Would I be willing to ride a pack-horse up a mountain side just to bring library books to people?
The children’s storybook That Book Woman tells the story of the American Pack Horse Librarians who traveled by horse, yes pack-horse, to bring library books in rain and snow right up the mountain side to aid literacy. Often, they read to those they found at the end of the trail for so many were illiterate.
Today, a man carries on this legacy.
John Wood officially co-founded Room to Read in 2001.
In the midst of successful and lucrative career, thirty-five year old Wood vacationed in Nepal. As he relates in Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, Wood responds to a chance encounter to view one of their schools. Once there, he is distressed by the lack of books in their barren library.
Bolding focusing on the possibilities of what he can do, he returns to Nepal a year later with 3000 books, carried in by donkeys.
Yet, clearly, that is not enough.
In developed countries, a publicly funded library is found in every neighbourhood. It gifts free access to not only to books it stores within it walls, but beyond through e-books. Andrew Carnegie funded 2000 libraries in North America.
One celebrated its 100 year in my city, a city that boasts 74% of residents use their local libraries.
These places transmit the inherent value of reading, literacy and access to free books.
But, this is not necessarily true around the world.
Currently operating in ten countries throughout Asia and Africa, Room To Read focuses on increasing literacy and gender equality in education in developing countries. Its programs develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children.
Room to Read celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2010, which included the opening of its 10,000th library, and construction of its 1,000th school.
Just as John Wood responded to a chance encounter by reflecting and responding to a life changing experience, thousands of lives now have a chance to change their life’s direction in response to having access to library books.
Even though I’m still unsure if I could ride a pack-horse, or a pack yak (as Wood did), to bring library books to remote regions and people, I am a bibliophile and consider books and libraries a life essential.
Wood is obviously a vibrant man with managerial talent, entrepreneurial zeal and a rather overachiever personality.
Yet, he is just one of many people who’ve embraced a new passion and changed their life mid-direction.
Being impacted by a life event can and will transform us, if we permit our time and our talents to integrate our evolving passions into our lives. It is just one way to live one’s life in crescendo.