Our project began with a racially charged incident at our local elementary school. It became evident that our small community was in need of ways to begin challenging racism in our valley and in ourselves.
We noticed that overall that many Slocan Valley residents didn’t have the income to purchase books for their home library, and that our closest municipal library’s (which are an hours drive away) had long waitlists for popular anti-racist titles. We saw a gap in resources and attempted to fill it! We also realized that with pandemic related work-from-home and school-from-home, that families and individuals were on the internet a lot, and were not interested in adding more screen time for anti-racism work. We also heard from community members who did not have internet access, or even electricity! Books were the way to go.
Since we are all settlers and white folks who undertook the task of acquiring funding for this project, and managing the workload of creating the library and disseminating the books, we knew that we needed to invite BIPOC and local Indigenous groups to help direct our catalogue. We are grateful to have worked with a local anti-racist educator to select relevant titles for our library in the unique context of dismantling rural Canadian racism.
We faced small challenges aquiring books in a way that felt anti-racist. We knew that we wanted the bulk of our library to be from BIPOC authors and publishers, and that we wanted to buy the books for our library from BIPOC owned independent booksellers or directly from the publisher/author. We don’t have a local bookstore that meets the outlined critera, so we needed to order books from Vancouver. Because of pandemic and weather related supply chain issues, it took longer than we anticipated to receive books to our rural PO box.
Another challenge was the demand! We were blown away by how many people wanted to check out books! We realize that we could easily buy more titles and more copies of the books we have on offer. More grant writing to undertake.
Anti-racism can start with reading books and education ourselves, but that cannot be where it ends. In the future, when the pandemic recedes, it would be wonderful to have a physical space where we can house this collection, and offer opportunities for the community to come together and take training and workshops. We realized that certain members of our community won’t be able to easily access these books because of the online check-out component. This is just the beginning of WARM-Lib and co-creating anti-racist futures for the Slocan Valley. We are seeking more partnerships and financial opportunities to make WARM-Lib more accessible and more robust. And to continue to pay BIPOC educators and community leaders fairly for their contributions to white folks and settlers learning process.
Many thanks to the Neighborhood Small Grants RNG program for helping us get started.
Check out our Micro-Library here: https://www.librarycat.org/lib/WARMLib
Check out the Autonomous Sinixt and Blood of Life Collectives projects (including 500×5, which is providing diverse children’s books to the region): https://bloodoflifecollective.org