Dave Obee: Despite pandemic, school libraries still need help

In these pandemic times, with limited access to so many things we once took for granted, do school libraries still need help from the Times Colonist Literacy Society?

The answer, quite emphatically, is yes. That is why we are pushing ahead with our first bookless drive, after 22 years of raising money through the sale of donated books.

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We are accepting donations until the end of the month. In the past week, we have received $10,000, including $3,000 dropped off by the Oak Bay Firefighters Charitable Foundation.

We can’t have the usual drive this year, but the need is still strong.

And don’t just take it from us.

“The Times Colonist grant plays an incredibly valuable role in supporting the Saanich school district’s learning and literacy goals,” says Sarah Isbister, president of the Saanich Teacher Librarians’ Association.

“Our students and staff benefit immensely from the resources that we can purchase for our Learning Commons with the help of the grant,” says Isbister, who is also the Learning Commons Teacher at Bayside Middle School.

“Receiving funds to support our collection means that we can provide appropriate, relevant, and up-to-date titles that support inquiry, project-based learning, problem-based learning, self-assessment, research skills, and scientific methods.”

The Saanich district is continuing to circulate books while observing all of the protocols and precautions related to COVID-19.

Many of those books have been made available to students because of the community’s support of our fundraising efforts. Over the years, the Times Colonist literacy fund has provided about half the budget for many local schools.

“I have been a teacher-librarian in the Saanich school district since 2000,” says Holly Mair, who works in South Island Distance Education. “I can’t begin to tell you how much we have relied on the Times Colonist grant program.

“It enables us to purchase things that we simply couldn’t afford. For example, one year we needed to update some of the materials in our reference section and we were able to use Times Colonist money for that.”

Mair said she has also been able to buy novels in French, German and Spanish, which helped support language programs – purchases which would not have been possible without the Times Colonist grant.

“Most recently, we have enhanced and updated our Indigenous resources to ensure that we have Indigenous authors speaking about reconciliation, she said.

“The money we receive allows us to make resources available to students that reflect our values as a society.”

Every year, our schools need to buy new books. They might replace books that have been damaged, books that are outdated, or books that, like the Indigenous resources Mair mentioned, help the schools keep pace or lead fundamental changes in our society.

The money we raise with this direct appeal will be added to the money raised in a book drop-off day in August. Those books are still being counted.

As in past years, whatever we raise will be enhanced by additional funding from Decoda Literacy Solutions, which distributes money from the provincial government. The Decoda grant will be based on what we can raise in the community.

Please donate through timescolonist.com; you will see the link to the donation form on the upper right corner.

Thanks for your support.

> Direct link for donations: timescolonist.com/1.23601097

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