As of July 30, 6811 kids have signed up for summer reading, and to help send money to rebuild the Petit Goave Library in Haiti.
Desiree, youth services librarian at the Columbia Pike Branch Library, wrote up the full story for IFLA’s June 2009 Libraries for Children and Young Adults Newsletter (pdf):
In 2009 the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) began the sister library project. Since then, we, the Youth Services team at Arlington Public Library (Virginia) hoped to participate.
Being that our library system is in a part of the United States that is very rich in diverse cultures, it made perfect sense that we reach out to a library in another country, maybe one to which our communities had ties.
During a year of budget cuts, the idea was kept on a back burner. As soon as staffing needs stabilized though, we revisited with enthusiasm IFLA’s Sister Libraries for Children’s and Young Adult’s Reading Programme. We were propelled and excited to incorporate IFLA’s idea into our next summer reading program since this
year’s theme was One World, Many Stories.
During a Youth Services Team meeting last year, we all agreed that we liked the idea of being one of IFLA’s sister libraries. One of us suggested partnering with Haiti because the country had not yet recovered by any means from the horrific natural disaster several months earlier; the people there still needed much help.
At that point in time, Haiti was not participating in IFLA’s Sister Libraries Programme but through a quick search online we discovered a website dedicated to Haiti’s libraries created by New Trier High School (Illinois) Librarian Deborah Lazar. Through her website we realized that Ms. Lazar had visited Haiti both before and after the earthquake. She had been to Petit Goave and seen the children attending programs in the ruins of their destroyed library.
We contacted Ms. Lazar, several states away from Arlington, Virginia in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. An enthusiastic advocate for Haiti and her libraries, Ms. Lazar was in contact with Francoise Thybulle, the director of Haiti’s Libraries, and communicated with her our desire to sister with Haiti. Several weeks later, Ms. Thybulle, in the throes of rescuing Haiti’s National Library, approved of the relationship and we both filed the sister library forms.
Upon the anniversary of the 2010 earthquake we announced our sisterhood. In successive team meetings, we the youth services team of librarians at Arlington Public Library discussed ways to make this relationship meaningful and relevant for both our communities. The Friends of the Library were contacted to ask if they would like to be involved. Due to the wonderful dedication of this team of dedicated volunteers who raise money for library programs, for each child and teen who completes their summer reading goal this year, a donation will go to Petit Goave Library on their behalf. As a result, we hope to send 2,000 USD to our sister library through ALA’s Haiti Relief Fund.
The month of June is a time when we, the youth services librarians visit each public school in our service area to excite every student about reading over the summer. This year they have twice as many good reasons to read. To each and every class, we explained how to participate in our summer reading programs and how just by reading they will help Haiti.
In addition to the funds the Friends will donate, we tried to think of other ways our children could be directly involved. We contacted Arlington Parks and Recreation Department’s After School Program staff. The staff and children of this after school program designed and created beautiful papier-mache tap-taps, the iconic colorful buses from Haiti, to help promote our sister library and to highlight this year’s summer reading theme, One World, Many Stories. We celebrated the unveiling of the tap-taps at the participating branch libraries during which we read the Haitian folktale Bouki dances the Kokioko : a comical tale from Haiti and Edwidge Danticat’s children’s book Eight Days, decorated t-shirts for the children of Petit Goave and celebrated our work together eating tropical sorbets and
Via email, we had also contacted Mr. Midley Joseph, the librarian in Petit Goave to ask about the needs of his children. One of the numerous items cited were t-shirts. For this reason, during the Teen t-shirt designing programs this summer, our youth will decorate shirts for themselves and create unique designs with positive messages on new white t-shirts of various sizes (including those for infants), to send to our littlest “brothers and sisters” in Haiti.
As a team we are continuing to think of ways to connect with our sister library and hope to create bookmarks, portable murals, quilts, and cards to send to Haiti during future youth programs. Once the Petit Goave library is rebuilt and postal service, Internet access and more supplies are enabled, we hope our children will have the opportunity to write to each other, and email or Skype with our Caribbean friends.
Columbia Pike Branch Library