Canyon Heights Elementary librarian Ian Cunliffe, known as "Mr. C," has launched a bookmobileto provide students at the North Vancouver school with reading material while they're stuck at home.photo Ian Cunliffe
by Ben Bengtson, North Shore News
Twelve-year-old Saajin Mann
can’t visit his school’s library right now, so he was thrilled when the
librarian at Canyon Heights Elementary showed up to his front steps with books
“My son was just so happy,
it was like Christmas,” said Kulvir Mann, Saajin’s mom, and a North Vancouver
School District trustee. “He hasn’t put the books down since they were
delivered at nine this morning.”
The delivery was made by
Canyon Heights Elementary librarian Ian Cunliffe, known to his students as “Mr.
Cunliffe launched a
bookmobile program to deliver reading materials and a hearty dose of cheer to
the nearly 400 students of his school who are stuck at home and without access
to the school library during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“My son is really missing
the school. Going to the library is a big thing for all the kids at Canyon
Heights, because everybody looks forward to going to the library and hanging
out with Mr. C,” said Mann.
Recalling West Vancouver’s
old bookmobile from decades past, Cunliffe says in the weeks following the
closure of all B.C. schools due to the virus he was struck with the idea to
take his library on the road.
“All that came rushing
back, that sense of wonder and joy about having a library show up outside your
house. I thought, let’s try that,” said Cunliffe.
with staff and administrators about how to do the bookmobile effectively and
safely, Mr. C hit the road Friday to deliver books and engage with students.
Canyon Heights parents or
students are invited to peruse the school’s library collection, which can
almost entirely be viewed online, at which point they can request up to three
books by emailing Cunliffe with the titles of the books they’d like, the
student’s full name and division, along with their home address.
Books are delivered
at a prearranged time each Friday, according to Cunliffe.
He said his favourite part
of the new bookmobile so far is just helping to brighten the day of his
students by reminding them about the power of reading and reigniting their
connection to their elementary school.
“Libraries aren’t about
books, they’re about people,” said Cunliffe. “They’re about making people feel
connected and establishing and growing a sense of community. That’s really the
most important part of my job.”
While there’s many requests
for the illustrated children’s novel series Captain Underpants, Cunliffe also
said he has observed that many students have been ordering books for delivery
that he knows they’ve already read.
“A book you’ve read and
loved is like an old friend, you can see them again and again – and I think a
lot of people are finding comfort in that,” he said.
Cunliffe, who has been the
librarian at Canyon Heights for seven years, fights back tears when talking
about how lucky he feels to serve his school community at a time when he knows
many families are struggling.
He’s appreciative of the
support he’s received from families and students thrilled at the prospect of
their librarian rolling by with a stack of books and banter, though he’s quick
to point out the real heroes during the ongoing pandemic are the front-line and
essential workers facing the virus head on.
“I want people to know
we’re all in this together and it will get better,” he said.
A website has been launched
with more information about the Canyon Heights bookmobile, he added.
On Friday, the first day of
the bookmobile program, Mr. C said the trunk of his car was overflowing with
books as he scanned through pages and pages of deliveries he planned on making.
“I’ve had some offers to
use a friend’s pickup, so I may have to take them up if this continues to catch
on. But what a great problem to have, right?”