Sili Village, Savai'i Island
In April 2009, I moved to the small, inland village of Sili (see-lee) on southeastern Savaii (Savaii rhymes with Hawaii). This is where I spent the bulk of my Peace Corps service, and I when I left Samoa in September 2010, I left my heart in Sili, Savaii.
I was assigned to the school, and the biggest project I worked on was, again, the library. Although the school had allocated a full-size classroom to their library and had large, sturdy shelves, they had a very poor stock of books (the generous shelving seemed to show a kind of optimism for expansion).
With the help of students and teachers, we sorted the books into proper categories (fiction, non-fiction, teacher resources), labeled the book accordingly and re-shelved them. We also tossed out old books including two copies of a book on U.S.-China relations from 1963 and a stenographer's handbook from the 50s. Meanwhile, I worked on soliciting book donations. We received a box from Darien Book Aid and generous donations from schools and teachers in my hometown of Houlton, Maine, altogether, increasing stock by nearly 300% (and expanding onto some of our extra shelves).
Meanwhile, I also created library reference guides and posters, including the Dewey Decimal system in English and Samoan, fiction and non-fiction, understanding call numbers, and parts of a book. I also began inviting classes into the library and teaching/co-teaching library lessons with Year 4 through Year 8 classes. We covered the basics of navigating the library, non-fiction text features, and using World Book Encyclopedia (on our two computers), as well as enrichment activities including visual arts, world geography, and world religions.
As I developed my own lessons, I assembled bilingual resource guides for Samoan teachers and other Peace Corps Volunteers working in Samoa, which included lesson plans and tips for maintaining a school library program. I drew upon the Peace Corps handbook Libraries for All! by Laura Wendell and the VSO guide Setting Up and Running A School Library by Nicola Baird became my Bible.
With my building principal and the district school review officer, I coordinated a district-wide library workshop for local primary school teachers (the training was even featured in the national newspaper).