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Pomona bookstore hopes to unite community six feet apart

By Kristy Ramirez | @kristyrramirez

Café con Libros, a local bookstore and coffee shop in downtown Pomona, is hosting virtual events to keep the community together in the time of social distancing.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced its doors shut, the owners of the bookstore knew they wanted to help reunite the community by launching an online book study.

The book study members met over the past month to discuss Ibram X. Kendi’s “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” to explore social justice issues surrounding today’s climate. As more people continued turning to Café con Libros for books related to Black history after recent protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, the book study soon became a platform for local residents to share their opinions and experiences.

“People were really looking to open their minds with those issues,” said Elinor Crescenzi, who is a part of the core leadership team at Café con Libros. “People are coming here to open their mind in respects to those social justice issues.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the bookstore hosted various public events — like open mic nights, poetry slams, book clubs and art workshops. However, with public gatherings being prohibited, Crescenzi explained the challenge of regaining community support without the usual social events.

“That’s kind of sad because it’s one of the things that’s most important about this space is that it’s a space that’s open for the community,” Crescenzi said. “I think everyone is looking forward to the time when we’ll be able to host gatherings and let people be here more face-to-face.”

The bookstore also offers educational resources to the community for free. With its free-lending program and a selection of books, Crescenzi hopes that more students will take advantage of visiting the bookstore.

Café con Libros, located in downtown Pomona, is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (Kristy Ramirez | The Poly Post)

Café con Libros is a volunteer-run non-profit bookstore, relying heavily on the crowds from events to keep their lights on. The lack of income, however, poses a threat to the future of the small business.

Without in-person events, the bookstore is struggling to find new volunteers to help manage the store. Volunteers play a big role in running the shop, and they usually offer to volunteer during regular social gatherings, Crescenzi added.

Ellie Obosky, a Pomona resident, said she discovered the bookstore as she was cycling through the town. After attending a couple of open mic nights, Obosky became a volunteer. Recalling her memories of the social events, she described the bookstore as a “great resource to the community.”

Maria Gomez, a fourth-year math student at CPP, said she first heard about Café con Libros while working at the Pomona Unified School District. After speaking with the founder, Gomez immediately became involved. She also used the volunteer hours to complete her requirements for a community service course during her second year at Cal Poly Pomona.

Gomez’s favorite memories of volunteering were being able to read to children who were not used to having someone read to them. “It was meaningful,” said Gomez. “Pomona doesn’t have a lot of funding for schools, so there’s no way for them to experience that.”

For more information on Café con Libros, visit its Instagram @cafeconlibrospress.

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