>New Zealand Book Month: Interview with Lincoln Gould of Booksellers NZ and Jo Ockey, World’s Smallest Library, Whanganui

>While I prepare to move my next literacy project with Domingo Savio school in Peru, on the other side of the world New Zealand Book Month continues.

On February 22nd, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the city of Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island. Among the many people left in need of assistance after the quake were booksellers, some of whom had been hit by the previous tremor in September 2010.

At the close of 2010, New Zealand had already begun to address the legacy of the previous quake through initiatives like Scholastic’s special picture book Quaky Cat, designed to help children cope with the shocking events they had experienced. Now, the city finds itself once again recovering from a natural disaster, and a number of bookstores have been badly damaged.

Zoe Toft at Playing By the Book was one of many bloggers who drew our attention to various relief schemes and aid programmes being run by the children’s book world, here: http://www.playingbythebook.net/2011/03/02/books-for-families-in-christchurch-new-zealand/

Lincoln Gould, CEO of trade association Booksellers NZ, joined Books and Adventures for an interview.

He told us by e-mail that international booksellers’ organizations have been quick to offer their support: ‘In particular, the American Booksellers’ Association has not only donated generously to the Relief Fund but has also offered help based on their experience in providing assistance to Members following the Katrina disaster.’

‘Every effort is being taken to restore the availability of books to readers,’ Lincoln explained. ‘One group, Paper Plus, have established a special scheme to allow customers in other parts of the country to donate books for distribution in Christchurch. The Board of Booksellers NZ will administer its own relief fund, used to assist member booksellers in practical ways. One idea is that the expenses might be met for Christchurch members to attend this year’s annual conference, which by necessity has been moved from Christchurch to Wellington.’

Details of the relief fund can be found here: http://www.booksellers.co.nz/book-news/christchurch-booksellers-relief-fund

Meanwhile, in the North Island community of Whanganui, New Zealand Book Month took on a celebratory form as Jo Ockey and the team at Open Studios opened the World’s Smallest Library.

Based on an idea piloted in the UK, the project sees a working telephone booth in Whanganui transformed into a tiny book-swapping venue.

‘We’ve got stuff for all ages – everything from books for wee ones right though to the oldies,’ Jo told us via e-mail. ‘I have been trying to get folks to swap their favourite, not just any old book! There’s a real mixed bag: To Kill a Mockingbird up next to hand-bound books.’

The World’s Smallest Library is also the World’s Smallest Publishing House. Poet David Merritt will be taking up a residency at the micro-library during New Zealand Book Month. There’s a method to David’s madness as he perches on a park bench with a pile of old Reader’s Digests and Jeffrey Archer potboilers. Jo explains: ‘David makes new books from recycled ones – he cuts and stamps and in about 6 minutes creates these beautiful new editions with his own poems inside. David’s a very quiet man but every so often he may recite from the books too!’

The phone booth library is a bit of fun for local residents, but there’s also a serious point for Jo and the rest of the Open Studios team of community artists. ‘NZ Book Month gives us a chance to show the rest of the country a good side to our city. Over the past 6 years, we’ve had some bad press, but I want our town to realize how clever we all are – and understand that sharing is caring! Whanganui is a beautiful town with some spirited folks, and tons to do!’

For more information on the scheme, visit http://www.openstudios.co.nz/

Up next on Books and Adventures, more NZ news from the Create a Superhero project in quake-stricken Christchurch itself, interviews with Wole Soyinka prize winner Nnedi Okorafor and Finnish education minister Henna Virkkunen, plus charter schools and the future of US education. Stay tuned!

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