December 13, 2017
I have just arrived back from five weeks in Ghana. One thing that always takes me by surprise is the stillness here, especially now that winter has arrived and snow blankets the earth. The sound of crashing waves and loud music from a beach bar, all within ear’s reach of my tiny apartment on top of our newest library in Korle Gonno, Accra, is once again a distant memory.
Soon after my arrival in Accra, I attended the Pan African Writers’ Association Colloquium [PAWA], a grand affair with writers and publishers from across Africa and attendees from different parts of the world. PAWA’s Secretary General Atukwei Okai invited me to speak on the topic Libraries and Forming the Reading Habit. It was a tremendous honour.
Our annual librarians’ workshop gives each library director a time to share their special programs and for their staff members to connect with the larger OCLF family. I announced that OCLF would start a retirement fund for all its full-time employees. From now on, employees will be able to track OCLF’s monthly contributions and watch their fund grow as interest accumulates. Everyone welcomed this new initiative, and they expressed their gratitude.
The Sports Festival took place on November 11th with children from six libraries. Organizers arranged for races and football matches, and then more alternative games like “threading the needle” and dance contests. I enjoyed watching a three-legged race that changed into a two-legged race when the winning partners hopped on only one foot!
We had lots of laughs during a staff relay race. I dutifully waited at the 2nd starting position to receive the baton after my 1st position teammate recovered from a fall, only to find out that when I arrived to hand over the baton to my 3rd position teammate, he had left without me. Sport at this level is all for the fun of it.
Vivian Amanor, Goi’s spirited librarian, arranged a reading workshop for mothers with their newborn babies on the same day public health nurses visited Goi to weigh babies and administer vaccines. The nurses had never seen so many babies. There were 232!
Vivian divided the mothers into groups of 20 or so and explained the important roles that mothers (fathers, too) have in reading to their little ones. Afterwards, we gave out a copy of My Animal Book, an OCLF publication, to each baby, and a frozen yoghurt treat. We will follow this first group and extend the workshop to five nearby rural communities. Vivian said that some of the mothers are already bringing their babies to her library. Two university students from Accra, including a longtime Nima library member, will spend January in Goi to help out.
If the Reading for Babies program gains momentum, we will introduce the same idea to public health clinics in Accra. Nana Aba Anamoah, GhOne TV news editor and a big promoter of reading, is fully behind the project.
Dozens of schoolchildren from an Accra government school wrote about their grandfathers. By reading their stories and using excerpts, I wrote Grandfather and Me, a soon-to-be companion to OCLF’s Nana and Me.
It was fun collecting images for My White Book, a title that will join the other seven in our colour series. I hope the remaining images will be found during my April 2018 visit.
The 25th anniversary of our first library was a month-long celebration. This humble library, initially housed in a 40-foot shipping container and opened on November 13th, 1992, has come of age. It now boasts of a 52-foot-long library, an office, a computer room, a storage shed, two washrooms, and an extensive garden area. The major anniversary event was a six-day trip to Ghana’s north with all four staff members, including Joana Felih who was there at the library’s inception. The trip involved a visit to Bonwire (the Ashanti Kingdom’s kente weaving centre), a stop at Kintampo Falls, two nights at Mole National Park to see savannah elephants and other game, a tour of Ghana’s oldest mosque in Larabanga, and a trip down the Black Volta River in dugout canoes to see two herds of hippos.
What I really enjoy most on my twice-yearly trips is observing and being part of the ebb and flow of daily library life. I witnessed countless senior students stream into our reading halls to prepare for their term exams, and hundreds of children who eagerly read from their favourite books.
Adult literacy students inspire me as they struggle to grasp basic literacy skills. Barikisu, a literacy student who is likely in her late 70s, has come to our classes for more than 15 years. Her son recently built a new home for her in a different part of Accra, but she refuses to go. She said going to “school” is more important to her than a new home.
Dancers and budding actors put in their best as they mount our stages to rehearse. It seems there is always a new show to prepare for. On my way to the airport, I stopped at our Nima Centre where dancers were in the middle of a rehearsal. I received numerous hugs from sweat-drenched dancers as they said good-bye.
On behalf of all our library staff and those who benefit from your support, I send you my best wishes for this season of joy and peace in the coming year.