Check this out: It Starts with Storytime

It’s true that at the Nelson library, some of us have been here for more years than we care to admit. But there’s a beauty in all that continuity, too: children who as toddlers came to storytime are now coming back, bringing their own toddlers. It’s easy to relate to teenagers we’ve known since they were in diapers. More than one of us has attended the funerals of beloved patrons.

We’re an equal opportunity library: any age, gender, race or nationality — we strive to be welcoming. It’s a point of pride. It’s not like that everywhere in the world.

March 8 is International Women’s Day. This year, the United Nations theme for Women’s Day 2011 is “equal access to education, training, and science and technology.”

There’s a reason this day has been observed since the early part of the last century, when women raised families on half the pay of their male counterparts while being denied the right to vote. And while great improvements have been made, there are still societies in which women are treated as possessions or denied rights, such as the right to read and to become educated. Where equal opportunity is just a dream.

At the Nelson library, girls who come to storytime grow into girls who read stories about heroines, who grow into teens who read biographies of notable women, who might grow into motherhood and bring their children to storytime. Girls who came to storytime may themselves become heroines: to their families, to the community, to the world out there. It’s no fairytale.

Alongside these strong girls and women come brothers and fathers and uncles and grandfathers, and so love of reading and learning crosses genders and generations. Exactly as it should.

According to the Status of Women in Canada, Canadian women have made great strides. The current government has the highest percentage of women in cabinet in Canadian history. Currently, women make up the majority of full-time students in most university faculties. At the library, we have no shortage of books about women making a difference in the big wide world.

A case in point is Kootenay-grown Zoë Caron, who wrote, with Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Global Warming For Dummies (363.73874 in the stacks), and has made a name for herself as an environmental mover-and-shaker. She has attended a number of United Nations climate change conferences, co-founded the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, and was aboard the Students On Ice expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic. She’s currently a climate policy and advocacy specialist for World Wildlife Fund Canada.

Zoë came to storytime at the Nelson library back when green was simply the colour of the Very Hungry Caterpillar (E. Carle). Now, it’s the colour of a movement that’s changing the way we live in the world.

In Nelson, we have no shortage of women who are making a difference, from raising strong children to raising awareness about the things that affect us all. At the library, we like to think that for some of those Nelson women making a difference, we made a difference — perhaps starting with The Very Hungry Caterpillar — opening up a world of learning and opportunities for girls and for all people who would make a difference in their world.

Anne DeGrace is the adult services coordinator at the Nelson Municipal Library. Her columns appear every other week








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