Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Library Is Born

Back in June, when my friend Nancy suggested I get a book drive together with books from Canadian kids' authors for an impoverished inner city school in LA, I sipped my white wine, nodded enthusiastically, and said, "Sure! What a great idea!"  I had no idea what I was getting myself into with that nod.

The next day, I posted a note on the CANSCAIP forum and here on this blog, and on facebook, asking for books.

In they poured. More than 1500 books from across the country, representing over 100 individual donors and 6 Canadian publishers.

Now I was stuck. How would I get all these books to California? Nancy Runstedler, an awesome school librarian stepped in and twisted some arms, getting us a bargain basement freight rate from Erb Transport.

Then several other individuals stepped up and donated air miles to allow 4 Canadian authors to fly down to LA to be on hand for the event.

Miracles pulled out of thin air, all of it. But the most amazing miracle of all was what happened this past weekend at Bunche School in Carson, California. The school had been selected by our partner on the ground in LA, Access Books, based on its extreme need.

Saturday morning. October 2, 2010. We arrived at the school to find the cafeteria flooded with boxes of books.
There were more than 5000 books - donated by the Canadian contingent, but also collected by Access Books' on the ground efforts. Step two was to open the boxes and sort the books by category. What a thrill it was to find our own donations in the giant piles!

Some of the books we found weren't Canadian, but could have been...

The title of this one is "The Flying Hockey Stick!"

We got a group picture going before the hard work of sorting began.

That's me at the top left. The handsome guy in the middle is Rob Weston, author of Zorgamazoo and the just-pubbed Dust City, with his fiancee Machiko at the front left.Behind Rob, sticking her head up, is Sandra Tsing-Loh, who made the vital connections between the Canadian crowd and Access Books which made this whole thing happen. (Thanks Sandra!) To Sandra's left is New Brunswicker Wendy Kitts, a freelance journo whose nonfic about Sable Island will be out next year from Nimbus Books. In front of Wendy, in red, is Kari-Lynn Winters, author of Jefffrey and the Sloth and On My Walk, both from Tradewind Books. And last but not least, in black, is Montrealer Jill Murray, author of Rhythm and Blues, from Doubleday Canada.

Sorting of the books was done by about 70 volunteers, including authors, kids, parents, and staff of Bunche School.

The books had to be sorted into several rough categories - library-worthy (ie hardcover), classroom sets by grade, YA for another school, and older or torn books that could be taken home by the kids and the community members.

Then each book had to be stamped, and a pocket needed to be affixed along with a matching card. Bar codes were added in two places, one of which was protected with a second clear sticker.

THEN, we had to add the catalogue code to the books spine,and cover that with another clear sticker. Only then were the books ready to head to the library.

Meanwhile, other volunteers were hard at work painting and preparing the library for its new acquisitions.

This tree mural was designed by Rob and Machiko and graced the wall of the junior grade library

Another mural, in the primary grade library, featured an illustration from Kari-Lynn's book On My Walk.
That's Kari, waving the flag :) and putting the finishing touches on the mural.
A third fab mural is in an outdoor corridor.

 That's Jacqui, a professor at UC Irvine, adding her academic touch to the Books car.

We worked hard. But by 2PM, we could see the fruits of our labours! Three new murals, 5000 new books sorted and shelved, and lots of happy faces, especially on the kids who were taking home armloads of book as their thank you gift for helping.

I'm hoping we will be hearing from Bunche School's kids in the next few weeks, the wonderful principal has told me she'll be forwarding on thank you notes from the kids once they've had a chance to experience their new-and-improved library.

Best of all, I'm looking forward to all the future spin-off projects this little Air Lift has spawned, and will spawn in the future.

What project will YOU take part in?

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