“We had an old couch downstairs and just a few books,” said fourth graders Bianca Trasvina and Alex Marroquin as they greeted guests. “Here we have a lot of books and that new couch,” they continued, pointing to a new couch sitting in a corner facing a 12-by-6 foot window. “This is a positive thinking area!” read a banner headlining the window.“Every time we read a book we’re in a new adventure,” summarized nine-year-old Marroquin, who said the adventure felt better in a brand new environment.“A library implies an active faith,” Vince O’Donoghue, school president and development director, told guests, faculty, staff and students gathered at the auditorium next to the library. “There’s a power in books and reading so there’s power in having a library.”The library was possible with the support of the Steinmetz Foundation (main donor), Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Dan O’Melveny and the J.F. Shea Foundation. Altogether they donated a total of $24,000 for the facility and another $10,000 for books purchased in partnership with the Wonder of Reading, a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization that seeks to promote literacy in less fortunate areas.St. Thomas is the second Catholic school of the 212 they have stocked and helped renovate so far, thus serving more than 140,000 students in L.A. County.It was in 1999, when O’Donoghue was serving as the inner-city school’s principal that he started thinking of ways to build a library. A room in the basement was cleared and filled up with books that the parents donated.Then a part-time librarian was hired, Heidi Velasquez, who a few years later was promoted to full-time librarian and technology coordinator. Since then she has been effective in promoting and reinforcing book reading and research skills among students and parents.As the school implemented a new leadership model — with a principal backed by a president/development director — a need for a “real” library surfaced as the interests of students increased.“‘When will the library open?’” the children kept asking O’Donoghue when they learned that the construction next to the auditorium — in front of the basketball courts — was for a brand new library.Construction work was done at the beginning of the current school year, and although students could use the facility, shelves still needed to be stocked.During the opening ceremony, school officials thanked donors for helping the children “improve their academic potential.”Natalie Aguilar, a St. Thomas alumna now attending Notre Dame High School, also thanked all the parties for making the “dreamed library” possible and encouraged parents to read to their children at home. “I remember how my mom took the time from her busy schedule to read books to me,” she said while her mother and brother Ricky, a St. Thomas seventh grader, proudly looked on.“I don’t know what I would do without a library,” remarked Joseph Fregault, a sixth grade member of the student council. “A library is a place that gets the world to meet the world.”“Where your imagination goes wild just like when you were a child,” added sixth grader Karla Flores in a poem she authored and read from the stage, about what a library means to her.Melva Ruiz, mother of alumna Emily Ruiz and grandmother of fourth grader Jamila Jordan, told The Tidings the new library was a great relief for most parents. She recalled the days when she had to take her daughter far away to get the books she needed to do her homework.The new library features four computers (aside from the ones in the school’s computer laboratory) where students will be able to do research and play educational games. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0708/stthomas/{/gallery}