Newly expanded Nunavik library picks up award

“It’s the place where you can find out where you came from and what’s happening in the world”

Puvirnituq’s Tungunik library underwent a major renovation and re-opened in 2019. (Photo courtesy of KI)

By Sarah Rogers

Puvirnituq mayor Lucy Qalingo presents the Réseau Biblio award to Kativik Ilisarniliriniq Commissioner Sarah Beaulne and to representatives of the library committee, Sarah Tukalak and Samia Habouria. (Photo courtesy of KI)

A school library in Nunavik has been recognized by a Quebec library network for the work it has done building community literacy.

The Réseau BIBLIO Abitibi-Témiscamingue Nord-du-Québec recently awarded the Tungunik library in Puvirnituq with its 2019 Special Award for serving the community.

“The development of both school and public libraries in Nunavik is based on a community approach that allows families to become more involved in their children’s schooling by giving them easier access to reading,” said Richard Dessureault, president of the Réseau BIBLIO ATNQ.

The Tungunik library officially opened last year in a space within Puvirnituq’s Iguarsivik school.

The school had always had a small, basic library, but the community struck a committee four years ago to develop a larger facility that the community of about 2,000 could access.

“Before we used to have a library but not like the one we have now,” said Sarah Tukalak, an Inuktitut teacher at Iguarsivik school and library committee member.

“It’s so important because it’s the place where you can find out where you came from and what is happening in the world.”

The library committee worked to clean up the space, re-organize and re-stock its new Inuktitut, English and French books. The committee also hired a librarian.

The Reseau Biblio ATNQ helped Tungunik set up a management software program that tracks the library’s collections and digital resources.

Tungunik re-opened in the fall of 2019. The space is colourful and inviting, with chairs and cushions to welcome readers to settle in for a while. An artist painted a mural along the library walls.

Since opening, the library has tracked 371 student and adult subscribers and a few hundred book loans.

Iguarsivik students peruse the book collection at Tungunik library. (Photo courtesy of KI)

Tungunik isn’t a word Tukalak can translate easily to English. She describes it as a moment in the dark when you seek and find light or brightness — like when hunters are out at night and searching for the lights of the village to return to.

The library is normally open in the evening for community members to use. Unfortunately, the library has been closed to the general public since COVID-19 restrictions came into place earlier this year, but the facility remains open by appointment to school classes.

But Tukalak said that Tungunik’s new award has been a nice reminder of the work that went into opening the new facility.

“It makes me so proud,” Tukalak said.

Puvirnituq Mayor Lucy Qalingo Aupalu was principal at Iguarsivik school at the time they launched the library renovation. She said she’s proud to see it come to fruition.

“It’s been very useful for the community,” Qalingo Aupalu said.

Tungunik library is located in the school, but it’s jointly run by Kativik Ilisarniliriniq and the Northern Village of Puvirnituq, and financed through Quebec’s Ministry of Culture and Communications.

Réseau BIBLIO ATNQ works with three other libraries in Nunavik: Kuujjuaq, Salluit and Aupaluk.

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