Middle school now owns a mountain of books

Aqsarniit Iliniarvik’s book drive has succeeded beyond all expectations.



IQALUIT – Aqsarniit Iliniarvik, the middle school in Iqaluit with no library books, now owns a mountain of them.

Ottawa residents donated 125,000 pounds of books, or almost 57 metric tonnes, according to book drive organizers.

“There were five igloos full of books coming up on the plane. I know, I helped load the books into the truck,” said Susan Scullion, executive assistant to Nunavut’s Liberal MP, Nancy Karetak-Lindell.

Last week, Canadian North flew the books to Iqaluit from Ottawa free of charge.

The books are the result of a campaign organized by Ottawa-Vanier MP Mauril Belanger with the help of Karetak-Lindell. Belanger organized the book drive after he read a letter that Peter Geike had written to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen.

“It was something to do, something useful to do, and I like books,” said Belanger, who said he went to Karetak-Lindell with the idea and then in March enlisted the help of Ottawa-area book stores and his constituents. Even Belanger’s mother pitched into the effort by knocking on the doors of schools and the library in Mattawa, the town where she lives.

“She called me up and said, ‘Mauril I’ve got 200 boxes of books.”

Belanger rented a truck and transported the books back to Ottawa himself.

“I derive tremendous pleasure from reading, and if I can help someone develop that pursuit themselves by doing something like this, then I will,” he said.

Other Nunavut schools will eventually benefit from the book drive.

“It’s been really great, and actually we’ve been able to find enough encyclopedias for all of the schools in Nunavut,” said Lindell, explaining that the middle school needed only one of the many sets of reference books that were donated.

Belanger said that he is still getting calls from constituents asking if they can donate books.

“They started arriving last week,” said the middle school’s principal, Peter Geike. “We’re slowly starting the process of sorting them.”

He said he asked Human Resources Minister Jane Stewart to help him find more books on Canadian history and geography for the school when she visited Iqaluit last week.

He said the boxes of books, which are sitting in two huge piles in storage rooms at the school, will be sorted to determine which ones are appropriate for his students, and which might be better suited to other schools in Iqaluit.

“We’re trying to figure what this library will look like,” said Geike, explaining that shelves will have to be erected and that the layout of the library needs to be re-arranged.

The school has a grant to hire a student this summer to help get the library organized, Geike said. He said the library would probably be ready for next school year.

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