Tuesday, 27 May 2014

First Nations in B.C. gain libraries thanks to judge, ex-officer

What a great story!  Learn how a magnificent idea and the power of community have built libraries in B.C. First Nations.  Libraries do change lives! 

Write to Read project has built libraries in 6 First Nations in B.C.

By Duncan McCue, CBC News Posted: May 26, 2014 7:47 PM ET Last Updated: May 27, 2014 12:50 AM ET

The library at Toosey First Nation was opened in 2011 with 3,000 donated books.
The library at Toosey First Nation was opened in 2011 with 3,000 donated books. (Michael McCarthy)         
They’re an unlikely duo — a judge and a former police officer — but Steven Point and Bob Blacker have joined forces to inspire a flood of donations aimed at building libraries in some of the most remote First Nations in British Columbia.

“We started this idea of just promoting literacy. We ended up by bringing libraries. I said, ‘God, how did you do this?’” chuckles Point in amazement.

The project is called Write to Read, and it started when Point became B.C.'s 28th lieutenant-governor in 2007. The first aboriginal person to hold the post, Point knew aboriginal literacy rates are far below Canadian average.
For some, it’s hard just getting a book. Of 600-plus First Nations in Canada, less than a third have a library.

Bob Blacker and Steven Point
Bob Blacker and former lieutenant-governor Steven Point are behind Write to Read, a project that has now built libraries in six First Nations in B.C. (Bob Blacker)
"A book is a fork in the road. It’s a turning place. It’s got the power to create a different future," said Point, a member of the Skowkale First Nation.

When Point visited First Nations as lieutenant-governor, he would bring a box of donated books. He was pleasantly surprised to watch children snap them up.

Building partnerships, building libraries

That's when Point got to talking with Blacker, his aide-de-camp. Both are members of the Rotary Club, a secular charity with the motto "Service above Self," known for its overseas literacy programs.

"He asks, 'What are we doing in our own backyard?'" said Blacker. "I said, ‘I wouldn't have a clue, your honour. But I'm gonna find out.’ That was the start of this amazing journey."

The retired police officer recruited a team of retired librarians, who began seeking book donations for First Nations. They were quickly swamped with new and used books, so they set up headquarters in a donated storage locker. The project took on new scope in 2011, when trailer manufacturer Britco offered a free trailer to house a library.

Steven Point Write to Read
Steven Point hatched the idea for Write to Read when he started bringing books to First Nations on B.C.'s coast. (Government House)
Blacker arranged to have it transported hundreds of kilometres to the Toosey First Nation in the B.C. Interior, where community members had been driving an hour to take children to a library, which they did once a week. Suddenly, they had their own, with over 3,000 books.

“The trailer got here one day, and the next day they had it set up. The next day, we had the grand opening," said Shirley Johnny, Toosey’s education co-ordinator.

That success translated into more trailers, more books and donated labour from hundreds of Rotarians. Companies joined in with financial donations, as did First Nations with “sweat equity” contributions.

“We ask them to prepare the site, get some electricity, all those things we need you to do,” said Blacker. “We also ask for a member of the community that we can train to be library technician, to look after the books.”

Write to Read has now built libraries in six First Nations in B.C., including Yunesit’in, Halalt, Old Masset, Bella Bella and Oweekeno.

A place to read and meet

Malahat Kwunew Kwasun Cultural Resource Centre
The Malahat Kwunew Kwasun Cultural Resource Centre will soon act as a cultural meeting space and literacy centre. (Bob Blacker)
When the Malahat First Nation teamed up with Write to Read, an architect donated his time to help the community imagine what two trailers and a library might become.

The surprising result, modelled after a traditional longhouse, will act a community meeting space and literacy centre. It will also house a language and cultural learning program.

Chief Michael Harry of the Malahat First Nation says it was built entirely from donated services and fundraising, without any federal or provincial support.

"It’s showed the government that we can do this without them, and we want to thrive,” said Harry. “But more importantly, we want to create relationships with external communities surrounding us."

The Malahat Kwunew Kwasun Cultural Resource Centre will celebrate its grand opening this summer.

