Keewaytinook Okimakanak plans to print public-domain books this summer for youth from its member communities.
“It is beneficial for the kids to have these books up there in order to have access to them,” said Renee Loyie, a Lakehead University student who is working on the On Demand Book Service (ODBS) project over the summer at Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute (KORI) in Thunder Bay.
On March 29, the ODBS project held an online workshop in partnership with KNET Services, KORI, Keewaywin Public School and E-Centre, the University of Toronto, and Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form.
The book service is a web portal that brings together students from the faculty of information, University of Toronto and KO community members to work together on issues related to reading and literacy, said Nadia Caidi, an associate professor in faculty of information studies at the University of Toronto who is working on the ODBS project with Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO).
“The purpose of the On Demand Book Service is to support the joy of reading in rural and isolated First Nations communities within the context of learning, knowledge sharing and history recording,” Caidi said.
The project involves the use of either free online content through a web portal that is developed by community members, Caidi said, or through the creation of physical copies of texts created by the local community using ODBS printing and bookbinding equipment.
The portal can be found at www.odbs.knet.ca.
“In addition to online content that is linked from the ODBS portal, we have also embarked on an examination of reading needs and preferences of various KO members,” Caidi said. “Our aim is to assist community members in identifying content that would appeal to them, based on various target populations (children, youth, adults, etc.).
In addition, book titles have been sent to three communities and more funding for content is coming.”
KORI research director Brian Walmark said the project will increase the number of books available for primary school students and improve their literacy rates.
“We download copyright-free books, we print them off and distribute them to First Nations schools in KO communities,” Walmark said, explaining they print copies of the books on a high-speed colour copier and bind them on a book binder.
“We’re going to try every week or so to send a few more books up to kids up north.”
Walmark said one printer and book binder has already been delivered to Keewaywin and two other printers and book binders will be sent later this summer to Fort Severn and another KO community.
“In the meantime we are going to try to create as big a library of elementary school books as we can,” Walmark said.
Once community members realize the variety of books that can be created with this technology, Walmark said he foresees teenagers, adults and Elders asking for the latest books available through the project.
“They will be able to search out the title and then print it off and bind it and take it home,” Walmark said.
Caidi said the sky is the limit.
“The idea is to have a one-stop shopping when it comes to reading needs,” she said. “The key element is the importance of reading in one’s life and how we can support it.”
Caidi said future plans include the development of the ODBS portal into a virtual space where students and anyone in the northern communities can access and meet people such as Drew Hayden Taylor, ask questions and be inspired.
Hayden Taylor was a guest speaker during the online workshop March 29. He talked about his reading experiences while growing up in Curve Lake First Nation.
“He shared his impressions with the audiences about the importance of books and of reading as a practice,” said Caidi. “He also reflected on being a First Nation writer, and that there were not many role models out there for him. He also pointed out the lack of inventive, joyous literature coming out of Aboriginal writing circles but how that was changing.”
Hayden Taylor also spoke about the development of an edited volume of essays exploring Aboriginal writers’ take on science fiction during his hour-long presentation.
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