¿dónde está la biblioteca?

Queen’s College Library at Oxford

I’ve been in love with libraries for as long as I can remember. Saturday mornings, my mom used to drop me off at my hometown library on her way to go grocery shopping. I quickly graduated from a storytime participant to helping the librarians return books to the shelves. By the time I was 12, I was biking the 30 minute journey to town, picking out books for my grandmother and myself and biking back home with a backpack full of new treasures. (I also met the Saturday morning paperboy in the reference stacks a few times…but that’s another story. 😉

Last week I was fortunate to read in not one, but two of Canada’s wonderful libraries.

The Ottawa Writers’Festival hosted their spring edition readings at Library and Archives Canada. I read with Anar Ali and Madeleine Thein. What amazing writers! The festival is in its 10th year and it’s clear that this is a festival about writers, readers and the love the written word. It’s hard to describe, but there was true sense of excitement in the air…people talking about all kinds of books, the place of writing in the world today, where we’re headed with literature in the future. (and rob mclennan called me ‘utterly charming’ in his April 20 notes of his blog. gee whiz.)

While in Ottawa I also met with some of the talented people who make up DramaMuse – the in residence theatre company – at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. We exchanged ideas about the importance of marrying storytelling with history in order to bring history to life. I came away from my trip feeling inspired, asking myself all sorts of questions, and scribbling in my notebook during the entire flight home.

The evening I arrived home I read at the Spring Garden Public Library in Halifax.
What a lovely night. The audience was made up of a mixture of interested readers, Nova Scotia history buffs, midwifery advocates, doulas, and a practicing midwife.
After I shared a few stories of my own and read from the book, many in the crowd shared stories of their own. A man from Baxters’ Harbour stood and told of his grandmother who delivered he and his 14 siblings in her home, then a woman stood and told of her great grandmother’s calling as a midwife and her ability to read tea leaves! My favourite tale of the evening was a woman from Newfoundland who said that the woman in her community who was the local midwife was known as “Aunt Jane” to everyone. Instead of playing ‘doctor’ or ‘nurse’, the little girls all played “Aunt Jane”…and took turns pretending to be the stork who flew over Auntie Jane, dropping babies into her apron. Beautiful.
Once again, I felt a longing for a ‘community of birth’ around every mother and child…asking out loud, what can we do to bring this back? (I’ll have more to say about this in my next post…but until then, the Midwifery Coalition of Nova Scotia has started a post card campaign to help bring midwifery to the attention of Nova Scotia’s Minister of Health.)

A Girl After my Heart!
I couldn’t post about libraries and not mention Skawenniio Barnes. She was featured in this past weekend’s Globe and Mail…

When she was 13, Skawenniio Barnes just wanted a quiet place to read after school on the Kahnawake Reserve outside of Montreal. So the Mohawk teenager — whose first name means “beautiful word” — fought to build a library.

Four years ago she put all she had into getting a library for her reserve. She started out by writing a letter (that-a-girl!) and then wound up writing a winning essay for CosmoGirl of the Year.

On Oct. 4, 2003, she cut the ribbon to the new library, called Skawenniio Tsi Iewennahnotáhkhwa (Skawenniio’s Place Where One Reads). Housed in a former bakery, there were freshly made hemlock shelves donated by a local contractor, and a catalogue that seven librarians from the National Library had helped collate.

Now 17, she’s been accepted to Dartmouth College, Harvard, Princeton and Yale. She’s my new hero!
Here’s a link to the entire story. A must read.
Ivy League Next Chapter for Book Loving Native Girl

By the way –
What do libraries mean to you? Feel free to share your library tales…

Lovely Libraryesque Links
Beyond The Book
A site rich with all kinds of literary goodness.

Are you a reader? Do you participate in a book club, love the smell of libraries, feel like you’re a kid in a candy store when you enter a bookstore? If so, this site will interest you.

Love Libraries
Nifty Library web site in the UK

Do you love libraries?
You do? Fantastic! Then you’ll already know how great they are for free books, reading groups, meeting authors and sound reading advice.
If you don’t use them yet, you’re missing out! Check out your local library and tell us what you think. Love libraries is a campaign to get everyone excited about what public libraries can do for readers and how we can make them better!
Over 12 weeks, three libraries will be dramatically transformed into models of a future library service with reading at its heart. Follow their progress through this website.

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