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Girl Scouts go for the Gold at library

LONG BEACH — Four Massachusetts Girl Scouts landed in Long Beach with the force of a big storm last week, quickly speeding up the rebuilding of the children’s wing of the library.

With their help and that of other generous nongovernmental donors, the children’s wing of the library stands to not only become the first part of any of the several destroyed Coast libraries to reopen where it was before, it will become the first governmental building in Long Beach to reopen in any prior capacity after being destroyed.

The Girl Scouts from Westwood, Mass., Garima Giri, Rachel Watsky, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Watsky and Julie Folsom, all 17, said Monday they are just glad to help at all.

“Seeing people’s reactions, that’s the best part of the work,” Julie said. “I think it’s going to be great.”

In the summer of 2005, the four were searching for ideas to complete the Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting, and the four friends decided to help a library somewhere, said Rachel, who eventually collected 11,000 books for Long Beach as her part of the project.

Hurricane Katrina made the geographic area easy to pick out.

“It was about five months (after Katrina) that we found Long Beach,” Rachel said. “I e-mailed many different senators from the different (Katrina-affected) states and Trent Lott’s office was first to get back to me.”

When the girls finally got in touch with the library, the ball started rolling quickly, said Nancy Gottlieb, the Scout leader who accompanied them here.

Gold Award projects frequently mimic Boy Scouts Eagle Scout projects like cleaning up trails, helping food banks and so on, Gottlieb said. “This is huge,” she said. “Those are important, just a little more contained.”

In addition to Rachel Watsky’s books, Giri collected multimedia like books on tape and videos, Folsom collected computers and even a computer server, and Lizzie Watsky collected artwork, bookshelves, tables and chairs.

Besides fulfilling the requirement for the Gold Award, the girls said they are learning invaluable lessons on resilience and the power of nature. “It doesn’t look like it’s been two years,” Giri said. “It’s just completely different from what you see on TV.”

Renee Rayburn, children’s librarian in Long Beach, said she felt lucky to be linked with the dynamic foursome.

“I was overwhelmed,” Renee said. “This is wonderful.”

Lizzie Watsky agreed, adding that helping a library is personal.

“I can’t imagine having a (destroyed) library like that for two years for kids,” Lizzie said. “I’ve always been a big reader.”