I returned this Monday from a five-week stay in Ghana following a visit to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. The Fair was a remarkable opportunity as publishers from all over the world showcased their books, including a small representation from African countries. There was interest in some of the books that OCLF has produced with the possibility of having them printed in other languages for the African market.
My time in Ghana was spent visiting libraries, attending meetings, viewing outstanding plays, seeing new potential projects and, whenever possible, being with the children for story time. Sharing favourites – like Curious George along with the popular African stories – and finishing with a good sing-along cannot be beat as an uplifting experience! We have a picture book titled What a Wonderful World about Louis Armstrong, and many children at the Accra College of Education Community Library [ACECL] now know the lyrics and tune…I see trees of green; red roses too. It gave me great delight to also tell them the story of how, when I was a little girl, I met Louis during his tour of northern Ontario.
We have seven libraries in the Greater Accra region, and they are at various stages of maturity. Our first library, the one built from a converted 40-foot shipping container, will be 20 years old in November, and plans are in the works to celebrate the occasion. Given that most of the libraries have theatre and cultural dancing as outreach activities, we are hoping that the event will showcase talent from various parts of Ghana.
The ACECL, opened November 2011, is still working through little glitches, but I am confident that many of the hiccups are behind us. It is quite a feat for a library of 10,000 sq. feet with extensive gardens to establish itself – securing a staffing timetable to cover its long opening hours, initiating exciting programs for the children and adult learners, and making sure that it has electricity and water. Finding ways of keeping snakes away also required some attention! Fortunately, as of last week, the city’s office paid for an electricity credit that will cover a six-month period. This will free up time that was formerly spent rushing around buying small amounts of credit for a prepaid meter and then getting refunds. It is amazing how much time and energy one can spend doing such trivial and yet important things. Given that we now have reliable power, we will soon purchase seven computers for the library’s computer lab. Very exciting!
Last month, the Mayor of Accra signed a letter giving approval and support for salaries and running costs for a new community library in Korle Gonno, Accra. This is another big step for OCLF. Fortunately, Roger Amenyogbe, a Ghanaian-born architect who has designed two other libraries for us, was in Ghana last month, and he visited the site. This visit was important as he says, “The site of land speaks to you.” Now that we have the permission in writing, Roger will begin the task of putting our vision on paper.
I was able to accompany one of the adult literacy classes to the Akosombo Dam, a place chosen for this year’s annual excursion. The highlight of the visit for me was stopping at a children’s library near the dam. They immediately rushed to the bookshelves and started to read with enthusiasm. I joined two women who sat eagerly on a floor mat reading Maria’s Wish, one of OCLF’s publications. It gives me great joy to see adults discover the world of books, something unknown to them from their childhood. It didn’t matter that they read from back to front.
Last Saturday, I attended a celebration at the Nungua Community Library, a library established in 2003. The event lasted four hours and showcased theatre, dancing competitions, a library choir and solos, speeches and musical chairs. A seven-year-old dancer with his fancy foot moves reminded me of Michael Jackson! Afterwards, I asked Abigail Elisha, the charge librarian, how many came. She said they bought drinks and biscuits for 400 children, but so many came they had to ration the refreshments.
Coming back to Canada is always a time of reflection. The OLCF has grown, and its impact brings a smile.