Traveling Library

Traveling Library

The Borgne ``Bookmobile``

In the rural areas of northern Haiti, books can be hard to come by.  The books available in the market are generally those required by the local schools and texts for learning French or English. Families must  purchase the required books for each grade level that each of their children will attend. They are generally soft cover books with low quality printing designed to keep costs low.  Sometimes the books can be passed down to younger siblings, but keeping a book in good condition for a year is challenging. Rural homes made from wattle and daub do not provide adequate protection from the elements and pests.  Flooding often carries away or damages printed materials during the hurricane season. Few families have books to read just for fun.

Johnny and Joan with Occius the librarian and Beulah the "bookmobile"

To bring the joy of reading to these under-served areas, we decided to start a traveling library.  Our books reach the hills outside Borgne by donkey back. Occsius, our librarian, rises very early in the morning to load up the donkey and walk up to six hours to reach a village. He spends the day working with the local teachers on specific programming or just letting children borrow his books. The library is intended to introduce children to reading for fun or for research, as opposed to reading simply to learn grammar or math.   

We have a variety of single titles that children can “check out” for a day as well as multiple copies of titles like “Clara Barton” and “Haitian Proverbs” that can be used for group reading, discussion, or working on reading comprehension. The librarian recently requested 50 copies each of three higher reading level non-fiction titles: “The 18th of May” on the history of Haitian Flag Day, “The Women’s School” about promoting female literacy, and “Haitian Artists”.

donated library books


By Sue Whalen and Judy Conley

Our mother’s nickname was Beulah – short for Beulah Witch! Many years ago, Judy, Sue, and a friend’s young son, Tim, were on their way to Judy’s and Sue’s home. Tim was misbehaving and was told he was going to be in trouble with a witch who lived in the house we were visiting. His response was, “Oh yeah? What’s her name?” And Judy said “Beulah.”

Upon arrival the garage door went up and there stood our petite mother. “Oh”, said Tim, “is that Beulah Witch?” From then until her death at 103 our mother was fondly called Beulah. 

When it came time to buy a beast of burden to tote the library books that we had purchased around Borgne, our nephew offered to buy a horse to do so, and he was given naming rights of the horse. Thus Beulah 1 became our library. Unfortunately Beulah 1’s life was short-lived, as she caught cold in a rainstorm and died. A donkey was suggested as a hardier animal and thus Beulah 2 was purchased. As far as we know she’s flourishing in the hills of Borgne, bringing knowledge and joy to the people we love!

Beulah and boy crossing the river