Donated library arrives at Ahousaht

By Denise Titian, June 9, 2017

Maaqtusiis School Librarian June Titian stands by recently donated shelves that are being filled with books courtesy of the Write to Read program. (Denise Titian photo)

Ahousaht, B.C. — 

A full library of 4000 books, shelves and tables arrived by barge to Ahousaht on June 7. The complete library is a gift to Maaqtusiis Secondary School from the Write to Read Project; a charitable foundation supported by Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon and volunteer Bob Blacker.

Bob Blacker is a retired police officer and the former Regional Governor of Rotary District 5040, an organization consisting of nearly 100 Rotary clubs around British Columbia. He has been involved with Write to Read since the beginning, when former Lieutenant Governor Steven Point initiated the program in an effort to improve literacy in remote British Columbian communities. He was in Ahousaht June 6 and 7 to oversee the delivery of the library.

It was about two years ago when Lt. Gov. Guichon visited Ahousaht and was taken on a tour of Ahousaht’s then brand-new high school.

“She saw this beautiful new school and when shown the library, she asked, ‘Where is it?’,” Blacker said.

The room was nearly empty and Ahousaht didn’t have the resources to stock the high school library.

The Lieutenant Governor contacted Blacker at Write to Read and suggested that Ahousaht needs a high school library.  He eventually made contact with Maaqtusiis School teacher Patti Burridge, who worked hard to get the library for the school.

“Patti is very passionate about getting the library, same with June Titian (Maaqtusiis School librarian),” said Blacker.

Along with the donation of catalogued books, Maaqtusiis High School will receive shelving units build by inmates of Brannon Lake Corrections Center, some computers and iPads.

“We had hoped that by donating computers and tablets, others in the greater community could come to the school to access the Internet but there is a problem and we still need to do some work,” said Blacker.

The problem could be the limited access to the Internet, in general. Ahousaht, located on remote Flores Island, does not yet have the infrastructure in place to support widespread high-speed internet.

But the community has a team of very committed volunteers and donors who have made this gift, with an estimated value of over $15,000, possible.

Write to Read volunteers arrived in Ahousaht a day ahead of the delivery. The LRT (Library Response Team) is a group of professional librarians who volunteer their time, skills and effort to gather, sort and catalogue thousands of books. A small team of LRT’s went to Maaqtusiis Secondary School to sort and catalogue what books they had there.

Maaqtusiis Elementary School Librarian June Titian said that there were about 700 books two years ago, when the school first opened but, about half are missing. “With no high school librarian, what books we had were borrowed using an honor system,” she said. Titian is confident that a librarian will be hired to care for and keep track of the newly donated books.

On June 7 a cube van arrived at the school and was met by school staff, students and the LRT. Bob Blacker and other volunteers helped to unload the heavy shelving and dozens of boxes of books with the help of boys from the high school.

In less than an hour staff and volunteers were moving shelves and tables into the library. Over the coming days the books will be on the shelves and catalogued.

A small community dinner was held June 8, to thank the Write to Read Volunteers. An official opening ceremony date will be announced in the near future. It is expected that the Lt. Gov. Guichon will be at the celebration. “She’s been really wanting to come back to Ahousaht,” said Blacker.

The Write to Read Project is always on the lookout for cost-saving measures. Britco, the company that rents modular trailers, donated 14 modular units that were used in the 2010 Olympics. The 10-by-40-foot trailers were sent to remote communities in the province to be used as libraries.

Partnerships were also formed with the Nanaimo Correctional Centre and Windsor Plywood. The Windsor Plywood Foundation donated materials, saving thousands of dollars in building material.

Blacker said they were blessed with great partnerships and sponsors.

Now they are looking to use available resources in the community to build libraries. If there is available timber they may harvest and mill the timber then involve community members in construction. By doing this, community members get training in construction along with their new library.

Blacker said Kyuquot/Cheklesaht people are dreaming of a Long House-style community centre and Right to Read is helping them with their dream through the planning and fundraising stages.