Monday, November 16, 2009

A Clean Sweep

The truck from the Navajo Nation Library Book Drive has been unloaded and swept clean in advance of its return to U-Haul.

The truck carried 12,000 books and 10 computers some 2,300 miles from Reader To Reader’s home in Amherst, MA, to the Navajo Nation Library in Window Rock, AZ.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Jane Yolen Receives Norton Juster Award

Hailed as "America's Hans Christian Andersen,” writer Jane Yolen is the 2009 receipient of Reader To Reader’s “Norton Juster Award for Devotion to Literacy.”

The award was presented November 8th at the 20th Annual Children’s Illustration Show at the R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, MA.

Yolen has written over 300 books, won numerous awards, and been given six honorary doctorates in literature. Her writing spans diverse genres, including folklore, fantasy, science fiction, and children's literature.

Yolen has been a generous donor to Reader To Reader, including donating hundreds of books for the children that were affected by Hurricane Katrina.

We are pleased to recognize her for her outstanding contribution to literacy.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Reading relay: 10,000 books from Valley project on way to Navajo Nation readers

Nick Grabbe
staff writer
Daily Hampshire Gazette

AMHERST - Thousands of books from local library sales made their way across the country this week, headed for Navajo readers 2,300 miles away.

Reader to Reader, an Amherst organization that has collected and given away 2.5 million books in the past eight years, received a visit this week from Irving Nelson of the Navajo Nation Library in Window Rock, Ariz.

On Tuesday, he and an associate rented a 26-foot truck and loaded 10,000 books, along with 10 computers donated by Amherst College, into it.

On Friday, they were expected to arrive in Window Rock, which is on the New Mexico border. Nelson will catalog the books and make them available to 280,000 people who live in the 27,000-square-mile Navajo area.

"We are a book-rich community, and we have so many libraries," said David Mazor, founder and executive director of Reader to Reader. "They have one central library with responsibility for a massive area. This is something that we have a surplus of that we can share with them."

Reader to Reader acquired two-thirds of the books by screening 100,000 volumes left over from sales in Amherst, Northampton, Sunderland, Belchertown and Granby, Mazor said. The Mystery Writers of America donated 2,000 books, and the 7,000 people on the organization's email list contributed most of the rest.

Amherst College employees have previously used the donated computers, and they have been refurbished and given new software, Mazor said. They will double the number of computers at the Navajo Nation Library.

"The books will get heavily used," said Nelson. "They'll go out across the entire Navajo Nation. People will come long distances for them. And we don't have enough computers to meet the needs of our people."

About half of the books are for children and young readers, the age range where the library gets the most use. Nelson provides books to 125 elementary schools in the Navajo area, some seven hours away from Window Rock, he said. In addition to the mysteries, there are about 80 art books and lots of cookbooks and volumes on Native Americans, Mazor said.

The library has 73,000 books, plus magazines, newspapers and a reference section that gets inquiries from all over the world, Nelson said. Mazor said he has set a goal of providing the library with 100,000 books and 100 computers over the next five years.

"This for us is just the start," he said.

Reader to Reader is based at Amherst College's Cadigan Center for Religious Life on Woodside Avenue. Last May, Mazor took a group of Amherst students to the Navajo area; he is planning another trip in March.

The Navajo Nation is paying the expenses of flying two people from Albuquerque to Bradley International Airport, and the $2,600 cost of renting the truck. Transporting the books this way is more cost-effective than shipping them, Mazor said.

"This is so gratifying," Nelson said. "I'm not going to even see the impact on the kids, but I've seen photographs of them with the books. That makes it all worthwhile. In the long hours driving home, we'll be imagining smiles like that all over the Navajo Nation."

Mazor insists that all the used books he donates be in excellent condition, almost like new ones. Reader to Reader has supplied books to 400 schools and community libraries across the United States, and is about to launch its first overseas program in rural Costa Rica, he said. It donates more than 1,000 books a week to schools and libraries in Holyoke, Chicopee, Springfield and West Springfield, he said.

"Our mission just continues to expand," Mazor said. "The demand in the recession is greater than ever."

The Navajo campaign has been one of the most enjoyable ones he's been involved in, he said.

"We worked together on strategies of what books to collect and a vision of what the drive should be," he said. "It's a lot of fun, and I'm excited to be growing this program."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Greetings from Amarillo, Texas!

As of 9:30 PM, Thursday night, the truck full of 10,000 books and 10 computers bound for the Navajo Nation Library, was 75 miles east of Amarillo, Texas.

The truck is expected to arrive in Window Rock, Arizona, on Friday afternoon. The truck departed Holyoke, Massachusetts, on Tuesday morning.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

1,2,3…15,000 Books

Start with the biggest U-Haul they make and it's as easy as...


Well, not really.

Start with 15,000 books and a dedicated team of volunteers, and in only two hours loaded from stem to stern and ready to hit the road for three 18-hour days of driving.

