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Cultural Center of Excellence: The Well That Keeps Giving

by Shelley Hepler.

A steady stream of footsteps resounds in the coolness of the causeway. Laughing children skip, holding one another’s hands. Focused and determined, a businessman hurries past with an armload of documents, followed by a woman who rushes in and out of the shadowed passage. An older man shuffles by, contemplating the day.

These are just some of the scenes that take place outside the Polo Culturale d’Eccellenza Cagli (Cultural Center of Excellence- Cagli). Pietro Pazzaglia, the only volunteer at the Center, silently monitors these comings and goings. Pietro loves the ancient history and rich culture of Cagli. He comes to read the archived records and timeworn books. The tomes tell of marching Roman soldiers, wealthy textile merchants, gifted artisans, and the rivers that have blessed this town since the beginning of time.

“The library is the well that keeps giving water, ” reflects Pietro. As the Center’s only volunteer, he believes his mission is to share knowledge with the children. “Libraries are the connection between people sharing a common culture,” Pietro quietly muses, “and the children are who perpetuate that culture.”

On December 12, 2012, the Palazzo Berardi Mochi-Zamperoli opened its doors as the Cultural Center of Excellence- Cagli. The palace was renovated to create space for the new cultural center. It functions as the municipal library, as well as a historical archive, photo library, and media center. In a combined effort, the City of Cagli, the Provinces of Pesaro and Urbino, and the Regional Ministry of Heritage and Culture, designed the space specifically to serve the area’s young people.

The Center’s space intentionally connects the history, media, art, and study rooms to a hub, which doubles as a focal point for those seeking services and a children’s reading area. Because all the sections are connected, mothers can confidently leave their children in the reading area as they go to one of the adjoining rooms. There, the women search for books and other media while their kids explore the many colorful books donated by the townsfolk.

The Center’s staff, Giada Fiorucci, Francesco Amadori, and Maddalena Paolini, are more than librarians. They have advanced degrees in culture, history, public service, and library sciences from the University of Urbino. As Cultural Attachés they act as cultural liaisons to the City of Cagli and the other nearby towns. The team dedicates much of its time to helping children of immigrant families with Italian language and culture. Children ranging in age from five to 16 often go to the center for help with schoolwork.

Giada’s face lights up when she talks about these children. She is especially proud of the work the Center does to help them understand Italian culture, as well provide an opportunity for children to share stories of their heritage. Giada recounts a project where they created handwritten stories and drawings of Moroccan, Albanian, Chinese, Macedonian, Moldavian, and Ukrainian histories. She displayed the posters so the Cagliesi could learn about the new members of their community.

Many students aspiring to attend university rely on the Center’s free wi-fi, six state-of-the-art computers, and two Kindle book-readers downloaded with 150 books. The Center is one of seven interconnected libraries in the region, which is important to students requiring access to a wide range of educational materials.

Maddalena Paolini enjoys her work, which she says helps promote the creativity of others. In addition to traditional librarian duties, she coordinates and organizes book readings and art exhibitions for local and regional authors and artists. “I love to read, love to study hard, and love history,” says Maddalena. “This library has the history and archives here that I love.” Overall, she says these events contribute to the ever-growing history and culture of Cagli.

Teens also come to the library in search of a little fun. Perky Sophia Scarpellini brings her out-of-town friends to the center. The animated trio hopes to find summer entertainment in the form of young adult movies and books. She says they are looking for “fierce love” stories. They like to read adventure stories like Aragon, The Hunger Games, and the Twilight books. Sophia appreciates the Center for more than its amusing books and videos. “The library is quiet for studying,” says Sophia, “and, it’s free!”

Giada is anxious about how much longer the services of the library will continue. “Everything is free and free doesn’t last forever,” she worries. However, for now, this well continues to give water freely to refresh all who enter the center. And, as Pietro says, “this is water you better drink.”