Nicole Blades is hoping the new little lending library she’s set up in front of her Port Moody home will become the proverbial pebble tossed into a pond.
The library, crafted by her husband, specializes in books about social issues like gender equity, diversity, Indigenous history and culture, reconciliation and anti-racism.
Blades said by making such titles easily available it will start conversations that can lead to greater understanding of the challenges and barriers some facets of society face and must overcome.
That’s what happened to her.
When news of the remains of hundreds of dead children buried at residential schools across Canada surfaced earlier this year, Blades said she struggled to understand how such a thing could happen and the impact it’s had on survivors.
“I just became aware of how little I knew,” she said. “We are in the dark about anti-racism.”
To bring light to the issues, Blades started reading. It wasn’t always easy.
Titles about anti-racism don’t readily rocket up the best seller lists or work their way to the display cases at the front of local bookshops. Public libraries are just beginning to make a concerted effort to build their Indigenous collections.
Blades said if she was struggling, others probably were as well.
Posting about her quest for knowledge and self-education in a local Facebook group dedicated to reading and sharing book recommendations affirmed her suspicions.
Blades decided building a little lending library of her own might help sate some of that hunger for knowledge. She’d seen the positive impact such initiatives can have on a community through volunteer work with the United Way that included building a library for Coquitlam resident Susan Walter so she could freely distribute the cloth masks she’d been sewing from scraps of material since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To seed her library, Blades called upon the expertise of Western Sky Books in Port Coquitlam that pointed her to a range of titles from kids’ storybooks and fables to Barack Obama’s autobiography.
She said she’s hoping as the library grows and the collection turns over, the titles remain accessible to a broad readership of all ages.
“These are kind of heavy topics,” Blades said.
But, she added, by lowering the barriers to broach them might affect change.
“It opens the conversation without fear. It gives people the opportunity to believe something can be better.”
Located at 1402 Union St., up a steep hill that doesn’t really go anywhere and with a sidewalk only up one side, Blades concedes her library does take a bit of resolve to reach. But she’s hoping people will be open to making the effort, even if it’s just her immediate neighbours out for an evening stroll. Because that’s how understanding will begin to ripple out to the community at large.
“You have to start somewhere,” she said.