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Children of all ages in rural Takeo Province, Cambodia now have a library and books to call their own. (Photo courtesy of Caitlin Ishigooka)

LONG BEACH - One sign came when she couldn't enter the existing library because the floor was covered with six inches of rice that had been put there to dry during harvest season.

Another was the selection of volumes, such as the organic chemistry textbooks, in English, that a well-meaning but obviously clueless charity donated to the rural school in the poor farming community.

Still another was the abundance of books in French and English, but the paucity of books in Khmer.

So, Peace Corps volunteer Emi Caitlin Ishigooka from Long Beach jumped at the opportunity to create a new library when approached with the idea by the director of the Cambodian school where she was teaching high school English.

A 26-year-old UCLA and Poly High graduate who will attend USC graduate school in public administration in the fall, Ishigooka recently returned from a two-year stint as one of the inaugural group of Peace Corps volunteers assigned to Cambodia.

While she has come back to the U.S. with the usual bucketful of stories about life in a village with no running water, strange encounters with the local fauna and edible delicacies such as fried tarantulas, it is the library she built in her second year abroad that has the most meaning.

In the truest of the people, by the people and for the people tradition, Ishigooka says that from the outset she wanted the students to be the driving force.

"From the beginning they had