Alicia Tapia may be the most optimistic person in the Tenderloin right now, sitting next to her mobile pop-up library called the Bibliobicicleta and rooting for a child to come along and fall in love with one of her books.
"Right now it's that Steph Curry book," Tapia said, during a Total SF podcast interview. "Because there are a few young boys around here, and they're always with a basketball, and I'm hoping and yelling, 'Free books' and they never take me up on it. But," she adds, "it's always a thing — whenever I say a certain book will never get taken, someone will take it that day."
Tapia, who is also a high school librarian at Sacred Heart Cathedral, crowdfunded the Bibliobicicleta at the end of 2013, building her bookshelf-on-the-back-of-a-bike and rolling through the Panhandle and other parks as kind of a carbon-free Bookmobile. Upgrades have included another crowdfund for an e-bike. But perhaps the most important change has been the Bibliobicicleta's recent residency in the Tenderloin District, where Tapia stops in the Safe Passage parklet on Turk Street and serves children and other neighbors in the community.
Total SF hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight interviewed Tapia in the parklet on a recent afternoon.
To learn more or make book donations, check out @Bibliobicicleta on Instagram.
Q. You seem to be a book person, but also a bike person. Do you think about both as you send your message out?
A. Riding a bike is about going slow. We get around faster in the city, but it's still about slowing down and taking in your environment and taking in the sounds. (It's about) breathing in the smells and letting the air pass through your hair. I think it's the same thing with a book. You're slowing down and entering into another world. It's entering another level of being, whether you're on a bike or reading a book.
Q. What was it like to be a high school librarian during the height of the pandemic when students were home?
A. It made me worry about the students that come to the library as a safe place or to find some silence. … I think we're all getting used to getting back together. It's so great to see the joy in their eyes again, and to get them talking out loud to one another. I think they're going to pull through, getting those brains activated and those social behaviors activated again. They're resilient.
Q. What are your future plans for the bike library?
A. One day I think it would be cool to turn it into a nonprofit organization. But I'm very content with what it is in its current state. It doesn't take too much from me except an afternoon in the week, and it brings me a lot of joy. So, I don't have too many big future plans for it. Maybe an upgrade in the e-bike. Maybe some way to make this more collapsible, so I can get this into my house and not have to worry where to keep this all the time.
Q. What's something most San Franciscans don't know about the Tenderloin?
A. That it's not as scary as they think it is. … No, this is a beautiful, vibrant community with a rich history. There are tons of families and children here. Ironically enough, I feel the safest here, just because everyone is looking out for one another. Everyone says "hello." Sometimes in some of the other neighborhoods, you don't get that willingness to help a neighbor, whereas here in the Tenderloin you always do.
Q: Another misconception question. What's a common stereotype about librarians?
A. That we're quiet and boring. But really we're some of the most fun people to go out and get a drink with. And we just love to take it all in.
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Introducing Bibliobicicleta: Free books on a bike in S.F.'s Tenderloin have 1550 words, post on www.sfchronicle.com at October 5, 2021. This is cached page on USA Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.