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Library walls serve as low-tech social networking site for people to share secrets

Henderson library employee adapts popular PostSecret blog

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Leila Navidi

The Secret Confession wall at Green Valley Library in Henderson on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.

Updated Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | 10:33 a.m.

Library Confessions

The Secret Confession wall at Green Valley Library in Henderson on Tuesday, April 10, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Map of Green Valley Library

Green Valley Library

2797 N. Green Valley Parkway, Henderson

They may be the most unusual bulletin board postings in the valley.

“I am not delicate” one person wrote on a postcard.

“I was in a physically abusive relationship for 2 1/2 years. I solved it by leaving the state,” said another.

One card reads, “Never Stop Loving,” and a stranger responds with his own message on a Post-it, “True! So true.”

This anonymous exchange of random thoughts and secrets occurs on a wall inside the Green Valley Parkway Henderson Library.

It may reflect the latest role for public libraries in a society that is increasingly turning to social networking. Now, in buildings once reserved as places of quiet thought and serious reading, people are sharing their most intimate thoughts for everyone to read, partly as a way to fight lonliness. This bulletin board is, well, an open book.

Library worker Juan Renteria is the man behind it.

Renteria was lonely three years ago when he first moved to Las Vegas from Anaheim, Calif., for a job at the Green Valley Parkway Henderson Library.

At first he was living out of casino hotels. Then he found an apartment and roommate on Craigslist; the experience did not go well.

“I was lonely, sad and depressed,” Renteria said. “Las Vegas can be a tough place when you first move here. There are so many dangerous outlets for depression, like gambling and drinking.”

Renteria, an adult services specialist at the library, was a fan of the website PostSecret.com, a blog where people can view the anonymous secrets of others in postcard form, often with illustrations. Renteria even submitted a secret or two of his own.

About seven months ago, Renteria got permission from the library to create his own message board for secrets. He collects postcards from the public, who can leave their thoughts in a box at the library, and then he arranges them into a collage. Others can use notes to respond to the secret or offer some words of support.

“I think it helps people to not feel so alone,” Renteria said. “You can come here and maybe see people have the same secret as you.”

In less than a year, Renteria has collected 400 cards, and he makes a new poster each month to feature the most recently collected secrets.

Kevin Scanlon, the library’s head of adult services, said the secrets board is another way in which the library has tried to build community and increase involvement along with other initiatives like history programs and homework and tax help.

“It’s a fun project, and it’s a way in which we can use the space in a welcoming way that allows people to interact,” Scanlon said. “It’s one way we’ve tried to liven the place up, just like when we started offering art for check out for people to hang in their homes.”

Some of the postcards on the wall are plain with no more than a sentence or two scrawled in pencil. Others are elaborately decorated with illustrations, stickers and more. One card had a drawing of someone sleeping on a couch and the caption: “I tell him it’s because he snores but sometimes I just want to be alone.”

Some of the secrets are relatively silly, “The Backstreet Boys still make me giggle and blush.”

Other cards deal with serious issues, such as one that mentions the author being HIV positive. More than one of the cards deals with weight:

“I worry about everything I eat. I weigh myself every single day. I think if I could just get back under 100 lbs. again I would be happy with the way I look again. Today I weighed 110. I worry about what the scale will say tomorrow.”

Many of the cards have little, rectangular, orange notes stuck to them from readers. One card in a child’s handwriting read in part, “Sometimes I wished my life was different, like a new, different family and friends, ones who cared about me and weren’t selfish.” Attached to the beige card was an orange note reading, “You always have friends!”

Some cards were positive and offered affirmations such as “live life to the fullest.” Still, many of the secrets express common fears and worries that most people feel at one point in their lives:

“I’m scared I’ll never amount to anything more then (sic) what I am ... serving coffee day in and day out. I’ll never come out of my comfort zone to see the world. I’ll die without ever knowing what’s it like to live.”

Renteria hopes people feel a greater sense of community when they look at the board, and maybe find some relief in sharing their fears and secrets, even if it is anonymous.

“It helped me, and I just hope this will help others,” Renteria said.

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