Multilingual and diverse book collection added to Newfoundland Library, thanks to community fundraiser

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As of this week, the children’s collection of public libraries in Newfoundland and Labrador has more titles than ever, thanks to a wave of support for a community-led fundraiser.

Prajwala Dixit raised over $ 3,000 last year as part of Diyas for Diversity, hoping to raise funds to put more multilingual and culturally diverse children’s titles on the shelves.

Dixit hand painted 440 diyas – traditional clay oil lanterns used in Diwali celebrations – and launched his fundraising campaign to strengthen the representation of different cultures in the library.

“More is always better, when it comes to knowledge. It never hurts to have more diverse books,” Dixit said.

“They have a fair amount of miscellaneous books, but I wanted to make sure it’s not just limited to St. John’s, that this collection goes across the province, so that’s what’s happening with this initiative.”

Some of the dozens of multilingual and culturally diverse titles available in the children’s collection. (Vaïda Nairn / Facebook)

Originally, Dixit got the idea when she noticed a handful of books on Diwali – a Hindu, Sikh and Jain festival of light – in the children’s library. But that wasn’t the only cultural tradition under-represented on library shelves across the province, Dixit said, prompting him to launch Diyas for Diversity.

“I asked the community to light up diversity diyas so that we could ignite young minds and bring the world to our children’s feet across the province, and they did,” Dixit said.

“The community came together and really supported, bought these diyas, and I raised over $ 3,000. And then it was really simple: it was just giving a check to the public libraries.”

Dixit gave the library a list of suggested books she’d like to see added, but left children’s librarian Leigha Chiasson-Locke to fill the shelves.

“They get good discounts, which I don’t have,” Dixit said.

This collection officially launched Wednesday at the AC Hunter Children’s Library in St. John’s.

“Hello to all of the librarians and to the Board of Directors for providing such wonderful support for this initiative,” Dixit said.

Like Wednesday’s collection unveiling, Dixit will also be launching its second Diyas for Diversity initiative, with the same goal in mind for next year.

The clay diyas are filled with canola oil and lit to celebrate Diwali. (SRC)

St. Paul’s Junior High and Roncalli Elementary in St. John’s have pledged to help, and The Rooms are also hosting a Diyas for Diversity family event on Sunday, where Dixit will talk about diversity and its culture. Information on upcoming events is available on the Diyas for Diversity Facebook page.

Dixit is optimistic about this year’s fundraising effort and believes she should be able to raise at least the same amount of money, with the same level of community support.

“This is hope, and if the community supports me, why not? The world is our oyster and the sky is the limit.”

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