Grace Tulinsky was inspired to start her first book drive with African Library Project during the Summer of 2018 after she learned, through a research project, about the empowerment education can provide girls in Africa. Since then, she organized five book drives with ALP in Malawi, Swaziland, and Lesotho.
Grace chose to work with ALP because of the need for books in African schools. “I also loved how once I signed up for a library, a container manager emailed me every few weeks to check in with me and see if I needed any help.”
“When I started working with the African Library Project, I originally thought I would just collect 1,000 books and then ship them off to Africa. I was pleasantly surprised when I received a letter from the school in Malawi that I would be sending the books to!” Grace really enjoyed connecting with the various schools her books were supporting. She loved hearing about what kinds of books each school was interested in.
“When I received a letter from a school in Swaziland (my second library) I learned that they wanted books to help them understand science and math concepts in simpler terms. The third letter I received was from another school in Malawi (my third library). I learned that they just wanted easy novels to read. I was so excited to receive the letters at the start of each project because I got to have a personal connection with each of the schools when I learned about what was helpful to each school.”
The most challenging part of the process, according to Grace, was packing the boxes of books and getting them to the post office. She worked hard to make sure there wasn’t any extra space in the boxes. “I learned how to pack up the books in a specific way so that the boxes wouldn’t get crushed and the books wouldn’t get wet (by placing the books in a giant trash bag inside the box) so that I could ship them off to Africa!”
Through her years as a book drive organizer, Grace has learned the importance of reaching out to others in her community for help. “ I also talked to my school’s librarian, who donated a couple hundred books that were being withdrawn from the library. Additionally, my club held a bake sale every year to raise money to cover the cost of shipping the books.” She also encourages others to use a library cataloging app, “This made it easy to keep track of how many books I had collected as well as making sure that I didn’t have too many duplicates of books.”
Grace really enjoys working with ALP and encourages others to volunteer as well because, “through the African Library Project, you are giving books to people who don’t easily have access to books and reducing the number of books that end up in landfills – it’s a win-win!”