At Coonamble Shire Library, books from the ILF Book Supply Program are not only encouraging the Indigenous community to use the library but is also helping to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous library users.
Raquel Pickering, the librarian, has been ordering the packs of books for the past three years. The 2016 books have just arrived, and Raquel wasted no time in setting up a display of them just inside the double doors at the front entrance so all library users see the books as soon as they walk in.
“ILF sends enough books each time to make sure they can be available for loan straightaway,” says Raquel.
The books are arranged with the picture books at the bottom for easy accessibility by toddlers and pre-schoolers, and the junior non-fiction and fiction books are on the shelves above.
Raquel also posts that the books have arrived on the library’s Facebook page, “to make sure everyone knows they’ve come in”.
Coonamble, on the central western plains of NSW, has a high Indigenous population, and few homes have books. Raquel is passionate about encouraging people to use the library. Once a week, the library hosts a storytime session for babies or toddlers. And every fortnight Raquel visits two local preschools to read to the children.
“The community is really engaged by the books,” says Raquel. “I hear them saying, ‘Here comes the library lady!’ We use the picture and toddler books to encourage a dialogue within the community about Indigneous subjects.”
Raquel points out some words as she reads and often the kids will tell her what a particular word is in the language they speak at home, Gamilleroi. At the end of the session, the kids get to choose the sorts of books they want to read next time. Stories about animals are usually top of the list!
Some of the kids are so enthused they tell their parents about the books and convince them to go to the library.
“It’s great, it’s another way to connect with the community and show them that the library is a safe place to be.”
As a result, more and more Indigenous parents and kids are coming along to borrow books on a regular basis.
“The biggest thing is that the books [from ILF Book Supply Program] have helped grow our Indigenous collection … It’s an absolutely fabulous program.”