'It’s connecting these folks, breaking down barriers that should never have been there. And they're coming out to the communities for the first time, saying "We want to help."'— Steven Point
Point ended his term as lieutenant-governor in 2012  and was recently reappointed as a provincial court judge. But he’s thrilled to see Write to Read continue to grow.

“It’s connecting these folks, breaking down barriers that should never have been there. And they're coming out to the communities for the first time, saying, ‘We want to help,’" said Point.

B.C. Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon enthusiastically endorsed the project when she took over the post. Six libraries have been opened, with six more on the way. Thirty-thousand books have been donated so far.

Learn more about the Write to Read project. Find out more about the Malahat Cultural Centre.

Watch the segment:

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Public Libraries Promote Literacy and Community with Little Free Libraries

Public libraries in Illinois have created their own little free libraries to promote literacy and community.  Isn't that what we are all about? 

What other public libraries are developing their own Little Free Libraries network?

Brian Eason, IndyStar 8:09 a.m. EDT May 18, 2014

Miniature libraries are popping up in parks, trails and front yards across the metro area, and you don’t need a membership card to use them.
They’re known as Little Free Libraries and, true to their name, they aren’t much larger than a mailbox. They’re typically made of wood, with a roof, a glass door and a bookshelf stocked with a few dozen books.
And although the national movement was slow to come to Indiana at first, the idea has started to catch on. From 16 registered in 2012, Indiana has 98 today, with more on the horizon.
Here’s how it works:
Take a book you want. Leave a book, if you’d like.
And that’s it.
There’s no due dates or late fees, and if you fall in love with the book you borrowed? You can keep it, guilt-free.
“At first, people weren’t quite sure what to think of it,” said Amy Rexroth, a Girl Scout troop leader in Carmel. Rexroth’s girls maintain a Little Free Library just north of 106th Street on the Monon Trail. At first, she said, park officials assumed the scouts were trying to sell something, and threatened to nix the idea.
“I’m like, ‘it’s free.’ ‘What do you mean it’s free?’”
But although the Monon box got off to a slow start in fall 2012, it has grown into a popular stop.
When the weather’s nice, they typically see a 12 to 15 book turnover each week, Rexroth said. That’s about double the national average of 25 books a month, according to littlefreelibraries.org. Kids books go the fastest, often snatched up by moms who visit the Monon, strollers in tow. But adult best-sellers like John Grisham and James Patterson are popular, too, as are cooking books, to Rexroth’s surprise.
“It’s generated a lot of discussion, which has been fun, too,” Rexroth said. “We live right behind it and we hear people talking out there.”
Todd Bol, who built the original Little Free Library in 2009 outside his Wisconsin home, says he hears the same story all across the country: these innocuous wooden boxes build a sense of community.
“One newspaper said we were a revolution in neighborhood conversation,” Bol said. “How cool is that?”
In the footsteps of individuals like Bol and Rexroth’s scouts, area organizations are trying to replicate that success in an effort to promote literacy, as well as community.
The Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library has six around town, with 10 more planned; the Greenwood Public Library debuted its first one in April, with 10 planned in all. And this month, Carmel Clay Public Library opened its first three, with future locations already in the works.
Beth Jenneman, a spokeswoman for Carmel Clay, said she expects there to be plenty of interest, but expansion will have to be tempered by the need for upkeep. “We don’t want them to be empty ever,” she said.
Indianapolis has lagged behind its suburban neighbors; it had just three, according to the most recent count available online.
“But won’t people steal the books?” reads a frequently asked question on the national group’s website.
Impossible, Bol insists — you can’t steal a free book. And he’s found vandalism to be pretty rare. “In part, it’s because we say to everybody: ‘It’s yours. This is your community’s,’” Bol said.
That community spirit has helped keep the Little Library on the Monon well-stocked.
“Only twice have we been just completely empty — and both times we went to Goodwill and Half-Price Books and bought a bunch of clearance paperbacks,” Rexroth said. “I don’t think the troop has put a total of $10 into it.”

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Itty-Bitty Free Library - Vineland Ontario

As you have read, I love Little Free Libraries.  Check out this cute one which is my own community, not too far from the Moses F. Rittenhouse Library in Vineland. I found on my way to the garage sales at the Cherry Hill subdivision on Saturday.

