Government House / AFRETECH Library Response Team (LRT)

LRT volunteer

The Library Response Team is a dedicated group of volunteers who are integral to the success of the wirtetoread project. Coming from Afretech Aid Society which has been equipping and installing school and community libraries in impoverished areas in Africa and Asia for more than twenty years, these individuals are a valuable resource; they know exactly what is needed to properly set up a library, and they can do it in just a few days. Of course each installation comes after months of gathering appropriate materials, checking and sorting, processing - yes, back to the old borrowers’ card system as power is limited where the books are going - then boxing according to category: non-fiction, adult fiction, youth fiction, and easy reading. Finally, core team members (the LRT) travel to the location of the new facility and spend long, intense days organizing and shelving the resources as well as training local people.

In the library

The fact that there is such a team speaks to the power of Rotary and a chance remark at a Vancouver Rotary Club lunch. Several Rotary World Help (RWH) directors were in attendance, and one mentioned to Bonnie Sutherland, Afretech’s President and RWH VP, that a North Vancouver Rotary was looking for help to establish a First Nations library at Rivers Inlet (Wuikinuxv). Bonnie asked, ”How many books do you need?” and then said, ”We can supply them all,” to the startled North Van. Rotarian. One can hardly blame the Rotarian for being a bit skeptical at first. How would one know what would be appropriate? How does one find sufficient books and how many would be enough? However, many Afretech volunteers have experience in libraries or schools as well as hands-on experience in the field; they know what needs doing and can adapt to the situation at hand.

Totem

Joining forces with the writetoread project has meant that LRT volunteers pay close attention to those books reflecting First Nations’ interests and issues and put them aside. These are added to resources donated by sources such as the Book Warehouse and book drives. Then all books must be processed the old fashioned way given the remote locations where the books are going. And while there is a core LRT group, a project of this magnitude requires additional man – or more correctly people power – and so a group of support workers, some again from Afretech and others from the sponsoring Rotary - help with the labour intensive preparation phase.

At the moment the Halalt Library near Chemainus and the Yunesetin Library out of Williams Lake are up and running; Malahat and Fort Rupert books have been processed and are ready to go and Rivers Inlet, the project that started it all, now has a functioning library while the resources for Haida Gwai have been sorted and boxed. This represents a huge amount of work on the part of the LRT and their support volunteers, but everyone is more than happy to contribute because this is a project with tangible results. Most importantly, First Nations’ communities have an accessible and much needed resource.

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