concrete or seal the entire area, we would also have to provide for underground drainage. Insulated electrical outlets and water points will be provided along the perimeter wall.
The Library Committe, and overseas Friends have also asked for estimates for the provision of guttering for the main building, including buried drainage of the runoff.
A Municipal Library. Considered critical infrastructure in most countries in the world.
The new municipal library is planned to open in Kondeleanika, Kythera. It is fully refurbished, and ready to be "fitted out" to fulfill its purpose - to become the first accessible lending library on the island of Kythera for 6,000 years.
The problem seems to be that Municipality of Kythera, has run out of money to equip it properly.
In Greece, Provinces (States) and the National government take no economic responsibility for local Libraries. This is a tragedy.
In 'western' countries such as Australia, America & Canada, and most countries in Europe, Asia, North & South America, all small communities and all small townships maintain a Local Lending Library. There is no town with a population of 3,300, the population of Kythera, that does not have a well established and equipped library, in place.
The citizens of a town of this size would not tolerate not having an operational Library. It would be considered unacceptable, and prejudicial to their children's future.
The Americans enter the campaign:
A group of Americans, under the leadership of Cynthia Cavalenes-Jarvis of Alhambra, California which is located in the western San Gabriel Valley region of Los Angeles County, California, were inspired by Kythera's Mayor, Theodore Koukoulis to provide shelving for the library. Cynthia, her two sisters (Candace Weiss and Toni Cavalenes) and her cousin (Kendra Rosner) met the Mayor in September 2008 while visiting in the Municipality of Kythera building. This meeting was arranged through George Poulos, Public Relations Officer of the Kytherian Association of Australia, and Trustee of the Kytherian World Heritage Fund. At that meeting Cynthia inquired what the needs of Kythera are and the Mayor responded "bookshelves" for the proposed library.
Cynthia organised the financing for the Bookshelves Project in the USA, and George Poulos, under the auspices of the Kytherian World Heritage Fund, organised funds in Australia. By May 2009, Cynthia could report "that we have come a long way in the fund raising. If everyone that committed funds comes through we have raised $6,460. That leaves us with a need for $1,540 more for shipping plus the cost of the container, $2,500. I have no doubt we will get there. We still have some fund raising events up our sleeves, but I haven't had time to work on them just yet".
By the end of the Bookshelves Project she could report with some pride: "This project certainly does qualify as "great." If it did not, we would not have had so many people and organizations supporting it. We have had eight organizations (and their members) including Soroptimist International of Alhambra-San Gabriel-San Marino, Rotary International of Alhambra, KAA, KSOC, KSNY, AHEPA, Daughters of Penelope of Santa Barbara, two companies (providing in-kind assistance) and over fifty individuals (including a film/television celebrity) who have donated to this cause. I think as a grass roots project, that speaks volumes."
Just days after returning from her first visit to Kythera, Cynthia found the inspiraation for this project. During the ribbon cutting ceremony for the City of Alhambra's new municipal library, she realized that the City (where she works) may no longer need the bookshelves that remained in the decommissioned old library and that there could be an oppotunity to obtain some of them for Kythera's proposed library of which Mayor Koukoulis had spoken.
Photographs of the shelving in situ in California
Although locating bookshelves and obtaining them may appear to be an easy task, the bureaucratic red tape involved in obtaining property belonging to a municipality can be quite daunting. In January 2009, Cynthia reported: "I just received a message from the Director of Public Works who states that used bookshelves do not have much value on the auction market and are only worth about $120 per ton for the recycled steel, minus the agents commission. The shelves will have to be declared surplus and of no significant value, at which time I will be able to obtain them for Kythera for the suggested price of $1 per shelf unit. I accepted that price without hesitation. It might only cost about $100 to purchase the shelves.
I have a tentative February 10th presentation date with the Rotary to see if they will assist in this project. Also, since I am a member of the Soroptimists of Alhambra-San Gabriel-San Marino, I might be able to convince them to help with the project. The shipping might cost about $10,000 and the soroptimists' help in fundraising will be invaluable. I'll know more after the presentations.
The City is anxious to mobilize removal of the shelves, so as I expected, I am under a tight timeframe to move them out of the old library."
Cynthia also faced numerous additional logistical challenges.
A. How to remove the shelving units from the old Alhambra Library, and where to store them?
In August 2009 Cynthia reported "We don't have the container yet. Half the shelves are stored indoors at a warehouse that belongs to a Rotarian and half are stored in my backyard (It's summer here so it's alright & they are covered). But they have to be moved before the rains come.
The City didn't want volunteers to dismantle the shelves in the City owned library building for liability reasons, so City staff moved them out of the library, but they cannot be stored on City property. It took a crew of six people a week to dismantle and bundle the components for the shelves. They transported them to Al's Towing in Alhambra where they are stored until we can shiip them.
It took a huge effort to get the shelves dismantled and into storage and it was very chaotic. I left someone else in charge who's concept differred from mine. Once I inventoried the equipment, I found that we didn't have the proper number and size of shelves to go with the respective frames so another work party was dispatched (2 more days) to go back into the old library to gather the pieces we were missing. The second batch was transported to my backyard. Another tricky piece of the puzzle - now that the shelves are out of the old library, City staff can't be used to load the container. A local church that has offered help from their youth group, but volunteer labor can be unpredictable and I am worried about the continuity of the project. Although many of the staff that have been working on this project might offer to volunteer to load the container, as the director of the department for which they work I can't allow that because it could be perceived as coercion from me. So the Soroptimists will provide a stipend to them (funded through the fundraising effort) for their work. One of the staff happens to also work for a shipping company. He has experience organizing the loading of containers. I have asked him (on behalf of the Soroptimists) to be the lead person in the task of loading of the container. So between the City staff who are familiar with the project and the volunteers from the church the container will be properly loaded.
