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The “Hotel Savoy Inn,” a name that must be a throwback from perhaps the late sixties or early seventies when it was likely built, sits on a non-descriptive street just a block from one of Quito’s main arteries. Only recently has it been honored as the new home of the Lincoln Library. A few years ago the library had a much trendier and more upscale address.
The Lincoln Library is Quito’s (and maybe Ecuador’s) only English lending library, and was started by the ADD (no, not the acronym for Attention Deficit Disorder) but the Asociación de las Damas Diplomáticas Norteamericanas y Británicas, or the North American and British Diplomatic Ladies Association, as one of their charitable works. There are not a whole lot of books, but in a city and country without a whole lot of English language materials, it was a godsend before the Kindle arrived. Nonetheless, it´s an important place when you´re trying to inculcate the culture of reading into your kids, and therefore we´ve made it a regular place to visit on weekends. As to the no-longer upscale address, I had vague details of some sort of falling out among the ADD ladies, and perhaps this hurt their budget; the have also relocated their annual Christmas Bazar, which was a big deal and held every year at the Marriott Hotel, to the Savoy Inn.
But first, onward with the Hotel Savoy Inn. Most of it is dark and shadowy and not well lit, and it´s not very inviting. It has the air of a bygone era, it´s heyday has passed, the spotlight no longer shines on it, it´s passé, no longer the stylish place it once might have been. Far from any tourist attraction or the center of Quito´s tourist district, the Mariscal, it feels like it´s dying a slow and painful death. But it has some redeeming museum-like qualities. I especially enjoy passing through the empty seventies bar that is obviously no longer ever in use. I can imagine the feathered hair-dos, the long dresses, the dapper dressers in sharkskin suits tying one on in the dimly lit, low-ceilinged room, with recessed square windows sunk deep in the wall, in blue, yellow and green colors, the perfect mix of psychedelia and intimacy. The walls are decked out with artistic scenes of glorious mountains, rushing waterfalls, and multi-hued sunsets, the kind of paintings you´d see advertised on late-night TV commercials for the come-now-mega-art-swap-meet-over-300-artists-in-one-place-50,000-square-feet-fabulous deals-don’t miss-it-one-of-a-kind-event!
The library is two floors up, a converted conference room filled with old shelves of all types. The door is like any of the other doors to all the other conference room, with frosted glass and the insignia of the hotel in the middle, with the exception of a ¨We´re Open¨ sign hanging on it, and a jingly bell that sounds when you open it-making you feel like you´re entering some cutesy shop in small-town America, some place like Annapolis, Maryland. Inside, Alfonso is an older gentleman who speaks English quite well and gets to know your reading preferences quickly, always offering up whatever he might have that´s new and may be of interest to you. He´s got a candy jar he always offers to the kids-without first consenting with the parents, of course.
There´s a good selection of contemporary thrillers, mysteries and recent titles by authors such as Ludlum, Crichton, and others, as well as dozens of old textbooks such as Vector Analysis with an Introduction to Tensor Analysis, and Structural Engineering, as well as plenty of titles you´ve never even imagined such as The Jewish-Japanese Sex and Cookbook and How to Raise Wolves. For the kids there are titles you´d never look for nowadays, including books by Alfred Hitchcock (I thought he only made movies before I set foot in here and discovered his mysteries), as well as the ever-popular Enid Blyton books.
But what I like best is that while it´s a lending library, it doesn´t really matter if you misplace the book. I don´t think Alfonso will charge you for it. Or you can opt to replace it with another book if you have one at home. The small fee you pay is worth the price; it’s $15 a year to be a member, and $0.30 for two weeks for each book you take out. Best of all, while the hours are somewhat limited, usually to something like 10-12 four days of the week, Alfonso is there to greet you every Saturday, no matter what the weather or holiday.
Location: Yasuni and El Inca, Sector Iglesia El Carmelo.