It is a huge book collection that needs help.
Shaunna Raycraft (nee Dosch), originally from Annaheim, rescued a collection of about 350,000 books from being burned after a neighbour at Pike Lake who owned the collection passed away.
Now she is looking for help sorting through the books.
“I still have about 250,000 books and now I’m in a situation where my personal life is altered — my husband has left me — and we have to liquidize our property,” said Raycraft.
She is planning a huge book sorting from July 1-6 to go through as many books as possible.
When she rescued the collection of books from a fire seven years ago, she didn’t realize how much work she was taking on.
After agreeing to look at the collection, Raycraft and her husband were shocked at how many books were in it.
“(My husband) found a three-storey house, filled floor to ceiling with books,” said Raycraft.
When they asked her what she would be doing with the collection, the woman said she would burn them is no one would take them.
After discussing it, Raycraft and her husband offered the woman their savings — about $800 — for the collection. She agreed.
“To give you an idea of how many books there are, it took us nine months to move them,” said Raycraft. “We had to buy a house and move a house onto our property strictly to store the books in.”
Although the house is still packed with boxes full of books, the amount has come down a lot since she first took on the collection.
Raycraft explained with irony, “anything left over on the sixth is going to be respectfully put to rest in a mass burning.”
She does not want to burn the books and would rather see them put to good use.
“It is important to me that we don’t just destroy this resource that kids can benefit from in our back yard and our own back yard,” said Raycraft.
She has worked with schools and monasteries in Africa and is currently working together with the Saskatchewan Northern Literacy Co-ordinator to bring the gift of books to those less-fortunate.
“When I hear stories about how our Native populous is being taught in schools with virtually nothing — some communities in the far, far north actually teach kids to read with soup cans because that is what is flown in,” said Raycraft. “There is such a shortage of books, it’s phenomenal.”
Although she would like to rescue as many books as possible, she doesn’t have time to sort through the 250,000 books left.
“I can’t do anymore than what I have done,” said Raycraft. “I need volunteers to come and help.”
Last year, she was surprised at the number of volunteers that came out to help when she became an international news sensation.
“Last year, I had about 70 volunteers come out during the course of the summer and we sorted about 100,000 books,” said Raycraft. “I had people from every walk of life come and help me sort books.”
She cannot afford to pay people to help, but said she will pay people with books.
“You come out and sort books for a few days, you can walk away with a few books, I have no problem with that,” said Raycraft. “I’m not just having a free-for-all. There has to be organization and there are books that have been slated (for the African and Northern Canada schools).“
Although in the past she wasn’t willing to sell the collection, after her book sort this July, she explained if someone wanted to take on the project and buy the books, she’d be willing to pass it on to someone else instead of burning the books.
“I would be completely willing to let someone else take on the collection,” said Raycraft.
Even though she would love someone to take it on instead of burning it, she explained it is a lot of work, which most people don’t understand.
Raycraft admitted even though she does not want the books burned, “once I have this done and dealt with, it will be like a huge weight has lifted — like 60 tonnes lifted off me.”
Raycraft encourages people from her home community to come out and help sort books this July.
“I’m trying really hard not to let this man’s life’s work go to waste,” pleaded Raycraft.
People interested can contact her through the Raycraft Book Collection group on Facebook or e-mail her at email@example.com.
She will be posting directions to the acreage closer to the book sort.