I won't lie, it's been a difficult project. I've lost a lot of sleep over the whole thing. The nice thing is that all of these people really are dedicated to the project, so I know they will come through. I am trying to get the shelves shipped in the next couple of weeks, but I can't bring the container into the warehouse until we are ready to ship because of the inconvenience it will cause the warehouse owner. Now that I am telling the shipper I'm ready to move forward, I am getting frustrating information from them."
B. Will it be better to own the shipping container the shelves are to be sent in, or just use the one provided by the shipper?
One of Cynthia's contacts advised her that "most people don't own the container. I think there is more paperwork involved and it might be more work to pass through Customs. So I think shippers don't want to deal with that and try to discourage it."
Although there would be no additonal charge to use a container provided by the international shipping company, once the container arrived in Pireaus the load would have to moved to another container (at a cost to the project for the labor to do so) because the international shipper did not service Kythera and for liablity reasons could not allow their container to be loaded onto another vessel. The cost of shipping from Pireaus to Kythera would be $1,500 U.S. Once the container arrived on Kythera it would have to be immediately unloaded and returned to the vessel. Any additional time on the island would result in a rental charge for the container. The transport of the emplty container back to Pireaus would cost an additional $1,500 U.S. After extensive research, Cynthia located a "sea worthy" container with the appropriate inspection certificate at a cost of $2,500 U.S. Determining that the cost of transferring the load in Piraeus, potentially paying rent while the container was on Kythera and shipping the container back to Piraeus could be just as costly and possibly more costly, than purchasing the container outright, Cynthia decided purchasing the container was the better choice.
C. Can a free or inexpensive location be found to store the shelves until they could be shipped?
If storage space had to be rented it would prove costly. Ultimately space in a warehouse in Alhambra was donated by Rotarian, Al Pavone, owner of Al's Towing which had limited indoor space that could be used to store the shelves. This saved a tremendous amount of money since the shelves were in storage for approximately six months before they could be shipped. "We are finalizing our inventory to see what components we still need to get from the old library before we ship. We have been authorized to go back into the building and take whatever we still need. We are in really good shape. It looks like we have about 30-eight foot long wall sections, about 25-eight foot long free standing double sided sections, and 2-eight foot long display/counter units. The next hurdle will be weight. these bookshelves are steel. They are HEAVY!!! Hopefully we will be able to send the whole lot.
I can't tell you how many people have asked if they could go Kythera to help reassemble the bookshelves on the island. I told the staff that disassembled them that I'm sure they would be welcome, but they would have to fund their own way there. I'm attaching a photo of the crew with some of the dismantled shelves in the background.
Everyone is really excited about this project!"
Vikki Vrettos Fraioli posted an extended report on the Message Board, 31.05.2009.
The Shelving project was reported in the kythera-family Newsletter in June, 2009 , and July, 2009
John Stathatos acts as the Kytherian connection
John Stathatos is a great advocate for Hellenic and Kytherian culture on the island. He is the Director of the Kythera Cultural Association. John has been engaged in numerous cultural Projects, such as Photographic Encounters, and the restoration of the Fatseas collection of photographs, which were featured in a Benaki Museum exhibition.
He is a great advocate for the Municipal Library.
In October 2009, he wrote to Cindy and George advising / asking that:
1. You may add my name to any document. My address is Strapodi, Chora, Kythera 80100.
2. The container will be unloaded alongside or behind the new municipal library in Agios Elias, Kythera.
3. There is equipment on the island to unload the container. I will try to find out the cost, and can probably get it done for free, but I obviously need a few days to get the details.
4. Has Tina (Anoni) chosen a haulage company to carry the container from Piraeus to Kythera? If not, I might be able to get a discount rate from a local trucking company. Again, I would need till Monday or Tuesday to confirm this.
5. I saw the mayor today and brought him up to date.
6. Do we have even a very rough ballpark figure for arrival on Kythera?
On the 12th January, 2010, the shelving arrived on Kythera, and was unpacked on the same day, and packed away safely in the Library at Kontolianika.
John Stathatos announced:
"As it happened, the right crane to offload the whole container was out of commission. Fortunately work had finished on the inside of the library, which is nice and dry, so I got the municipality to provide some labour, and we got everything unloaded in a couple of hours.
Above, are couple of photos; we’ll take more when it comes time to assemble the shelves. (See below).
Congratulations on completing the final lap of your grand project!"
The Project was written up in the December 2009 issue of Kytheraismos newspaper
Cynthia sent an excited email to her many Shelving Project supporters:
"This is so coool! See article below regarding bookshelves project. It was run in the local Kytherian newspaper, Kytheraismos, and is posted on the kythera-family.net website. I know most of you cannot read it so once I get the translation, I'll send it along.
Gay (Kinman - a fellow Soroptimist)! you made the paper!!!! Aren't you glad you showed up that cold morning for the loading of the container?????
Organisations mentioned (that I can recognize - I don't speak or read Greek) - Alhambra, Soroptimist International, Rotary, Kythera Society of CA, Kythera Association of AU, Kythera Association of NY."
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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