The Library Project / by Alan Strathman

Many of you know that I have been working on creating a library at my school.  It has been a big, big task. But a rewarding one. The library would NOT be possible without many very generous people. Many of you all donated funds on my GoFundMe.com site.  And many of you have donated books in one of the recent book drives.  I particularly want to thank my friend Meli Sheldon who organized the recent book drive.  You have no idea how much effort goes into collecting books and trying to figure out how to send them to a developing country. My friend Judy W. donated a beautiful set of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. And I want to thank my sister Judy S. who has been so kind in arranging book donations.  I have another box from her waiting at a shipping company up north.  Hopefully my principal will find a day sometime soon when he can take me to pick it up.

I just posted an update on the GoFundMe site but the site only allows one to post three pictures with an update.  But it takes many pictures to give you a sense of the transition that has occurred. So here goes...

The good news is that there was a room that was designated as the library. This is not the case at some of the schools with Peace Corps Volunteers.

The good news is that there was a room that was designated as the library. This is not the case at some of the schools with Peace Corps Volunteers.

The entire middle of the room was taken up with this large table with outdated computers that were no longer in use.

The entire middle of the room was taken up with this large table with outdated computers that were no longer in use.

One major part of the transition was opening and organizing the dozens of boxes and two barrels of books that had been donated.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of the books that had been donated were unsuitable for a children's library in the Caribbean.

One major part of the transition was opening and organizing the dozens of boxes and two barrels of books that had been donated.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of the books that had been donated were unsuitable for a children's library in the Caribbean.

At first glance it looks like the library was stocked with books from the beginning. It was, just not with books that one would want to have in a children's library. Ninety percent of the books on the shelves had to be discarded.

At first glance it looks like the library was stocked with books from the beginning. It was, just not with books that one would want to have in a children's library. Ninety percent of the books on the shelves had to be discarded.

Ugh!

Ugh!

Oy!

Oy!

Stored in this shelving unit were more than a dozen books by L. Ron Hubbard, about....L. Ron Hubbard. Umm.....no.

Stored in this shelving unit were more than a dozen books by L. Ron Hubbard, about....L. Ron Hubbard. Umm.....no.

No, no, no.

No, no, no.

In a few of the boxes we had 25 copies of the biography of Madeleine Albright.

In a few of the boxes we had 25 copies of the biography of Madeleine Albright.

Great person. Unsuitable book.

Great person. Unsuitable book.

On the first prep day at school, on September 2, 2015, I convinced the principal that the large table in the middle had to go. We are still working on creating an IT lab in another room. I would like to have a couple of laptops, in the library, but not on a table taking up so much space. Great progress on Library Creation Day 1.

On the first prep day at school, on September 2, 2015, I convinced the principal that the large table in the middle had to go. We are still working on creating an IT lab in another room. I would like to have a couple of laptops, in the library, but not on a table taking up so much space. Great progress on Library Creation Day 1.

Organizing, cleaning, painting, throwing out about 700 inappropriate and unsuitable books, giving away another 500 books to students, and sorting out the boxes and barrels took a lot of time. And sweat. Some blood. Fortunately, no tears.  

You may be thinking that books should not be thrown out; instead we should have donated them. But one thing I learned in this project is that the reason that many books are donated is that they are simply no longer wanted by whomever donated them. But it became clear that in most cases if someone else didn't want a book, we didn't either. And neither would anyone else. So donating them would have just been passing our problem on to someone else. 

We're getting somewhere...

Books off the shelves to start cleaning and then painting.

Books off the shelves to start cleaning and then painting.

The dark wood shelves make the room feel dark and uninviting.

The dark wood shelves make the room feel dark and uninviting.

Yellow, green and blue shelves correspond to books that are for beginning, intermediate, and advanced readers. The colors come from the three house teams in the school, named after St. Lucian trees: Leuecaena, Caribbean Pine, and Blue Mahoe.

Yellow, green and blue shelves correspond to books that are for beginning, intermediate, and advanced readers. The colors come from the three house teams in the school, named after St. Lucian trees: Leuecaena, Caribbean Pine, and Blue Mahoe.

Books from the first book drive organized by my friend Meli Sheldon. Now, THESE are the kinds of books we want.

Books from the first book drive organized by my friend Meli Sheldon. Now, THESE are the kinds of books we want.

The organization is progressing.

The organization is progressing.

And, finally, the plan is coming together...

Library rules. So very necessary. Break a rule and you leave the library. And they'd rather not leave.

Library rules. So very necessary. Break a rule and you leave the library. And they'd rather not leave.

The goal is not to cram as many books in as possible.  But rather to create an inviting scene that will encourage boys to investigate.

The goal is not to cram as many books in as possible.  But rather to create an inviting scene that will encourage boys to investigate.

The library is a shoe-free zone. Boys must leave their shoes at the door. Note the air fresheners on the shelf. Enough said.

The library is a shoe-free zone. Boys must leave their shoes at the door. Note the air fresheners on the shelf. Enough said.

My friend Judy was so kind to donate a beautiful, complete, hardback set of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, which the boys love more than life itself. They are all always checked out. I think my sister Judy (different Judy) said there were some more copies in the box she recently sent. Thanks goodness.

My friend Judy was so kind to donate a beautiful, complete, hardback set of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, which the boys love more than life itself. They are all always checked out. I think my sister Judy (different Judy) said there were some more copies in the box she recently sent. Thanks goodness.

In addition to reading, boys can draw, colour, do puzzles, and play games. All of which will help them develop their literacy skills, while they have fun.

In addition to reading, boys can draw, colour, do puzzles, and play games. All of which will help them develop their literacy skills, while they have fun.

Love this picture. This is just what it is supposed to look like.

Love this picture. This is just what it is supposed to look like.

Kianté, one of my Grade 2 boys.

Kianté, one of my Grade 2 boys.

Delano, one of my Grade 1 boys.

Delano, one of my Grade 1 boys.

I think of a library as a living, breathing being, always growing, changing, evolving. We definitely need more good books.  And, frankly, windows and air conditioning.

There is no glass in any of the windows in the school. There is really no point in having it. The library windows have the blinds on the outside and then bars on the inside. But no glass.

There is no glass in any of the windows in the school. There is really no point in having it. The library windows have the blinds on the outside and then bars on the inside. But no glass.

Windows and air conditioning would help maintain the books. The other reason why we need glass and A/C is that it is so loud at breaks and during lunch that the outside noise carries into the library, causing the boys in the library to be loud too.  It is impossible for the library to be quiet when it is so noisy outside. Glass and A/C would take care of this.

Thank you to everyone who donated books and funds. This library would not exist without your help. I hope you can see that your contributions have been put to good use.  Thank you so much.