It makes you think

This is a month when readers are encouraged to think about how very important libraries are to society. In my book, every month is library month, every month is “I Love to Read” month. The 2017 library theme of “A Visit Will Get You Thinking” got me to thinking not only about libraries but how Winnipeg is being enhanced one book at a time.

Each library has its own uniqueness which makes visiting them an adventure. There are in-house libraries at companies, helping agencies, museums, universities and religious institutions, to name but a few. Many loan out their materials or allow the public to read on site upon request.

There are an estimated 350,000 libraries in the world. The largest is The Library of Congress in Washington, DC. With technology we now have a growing number of digital libraries.

There are well over 100 Little Free Libraries in Winnipeg and more than 65,000 worldwide. To address the need for books for kids in an area devoid of an accessible library, ManSheds Winnipeg is building a Little Free Library for Little Stars Playhouse at 681/683 Selkirk Avenue. Because kids need to read.

The wonderful thing about Winnipeg is how communities come together to support each other. The Winnipeg Public Library supports all the Little Free Libraries and will provide copies of their magazine @the Library to each LFL so readers can learn about public library programs. Winnipeg book lovers can support their public libraries at the Friends of The Winnipeg Public Library Book Sale Oct. 28 and 29.

Sadly, there is a social commentary about today’s libraries as expressed by a youngster in an episode of the TV hit, Modern Family, who said, “I thought libraries were those places for homeless people.” Welcoming, safe institutions like libraries become refuge for the homeless.

When I visited the Calligraphy Museum housed at the San Francisco Public Library, I saw that staff reconfigured the main floor so homeless people could rest, wash and have something to eat. A police officer stationed at the library told me that many would read all day.

“It is their salvation,” he said. It’s enough to make you think. Think about Winnipeg. Think about the homeless. Think about our kids. Think about the refuge reading can be for all of the above.

The gift that speaks volumes

If you like happy endings you’ll be glad to know I’ve saved the best for last. By no means the final chapter, this news scoop will have families turning pages for a long time to come.

Winnipeg’s Point Douglas has been selected by Dolly Parton for her latest Imagination Library! There are 3000 children in Point Douglas and already more than 1000 children from the ages of 0-5 years are registered to receive a book a month. One million books are mailed each month to 1,141,060 registered families in the US, Britain, Australia and Canada. More than 95 million books have been mailed to kids since 1995. For more info see:

As a singer-songwriter Dolly Parton has outsold, outperformed and outlasted every solo musical artist of her generation. Her 1973 hit, “I will Always Love You” is the best selling single made by a female in music history.

Dolly is passionate about giving back. She grew up poor, her parents and brothers were illiterate but she knows the importance of reading. This inspired her Dolllywood Foundation which is partnered with Rotary International. Together they will pay for the postage to lucky Point Douglas children.

The books are selected by a committee of teachers, parents, librarians, and child development specialists to ensure age appropriate themes. Dolly’s goal is to help promote self-esteem, confidence and appreciation for diversity.

With the assistance from a start up grant from The Winnipeg Foundation, Manitoba Director Karyn Davis was able to set up an Imagination Library for the Point Douglas area. She describes her passion for books for kids as involving, “pounding the pavement every day of my life for this project.”

Karyn’s own story is book worthy. Born and raised in Ebb and Flow Reserve, Karyn was living in Swan River, MB when her passion for hockey led her to working for Dolly Parton in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. She rode the bus for 45 hours from Swan River to Nashville, TN to see Jordan Tootoo in his NHL debut and made the news for doing so.

“That trip literally changed my life,” said Davis. A meeting with Dolly Parton and work at Dollywood for four years ensued. Together they are now are bringing their passion for literacy advocacy to Winnipeg.

Community Champions for the Point Douglas Imagination Library is the Little Stars Playhouse under the leadership of Gerrie Prymak. This is the very centre that will receive a Little Free Library from ManSheds Wpg. Only in the ‘Peg are there caring connections of this magnitude.

“We’re all working together for language, literacy and learning,” said Ms. Davis.

Gerrie Prymak (left) of Little Stars Playhouse, Champions of Point Douglas Imagination Library, and Karyn Davis, Manitoba Director. /PHOTO: Heather Emberley

The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg is supporting Little Stars Playhouse and their work in promoting literacy to core area kids with their “Share the Plate” offerings for the month of December. As UU Reverend Meghann Robern said, “We need to share stories in community.” What better way to share stories and resources than with the children of our communities.

Little Stars, a Little Free Library and literacy advocates bring Winnipeg communities together.

Dolly Parton first became aware of Winnipeg because of Manitoba First Nations. Through Karyn Davis’ work in Aboriginal social services, Dolly learned there were no libraries in First Nations communities.

When you have to pay $70 for a case of water there is no money left for books or libraries, and Northern Stores do not sell books. Similarly, many Winnipeg north end families do not have the money for books.

Thanks to the Imagination Library that is about to change for the children of Point Douglas.

Heather Emberley / Gracie Sweetstory


Heather Emberley is a repurposed school counsellor specializing in the psycho-social infrastructure of experience, an EAL teacher, freelance writer and sidekick of Gracie Sweetstory. They are stewards of a Little Free Library and their favourite word is postantineoconceptualizationalisticism.

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