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With Zorro's help, geocaching is the new frontier for Long Beach's libraries

Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas (in mask) in
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas (in mask) in "The Legend of Zorro."
Andrew Cooper

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When's the last time you checked out a book from the library? Exactly.

The city of Long Beach is trying to engage their community to read more actively with an annual citywide book club called Long Beach Reads One Book. The program encourages everyone in Long Beach to read the same book at the same time. It builds community, and also -- they hope -- increases literacy.

This year the program chose Isabel Allende's novel "Zorro," a retelling of the masked bandit's origin story. The book begins in Southern California, where Zorro was born in the late 18th century. He was raised in the area where Long Beach is now. To help immerse kids in the story, organizers used Geocaching.

Geocaching is treasure hunting for the digital age. Di LaPlume, a CSULB English major, arranged the event single-handedly, taking inspiration from the book to hide treasures in areas around Zorro's old stomping grounds: Rancho Los Alamitos and Rancho Los Cerritos.

LaPlume made sure that it wouldn't be just a walk in the park. One treasure was so hard to find that a family gave up only inches away from it. LaPlume eventually told them they were "hot" and they finally found it ... carved inside one of the books in the library.

Susan Redfield, the chair of the program, believes the success of the Zorro Geocaching event shows a step towards the right direction. "Libraries are going to be different, the way that education in general is different than when I went to school or your Mom went to school. And engaging young people in this way is the start of seeing libraries and what they can be for our communities."

To find out more about Long Beach Reads One Book and upcoming events, visit its website.