Reading wasn’t the only reason to head to Haida Gwaii’s libraries. Knitters and crocheters at the Port Clements Library met last year to work on rainbow blankets. (Andrew Hudson photo)

Reading wasn’t the only reason to head to Haida Gwaii’s libraries. Knitters and crocheters at the Port Clements Library met last year to work on rainbow blankets. (Andrew Hudson photo)

Haida Gwaii libraries announce their most popular books from the past year

These titles had islanders booking it to the library in 2019

Dystopian novels are so 1984.

In 2019, the most sought out genre at the Haida Gwaii libraries was a contemporary ethnography titled Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii: Life Beyond Settler Colonialism (2018).

The book, written by Joseph Weiss, a socio-cultural and political anthropologist at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, explores the intersections between time, mobility and Indigenous sovereignty based on fieldwork in Haida Gwaii, and strategies for how the Haida community addresses problems that come with a society under settler colonialism.

Patrick Siebold, library manager for the Haida Gwaii branches of the Vancouver Island Regional Library, compiled a list of the most borrowed books in 2019.

In second place was Women Talking, written by Miriam Toews. The book is an imagined response to a real-life event in 2009, where it was uncovered that eight members of a Mennonite group in Bolivia secretly sedated and raped hundreds of women.

In Toews’ book, eight illiterate women gather together before the offenders are released from jail to discuss how they can take their future and their community into their own hands.

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Unsheltered: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver made the top three picks at the Haida Gwaii libraries. The story follows two families living in the same house at two separate time periods in Vineland, New Jersey.

Another dual narrative with intersecting timelines will prove to be popular in 2020, predicts Siebold.

“In terms of our most anticipated titles of 2020 thus far a few notables are Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, which currently has over 500 hundred holds on it system-wide,” he said. “Also, the new Margaret Atwood title sequel to The Handmaids Tale, The Testaments, is proving to be very popular.”

Athlii Gwaii : upholding Haida law at Lyell Island, a collection of political and personal stories from more than 40 authors regarding the 1985 Athlii Gwaii anti-logging demonstrations, made the list at number four.

Promoting Indigenous programming at the library has been just as important as providing Indigenous authors.

“We plan to continue with our Indigenous Voices programming which sees local Indigenous folks provide culturally relevant programs at the library for interested community members. Last year we had respected Haida Elder Gladys Vandal provide traditional cedar weaving workshops in Queen Charlotte. And in Masset we had Haida Language expert and advocate Jaskwaan Bedard provide Xaad Kil Language courses at the library,” explained Siebold.

Siebold said the island libraries plan to roll out Multicultural Literacy Kits later on in the year. The kits are designed to help parents teach children their cultural language through books, songs and games, all in their own language. Other VIRL branches have kits in Metis, Punjabi, Chinese, Czech and several other languages.

Haida Gwaii readers are also getting handsy as Moods in Wire: An Extended Guide to the Fine Art of Wirewrapping, The Doughnut Cookbook, and Coastal Crafts: Decorative Seaside Projects To Inspire Your Inner Beachcomber all came in the top 10 list of most borrowed books, each offering DIY expertise in their own unique fields.

A Mouseford Musical, the only book specifically geared toward children to top the list, Noam Chompsky’s Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe, and Tara Westover’s Educated : A Memoir also made the list.

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With much of Haida Gwaii now connected through recent fibre optic internet upgrades, Siebold is seeing an upward trend to the digital, which he expects to continue.

“We are seeing a steady increase in the use of our digital resources or eResources. We currently have numerous free streaming services for movies, music, eBooks, eAudiobooks etc. that are rapidly increasing in popularity,” he said.

The Top 5 eBooks and eAudiobooks borrowed at the library were:

1. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, by Mark Manson

2. Glass Beads, by Dawn Dumont

3. Origin: Robert Langdon #5, by Dan Brown

4. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J. D. Vance

5. Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be, by Rachel Hollis


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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