The Itty-Bitty Free Library is located at 3521 Rittenhouse Road. From the photo, there is lots of choice for younger and not-so-young readers!

Have you used this Little Free Library? Let me know!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Leamington in the Literary News

A few of my friends know that I keep a list of novels that mention Leamington.  There are actually a number of them.

As many of you would have heard, the great Canadian novelist Alistair McLeod recently passed away.  One of the most memorable novels to include the great town of Leamington is 'No Great Mischief'.

Here is an article which highlights the different locations in 'No Great Mischief'.

Alistair MacLeod’s great novel No Great Mischief is an unheralded Toronto story

Toronto Star - April 25, 2014

This may well be Alistair MacLeod's Spadina, the apartments over shops he writes about in No Great Mischief.

 This may well be Alistair MacLeod's Spadina, the apartments over shops he writes about in No Great Mischief.   
      When I moved to Toronto nearly 14 years ago, one of the first books I read about this city was Alistair MacLeod’s 1999 novel No Great Mischief. A gift from my mom, the book had connections to the city I’d just left, Windsor, where MacLeod lived, and Nova Scotia, mom’s ancestral home. Unexpectedly, there was a lot of Toronto in it, though the narrative roams across half of Canada and over to the Scottish Highlands.
MacLeod, who died last weekend at the age of 77, has been celebrated throughout the country and especially in my hometown, but when I reflect on him and his famous novel I think mostly of Spadina Ave. No Great Mischief begins with a man’s drive into Toronto to visit an alcoholic brother, a lost soul who lives in a small apartment above the street, hidden from view in a scene captured perfectly by MacLeod, a passage I’m reminded of whenever I’m on Spadina:
“Between those storefront doors, there are often other doors that the casual person might not notice because they seem so commonplace,” MacLeod writes. “They are often painted brown and may or may not have numbers above them, often with one digit missing or hanging crookedly from their nails. When you open these doors, there may or may not be a row of mailboxes, some bearing names stuck on with grey adhesive tape. Almost all of these buildings, though, have a wooden stairway that leads steeply up to a hall lit by a yellow forty-watt bulb, and along this hallway and sometimes along other hallways above it are the people who live above the street-level stores.”
MacLeod doesn’t specify which building; it could be the Waverly, the single room occupancy hotel just north of College St., or maybe it’s one of the grand but shabby Victorian buildings on the edge of Kensington Market. That he wasn’t entirely specific means every building on Spadina has the potential to contain this story, or hundreds, maybe thousands of others like it over time, some tragic, many others not. Fourteen years after reading MacLeod’s book I still look for those doorways and, if they have windows, I peer up the wooden stairs, all passageways to Toronto stories.
Great novels and novelists connect people and places in ways we may not have noticed on our own, but once we see those connections banged out in print they become permanent in our brains and real out on the street. No Great Mischief also begins on the roads that lead to Toronto starting in the tomato fields near Leamington on the Lake Erie coast. If you’re not from Toronto originally, your idea of the city likely includes the way you got here, perhaps it’s the ride in the from the airport or, if you’re from Southwestern Ontario, the highways that lead to the city.
Sometimes that means the 401, but when you’ve driven it many dozens of times, the longer, scenic routes along Highways 2 or 3 are diversions from the freeway monotony. If there’s time to spare, even more elaborate routes — along various rural roads following a loose Toronto-bound compass — can be taken. As MacLeod writes, “the realization of the city of Toronto is always something of a surprise,” as its far edges are marked by increased traffic and the need to pay attention to how you’re getting in. Toronto is not a casual experience to roll into, especially in a car, particularly if you’re not from here.
In No Great Mischief Toronto is like an octopus with tentacles that meander out into the hinterland, down to Windsor or even farther out to Cape Breton and beyond. Personal versions of MacLeod’s narrative relate to just about everyone here who has connections elsewhere. He gave us a road map into our city and to everywhere else we’re connected.

Shawn Micallef writes every Friday about where and how we live in the GTA. Wander the streets with him on Twitter @shawnmicallef