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Wednesday, October 5, 2022


The Friends of the Florence A. Williams Library has told a St. Thomas Rotarian the two St. Croix public libraries could use about 7,000 free books, and he's more than willing to send over that many — and maybe even more.
The Rotarian, St. Thomas dentist Henry Karlin, has a total of about 40,000 books, most of them good reads in good condition, many of them suitable for school use, to distribute. They were donated by a mainland Rotary club to be given away to schools, libraries and community organizations.
On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Karlin, fellow Rotarians, several librarians and assorted other volunteers will start the process on St. Thomas. Most of the books are stored on the top floor of the Office Max building at Tutu Park Mall and in a tractor-trailer container parked behind the building.
Karlin would like to see the trailer shipped intact to St. Croix for the Christiansted and Frederiksted libraries. "I'm hoping the Crucians will take the whole thing," he said. "That would be a perfect world."
Where did all the books come from?
Earlier this year, Karlin, a member of the Rotary Club of St. Thomas, made contact via the Internet with the Rotary Club of Parole, Md., which ended up shipping two trailers full of books. They arrived about a month ago, "six weeks earlier than expected," he says.
Collecting books and then giving them away has been a Parole Rotary project for years, he said, with pallets being stacked for shipping twice a month. "They would get midshipmen from the nearby Naval Academy in Annapolis to help," and the books would be sent abroad, he said.
Karlin let them know that the schools and libraries of the Virgin Islands could use some books, and the response was positive.
The plan had been for the books to arrive after schools were back in session so that education officials and school librarians could be involved in the distribution process. However, the Maryland Rotarians sent the tomes off early "because they lost their warehouse space up there," Karlin said.
The local Rotary group covered the shipping costs of about $500. Rotarians and Don Collins and his crew at The Viking Corp. on St. Thomas volunteered with the unloading of the first trailer a couple of weeks ago. In the expanse of the Office Max building's upstairs, hundreds of cardboard boxes await opening. They contain books for elementary school readers, middle/junior and senior high school readers, and general readers, Karlin said. Still other boxes are in storage in Vitraco Park.
There's no inventory of the contents, but he believes the books for young people are storybooks, not textbooks.
Volunteers were due in today to set up display tables and begin opening the boxes and sorting the books. Saturday's effort at getting them onto bookshelves accessible to readers will just be a start, Karlin said.
As long as there are books and as long as Tutu Park Mall makes the space available to store them, there will be Saturday giveaways, he said.
In response to earlier media reports, a number of school librarians, as well as the Friends of the Florence A. Williams Library, have contacted him, and he has been approached about sending some books to Montserrat and some more to Antigua.
"We will give them to any organization that has a need for them," he said.
Saturday's open-warehouse free-for-all is intended for representatives of groups -— schools, libraries, youth and senior citizen organizations, civic entities and the like. However, if individuals want to come by and see what's of interest, Karlin will let them walk with whatever they want for "ten cents a pound or something like that."
Anyone who wants to know more should call "Doc Karlin" at 775-3147.

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