Francesca Natalone is 27, and works for YMCA Siderno in the province of Reggio Calabria in southern Italy. She runs its library, allowing the local communities to access all sorts of literature. She wants to share her love for books.
In June 2020, Francesca joined YMCA Siderno to carry out her national civil service as an assistant accountant: “Everyday, I was passing by the library, and I was very sad to see how it was under used”, she shares. “I love reading, but this is not the case for many young people nowadays. I asked YMCA if I could relaunch the library and they gave me the go ahead”.
First step: the inventory and the cleaning. She explains “We have very old books, some of them even survived a fire and were in a very bad shape. We used cloths, brushes and gloves to clean them, one by one, page after page. I asked all my YMCA colleagues to contribute, and everyday for two weeks we cleaned more than 1000 volumes”.
Watch their video during the cleaning process
They then classified the books. Francesca says: “We have different kinds of books: encyclopedias, Bibles, research, novels…, in different languages, such as Italian, English, French or German. We uploaded the catalogue on our website, with a little summary for each publication, so that everyone can search for a book, and then come to our library to read it”.
Finally, they re-arranged the room to make it cosy and welcoming. It is now a space for co-working, so that local students can come and do their homework in a quiet environment.
Beginning of February 2021, YMCA Siderno launched their literary column, “I Libri Di George”, named after the founder of YMCA, George Williams. Every week, they promote one book on social media and encourage their followers to read it and comment about it.
For Francesca, this is more than just renovating a library: “I want to create a positive feeling towards reading. I believe that books are essential to share and develop our culture and to discover the world. It is the key for our personal and educational growth”. With the library project, Francesca is actually reviving the History of YMCA Siderno. Before the Association was created in 1948, a group of volunteers drove across the south of Italy with a truck full of books that they would share with the communities.
The current pandemic doesn’t allow large numbers of people to come all at once to the library, but this doesn’t stop Francesca in working on the next steps of her project: “I would like to organise reading sessions in the future, so that we can get to know new friends and new authors together. I would also love people from all over the world to send us their books, so that our library can expand.” Francesca is looking ahead: “This library is a gift for future generations. A gift of culture, discoveries and new horizons.”