Franco Tesorieri, the Honory Consul of Italy to Seattle, is helping to craft a narrative promoting his home country’s culture with a story that takes place on Capitol Hill. A library of Italian texts has been unveiled on the shelves of D’Ambrosio Gelato’s 12th Ave location.
Biblioteca Italiana Seattle (BIS) is a collective of volunteers, who brought the books together and formed in early 2014 with the hopes of providing the Italian-American community in Seattle (and anyone interested in learning about it) a place to pick up the most complete selection of Italian literature in the area.
Owner of the gelato chain, Marco D’Ambrosio, gave the group access to his shelves on Capitol Hill which now carry the weight of over 500 books. D’Ambrosio was speaking with his a good friend Tesorieri when the idea took shape.
“He mentioned that it would have been nice to start an Italian cultural center in the city,” D’Ambrosio told CHS. He immediately after bestowed part of his Capitol Hill location, for free, to BIS.
“This is the first step… to become a cultural center,” said BIS volunteer Andrea Callegari. BIS is only starting at D’Ambrosio, and Callegari plans to evolve the library into a full-fledged center in Seattle when the non-profit is established and funding is collected.
A public unveiling of BIS in April brought out about 80 people, Callegari told CHS, and the donated books are already stacking up. “Now, it’s getting pretty tight at the Gelato shop.” BIS wants more.
The group is working hard to find Italian literature translated to English but this has proven more than a little bit challenging. Most of the texts available at BIS are in Italian and have been donated by community members with a book to spare. BIS is aiming to begin expansion plans and fundraising to find a permanent home over the next month or two. The driving force behind the group focuses on increasing access to Italian works.
“The Italian community [in Seattle] is not small,” said Callegari. Libraries don’t provide a depth of variety in Italian literature while institutions like the University of Washington aren’t readily accessible to the general public, he adds.
In order to take advantage of the library, you’ll have to complete the free registration. With the help of a volunteer, you can pick up books every Sunday between 2 and 4 PM — you can see what’s available online. Volunteers have been integral to the BIS operation, said Callegari.
Unfortunately, if the library expands from D’Ambrosio Gelato, it might not be in our neighborhood. Capitol Hill isn’t the cheapest location, and obtaining a permanent home will depend on finances, Callegari told CHS. Though staying on the Hill would be nice, he adds. The volunteer hopes the library will benefit students, Italian-American couples with kids (BIS offers books for the youths), as well as providing a community-oriented operation that is open to all that are interested in exploring a piece of Italy.
The library is actively accepting donations from the community and brought in over 100 books during the public unveiling including books donated by the Dante Alighieri Society of Washington.
The BIS launch was sponsored by Tutta Bella, D’Ambrosio Gelato, Chiodo Brokerage and Mascio’s who provided their various products for the library unveiling.
“The Italian community has always been extremely supportive of my business and this seemed a great idea to give back in a more substantial way other than the classic donations or sponsorships,” D’Ambrosio said about the project. He said his love for literature began while attending high school in Italy, and he plans to immerse himself yet again through the books readily available in his store, and support the ongoing efforts of BIS.
D’Ambrosio urges patrons to take a moment and stop to learn about Italian culture by browsing the books of his Capitol Hill gelataria . “I really only hope that this project could be the seed to start something bigger,” he said. “At this stage I would like to see people starting to get together, sit down and read a book.”
D’Ambrosio Gelato is located at 1542 12th Ave. You can learn more about the library here.