Next stop the Navajo Nation Library in Window Rock, Arizona!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Navajo Nation librarian Nelson receives national awards

Gallup Independent
by Karen Frances
Diné Bureau

WINDOW ROCK – Starting as a bookmobile driver and now working as program manager of the Navajo Nation Library system, Irving Nelson has seen the library grow in the past 32 years.
Now he is being honored for his service to the public with three national awards.
Nelson has won the first-ever Prism Award from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, a Lifetime Achievement Award for the Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums Conference, and the Librarian of the Year award from the Reader to Reader program.
Nelson said winning three prestigious awards within two months is “unbelievable” for him.
“I’m just doing my regular job duties, but I’m finding out that we’re doing more than other libraries,” Nelson said.
He said he gives a lot of credit to his staff.
“They are so hard-working. They helped every step of the way,” he said.
On Monday, Nelson is flying out to pick up his latest award – the Librarian of the Year – and to transport a truckload of books back to Navajoland.
Nelson had met David Mazor, the CEO of Reader to Reader, over the summer, and Mazor had a goal of collecting 100,000 books and 100 computers for the Navajo Nation Library.
“They’ve been collecting books over five months,” Nelson said.
Nelson and some staff members will pick up a U-Haul and drive the 2,300 miles back with the donated books and six computers.
When asked how it was to be one of the first two recipients of the Prism Award from the National Museum of the American Indian for public service, Nelson broke out into a huge smile. “Oh, that was so awesome,” he said.
His expenses were paid to stay at a five-star hotel and attend an opening reception and the awards ceremony on Oct. 7.
“It was like something out of the movies,” he said.
Nelson was introduced by actor Wes Studi and spoke for more than 20 minutes when he accepted the award.
The award itself is made from the same material used to construct the Smithsonian museum, Nelson said.
NMAI director Kevin Grover said, “We were looking for those quiet heroes from our hometown who are good hearted and committed to the betterment of peoples’ lives.”
These individuals go largely unnoticed by the outside world, Grover added.
The next award Nelson won was the Lifetime Achievement Award on Oct. 21.
“When I first heard about the Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums award, my legs turned to jelly. I had to sit down. It was a tremendous shock,” he said.
He is winning awards now, but when Nelson and the library program first moved into the Navajo Nation Museum where they are now located, there were only about 17,000 books. Now there are more than 77,000 books, many of which have been donated.
Nelson has made many trips across the country to pick up those books. He has established relationships with various people and organizations that collect the books, but it all started with Greg Smith, who also nominated Nelson for the Prism Award.
“From there, I started working with other organizations,” he said.
The book collection has grown, and so has the number of visitors. When the library first opened at its present location in October 1997, it was receiving about 200 visitors a month. “Now we’re at 300 a day,” Nelson said.
“When people came to this library they would say, ‘What kind of library is this? There’s no books.’ I took it to heart and started working to get books,” he said.
The mission for the library is to increase literacy on the Navajo Nation, and the library does so by sending out donated books to the chapters.
“People in outlying areas, they’re not picky about what they get. They just want anything to read. They’re hungry to read,” Nelson said.
One project that the library is working on is distributing the book “Little Black, A Pony” by Walter Farley to all the first graders on the Navajo Nation.
The hard-cover book is written in English and Navajo, and is illustrated by Bahe Whitethorne Sr. The books were donated to the Department of Diné Education by the Black Stallion Literacy Foundation in Florida, Nelson said.
Other ways the library helps to increase literacy are the summer reading programs and special loans available for teachers on the Navajo Nation.
Nelson has seen the many changes that libraries go through. “When I started there were no computers, no Internet, no video games on the Navajo Nation and I used to use an electric typewriter to type catalog cards,” he said.
Now the library has 11 computers, which draws people in all the time.
“We have a waiting list everyday, people wanting to use computers,” Nelson said.
The library has an extensive Native American collection including 1,200 books on Navajos and oral Navajo history recordings.
It’s one of Nelson’s goals to digitize those recordings. Doing so would cost about $300,000, he said.
“Once we have that done we’ll be able to put that on a server so all that information will be available,” he said.
One of the most recent developments for the Navajo Nation Library system is the establishment of a library in Kayenta last year.
The Kayenta library is noisy because it is currently in the recreation center, but Nelson and the community are working to relocate it. Navajo County library district is donating a mobile home to house the library and the Kayenta Township is making plans for it, Nelson said.

Copyright © 2009
Gallup Independent

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Packed Up And Ready To Go!

7 Tons of books and 10 Dell Pentium computers are packed and ready to go Tuesday morning to the Navajo Nation Library in Window Rock, Arizona.

The mountain of 15,000 books has been stored in warehouse space in Holyoke, MA, that was generously donated by David White and Exclusive Car Service.

The books will be loaded by forklift into a 26” U-Haul and library director, Irving Nelson, will personally spend three 12-hour days driving the books to the Navajo Nation.

We have worked very hard to make his efforts worth while. More than 50,000 books were sorted through to create the 15,000 book donation.