It is hard to describe the feelings you have when you are about to tackle the task of preparing a first ever public library for a community in Haiti. There is excitement, joy and unbridled energy in the building. The opportunity to meet and work with other volunteers and local staff, makes for an unforgettable adventure.
As a morning coffee addict, I finished my third cup of double dose instant coffee and I was off. I went to the room with the books and instantly stopped and assessed the boxes of books, stacked like a massive game of Jenga. Boxes stacked 12 high and with generic content labels in French. The combination of stifling high tropical temperatures and humidity, and an overdose of caffeine, forced me to sit down and stare at what seemed to be an unmanageable task. I realized I should have paid attention to the Dewey Decimal system in grade school and mastered my French during my past work assignments in Paris.
I awoke from my shocked state seeing Michelle and Dana, two experienced Haitian library “creators”, with laughter and sympathy for my sad state. They let me know what “Dewey labeled” boxes needed to go where. So, I set out to burn my pent up energy and began moving boxes to the appropriate library niches. This included the general categories such as Philosophy, Arts, Science, Youth collection and our children’s library.
As I began to unpack and stack books on our shelves, I felt a personal connection to each book, knowing someone will open it, like opening a new window to the world. Expanding their experience and knowledge only a book can personally provide. Box 32, Reference Books. Box 68, French Novels. Box 152, Human Anatomy. I began to open each box as if it were a new treasure we were offering this community.
After days of moving, unpacking, shelving, arranging, categorizing, I was exhausted. There were empty boxes the books came in everywhere. Like shed cicada casings randomly stacked after a season of growth, a Haitian library was about to be born. The day of the grand opening was magical. We arrived to help set up and come to realize the local team had stayed and cleaned the library from top to bottom, showcasing a sparkling, welcoming adventure for everyone. Everything looked orderly, pristine and proud!
How do you fill a Haitian library full of books – One box at a time (with a lot of help)