The Deschapelles library is thriving. On a recent Saturday morning, we arrived to see one of the librarians, Pleurette, reading to a group of children asking them questions and showing them the pictures as she went along. The group then watched a children’s film in French. Around the same time, a group of students ranging in ages 10-16 gathered to discuss Robotics. We had brought down a new Lego kit and Google Chromebook to enable the Robotics Club to prepare for a robotics competition in Cap Haitian. (We always have overloaded suitcases when we travel to Deschapelles!) Under the direction of Besly Belizaire, the kids actively engaged in a discussion of what their team should be called (Club Robotique de Deschapelles), the color of their team (green for nature), a slogan (We make a difference) and a logo. They need a device that will enable to perform a task within a two-minute timeframe helping with a need for their community and they chose water. We also learned that another one of the other librarians Euliciane frequently hosts an arts and crafts workshop for children on a Saturday.
Activity at the library ebbed and flowed with some afternoons busier than others. Jenifer Grant gave a lecture on Albert Schweitzer and his philosophy which is integral to the spirit of the nearby Hospital Albert Schweitzer. The students who attended asked some good questions. Another group had toured the library earlier in the day. Other students could be seen using the computers for research.
The library has almost 4,700 books already catalogued and will be adding to the collection with the books we brought from EducaVision (a publisher based in Florida which is a primary source of books in Kreyol). One concern is the longevity of the books given handling of paperbacks by many children but the staff takes care to clean the book shelves and the books. We are proud of the collection.
I had the opportunity to visit a local school with Pleurette and Euliciane. It was the first time they had visited the school and was part of an effort to encourage students to come to the library. Both librarians read to separate groups of children and encouraged feedback. In fact, the younger children danced with enthusiasm and the older groups engaged in educational singing/dancing activities. One group of children was allowed to choose a book to read and after reading it reported to Euliciane who noted down their names and the book they had read.
A group met at the library to discussion implementing a nutrition program. Attendees included Ferna Victor, the Head Nurse at HAS, Melissa Sannon from HAS Outreach Programs specifically trees, the library staff as well as the two of us. Everyone was excited about the idea of a program oriented towards teaching the community more about good nutrition as there has been increasing evidence of diet-related diseases in the community (malnutrition remains and sometimes is the result of poor eating habits as opposed to lack of food). The group will start developing a program and reaching out into the community. There was some discussion of creating raised-bed gardens, one with compost and one without.
As increasing patronage at the library is one of the goals and reaching out into the community is of mutual benefit, the librarians will continue to visit schools and encourage schools to visit the library but will also start visiting two of the health centers to read to the children. We also discussed ways to encourage people to get membership cards which are at most 100 Gourdes (US $1.55) for an adult and half that for children. It was suggested that membership on the library should be a requirement to use the internet.
We also met with the Conseil consisting of a group of ODES members, which was established much like Library’s Boards in the States, to provide oversight and guidance. We discussed needed maintenance at the library, on-going programs and capital improvement projects including implementing solar as our current electrical system needs to be upgraded.
FOKAL, the organization which provides oversight and some funding for the library has chosen the Bibliothèqu Communautaire Deschapelles as one of four libraries to install an upgraded computerized collection system. It will involve week-long training during which the library will be closed. It is exciting and a commendation for the library.
Word of the library has spread and we are now being visited by others who want to emulate what we have done. In the words of Albert Schweitzer
“Do something wonderful, people may imitate it.”
We are proud of the library and what many heads and hands working together have accomplished. We will continue to provide oversight, funding and encouragement but the foundation has been built and our future goal will be to strengthen and enhance the library as well as assisting the staff and the Conseil in administering and managing the library.
Co-Chair, SCEH Library Committee
January 23, 2018