Kathy Pratt (left) and Ann Newton

Kathy Pratt (left) and Ann Newton

Friends of Bella Bella

Vernon Friends of the Library are supporting the community library that burned down in Bella Bella last month

In a fire hall in Coldstream, volunteers with Vernon Friends of the Library are busy sorting books destined for a library in northern B.C. that was destroyed by fire.

The Thistalalh Memorial Library was housed in the only grocery store in Bella Bella, a remote First Nations community, about 150 kilometres north of Port Hardy. The 35-year old building served as a commercial and social hub for the community, housing not only the grocery store and library, but the post office and cafe.

As head of Vernon Friends of the Library, Linda Wills knew the non-profit organization could help Bella Bella rebuild its library by sending books to replace those lost in the fire.

“We wanted to help the community rebuild its library, choosing books and having them shipped,” said Wills. “Approximately 50,000 books go through our hands each year at our annual May and October sales.

“We receive discards from the Okanagan Regional Library and also receive an increasing number of donations for our sales, with the majority of the books we sell for fundraising for the library in good to excellent condition.”

In a letter to library founder Jessie Housty, Wills offered to select books from the Friends’ storage facility.

“All book-lovers were in pain upon learning of the loss of your library,” said Wills. “We can choose books according to whatever you want, get them to Vancouver or Richmond and then have them shipped to you by sea or air.

“We can start any time putting books aside for you in our storage facility and the timing of delivery will be up to you.”

Friends of the Library has also contacted the many local book clubs for their help in collecting novels for donation and ORL directors have given their approval for this project.

Anyone with books to donate is welcome to drop them off Aug. 13 at the old Coldstream fire hall, 9901 Kalamalka Rd., next to the municipal hall, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wills notes that they cannot accept  encyclopedias, Readers’ Digest condensed books or text books. All donated books should be in good condition, not necessarily new, but just lightly used.

The Bella Bella library is particularly in need of books on the following subjects: children’s literature, indigenous literature; international fiction; eco-literature; natural history and field guides; general non-fiction.

At this point, collecting the books is the simple part, it’s the shipping that is urgently needed and Wills is hoping a company based in the Lower Mainland might be willing to donate the shipping.

Also needed is a truck that can accommodate a shrink-wrapped pallet of books and take them from the North Okanagan to Vancouver at no charge.

Eduardo Sousa is coordinating volunteer efforts in the Lower Mainland to get the books to Bella Bella. In a letter to Wills, he expressed the community’s appreciation.

“The situation has been really tough on the community with the loss of services, and especially tough on those who put so much into creating the library like Jess Housty,” he said. “But the response from many concerned individuals like yourself and your directors has been wonderful and that has helped give strength to keep going and rebuild and regenerate.”

If anyone can help with getting the books to Vancouver, or for more information, please call Wills at 250-549-1466.

For details on Bella Bella’s library, see www.thistalalh.com