If there is any question in your mind about the value of your local library branch, just ask Daren Hess, although you may want to wait until after he’s done working.
Hess, who is in the midst of morphing vocations from a full time bookkeeper to a full time beekeeper, credits the Kingsburg branch library for nearly everything he knows about the profession that has him abuzz.
"I requested every book the library has about bees and beekeeping," said the 41-year-old. "The one thing that is neat about it is that I was able to get books that are out of print or are otherwise not available anymore." It also didn't hurt to have his father-in-law, also a beekeeper, move to Sacramento from Russia. But while the skills and knowledge were sitting practically right next to him, the communication was not. "He doesn't speak any English," Hess said.
And thus a three-year, self-taught journey began. Of course, do-it-yourself education was nothing new to Hess and wife Yuliya, who home school their children Anya, Dmitriy, and Anastasiya. The Kingsburg library plays a major role in that endeavor too. A big role. “We have our own box at the library with our name on it,” Hess said, adding that library staff fills the box with what can be dozens of books the Hess family has requested. An anomaly? Hardly. With Kingsburg having a large population of families that home school their children, the library plays a major role as a source of materials. “There are other families that have their boxes there too,” he said.
And with a box of books at the library, why not a bookshelf to hold them at home? Hess said sometimes as many as 70 books are on those shelves, all from a variety of topics and interests, in the Hess home. “We really wanted our kids to read a lot,” Hess said, so much so that they decided to get rid of their television set four years ago. But back to that bee keeping.
“I’d say I learned about 75 percent of everything I know about beekeeping from the library,” Hess said. “I also looked online, but the quality of information and reliability wasn’t as good as what I found at the library.” He also found that the general public knows very little about bees and beekeeping. “It’s been really fun getting the information, I have so much to share now,” he said. “In America there were probably about half a million bee keepers, but now that number has decreased a lot.”
Hess has hopes his son will also develop an interest in the business, extending what would be a fifth generation of beekeepers, which started with his father-in-law’s grandfather. “It’s not that hard to get started. It probably only cost about $200.”
Of course, without the library, that cost would have been far more. “Without their resources and materials, I would have had to try to find it and buy it on my own,” he said, adding that he has also checked out books on small business and marketing to help him build his brand, Kingsburg Honey. There is so much available through the library, Hess said he just can’t envision what it would be like if the library wasn’t there. “I remember what it was like before Measure B passed. It was hard to be there at the right time to catch the library open.”
“When the economy is bad, the library is the most important thing,” he said. “With beekeeping, we’ve been able to generate an income using (the library) without having to go out and buy it. The library is irreplaceable.”
Hess’ views extend to the passage of Measure B during this November’s election. Without Measure B’s passage, smaller libraries like in Kingsburg could be devastated. “It would affect the libraries in smaller communities a lot more than the bigger ones,” said Hess. “The library is almost like a Starbucks. It’s like a center for the community. If that closes, the town would lose some of its soul.”