May 2023

After a month away, I am back to Winnipeg and my rhythm of life. This visit, like all others, was rich with varied experiences, each one linked to books or to libraries. A focus was OCLF’s newest book, The Land of Plenty. Clearing these books from the port, coordinating storage logistics, and seeing to its launch three weeks later took considerable time. There was a flurry of activity at our Nima Centre. There is nothing like an event to make a place shine. Launch day featured children singing Imagine with lyrics by John Lennon from a new library book with the same title, a quartet of young musicians playing a Ghanaian melody, two library dancing troupes, adult literacy learners reading from their creative writing pieces (as encouraged by The Shoe Project, a Canadian initiative), and the mayor speaking on behalf of her municipality. Ronke Ampiah, local board chair, and I presented copies to all head librarians.

This book features day-to-day scenes from Ghana with vocabulary reflecting local terminology. Award-winning South African illustrator Toby Newsome did an outstanding job. It was a joy to see the reactions of young library users when they first opened its pages. For many children, their favourite page was Auntie Joana’s Food Joint as it features several favourite Ghanaian dishes and, most significantly, because they know her in real life. I wrote to Huck Scarry, Richard Scarry’s son, before the launch to let him know that his father’s many word books inspired this one.

I visited nine OCLF libraries. It is always encouraging to see that these facilities remain welcoming and neat. At Goi I marvelled as their librarian Vivian Amanor read book after book for 2 ½ hours (!) to kindergarten children. She swiftly changed back and forth from English to Dangme with such ease and enthusiasm. Vivian strongly believes that books change lives.

I also ventured to a small farming community in the north where Mawuli Fianyo, a former library member, is now teaching. Living there is challenging with no potable water (water is fetched from a river 15 minutes away), no electricity, and the school is void of any learning materials. Just the same, Mawuli does his best. After reading OCLF’s Fati and the Green Snake to a group of students, Mawuli divided the children into different characters from the story. Soon children were jumping around as monkeys and flying like birds, Fati was collecting firewood with her family, and, of course, the snake was nearby waiting in a bush. His school even has a chess club, a skill Mawuli learned from his library days.

Librarians continue to expand their outreach with ideas and new activities. Many now go online to find out what days are celebrated around the world, and they create their own rendition whether it’s Mother Language Day, Earth Day, Colour Day, Chocolate Day or Poetry Day. Library Coordinator Winifred Kyeremeh organizes monthly meetings for head librarians. These sessions provide opportunities for librarians to learn from each other.

Thank you for believing that OCLF is making a difference.

Warmest wishes,

Kathy Knowles