I wasn’t planning on sharing this project at first, but then three other book bloggers from Minnesota joined! We ended up donating over 500 books to the Red Cliff Reservation’s growing library to help create a solid YA section.
Mini story time: I didn’t read a lot in middle school because books were expensive and our rural library didn’t have a ton on their shelves. So better access to YA books is something that’s really important to me and I’m fortunate enough to be in a position now where I receive so many books I’m able to share. I’ve donated to my local library over the past few years, but they also have an awesome system where you can request books from bigger towns as well! So access to YA books in my small town is better, but there are still areas in Minnesota & Wisconsin where it could be improved.
I cleared 300 books off of my shelves last October to donate to an Ojibwe reservation because I’ve spent a lot of time living and/or working with the Leech Lake, Bad River, and Red Cliff bands. I also spent most of my freshman year of college focusing on Ojibwe history, religion, and language, and then studied with a shaman who helped me a ton when I got sick… so basically I wanted to pay it back.
The Red Cliff band actually opened a small library in 2015 (see this short article and this one). I remembered how the nearest big library in that area is still a couple hours away, which I was never able to visit without a car… and kids shouldn’t have to go on a huge journey to hunt down a book like some wild Pokemon.
So I reached out to a few other book bloggers in the Twin Cities area and they came through with SO many books:
Red Cliff’s librarian said they were thrilled to get them, there were a lot of exciting titles, and that they’re currently training volunteers to catalog everything. Here’s the old administration office they converted into their new library:
I wish I had taken more pictures with the pile I hauled off of my shelves or something so this post could be a bit more interesting, but I guess that wasn’t really the point. We just wanted to share books. And I’m so grateful to Maren, Rachel, and Emily for being so enthusiastic about this project too!! Check out their blogs!
My absolute favorite book that I donated was Trouble at Fort La Pointe, which is about an Ojibwe girl who lived pretty close to the Red Cliff area! I wish copies of this middle grade book weren’t so hard to find because I think it’s an amazing book for their library. If anyone has some copies they want to share, I’m sure they would be appreciated.
Note on a different project that got canceled: I was also working on trying to ship some books to three Syrian children in a refugee camp in Lebanon who are currently trying to teach themselves. I have the contact information and everything could work, but it is beyond expensive to ship a small box. Like $400 expensive. I did want to answer a few questions about that project here, though:
- Can we give them money to buy books: that’s not really a possibility in their current location and with how stretched the workers are already.
- Why am I bothering to send books to people whose priorities are not leisurely reading: ok well THAT could be a whole post on its own, but education, a chance to escape their current situation, and showing them they’re not ignored are some of the top reasons.
- Can people send books to ship: that ended up being something I wasn’t comfortable doing because I haven’t read all of those titles. I’m mostly going off of my training from teaching English to refugees from Ethiopia and Somalia as to what kinds of materials/topics are okay for discussion, but I wouldn’t want to send something that could be insensitive or triggering.
So that’s an update for everyone who’s asked about sending books to donate. It’s awesome that you care so much about sharing your love for reading and I’ll keep you updated for future projects I’m doing!! <3