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Tuesday, July 5, 2022


Question: What do you do with 40,000 books in boxes, most of them good reads in good condition, many of them suitable for school use?
Answer: You give them away —- if at all possible, in a semi-structured way.
That's what St. Thomas dentist Henry Karlin, fellow Rotarians, several librarians and assorted other volunteers will be doing Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the top floor of the Office Max building at Tutu Park Mall.
The question was Karlin's to answer, because he was the one responsible for the two container loads of books being sent to St. Thomas earlier this summer.
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 the two trailer containers of books. They arrived about a month ago, which was "six weeks earlier than expected," he said.
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, Karlin 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," he said.
Shipping costs came to about $500. Rotarians and Don Collins and his crew at The Viking Corp. volunteered with the unloading of one trailer a couple of weeks ago. The other, still filled, sits behind Office Max. In the expanse of the 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 more boxes are in storage in Vitraco Park.
There's no inventory of the contents, but it's Karlin's belief that the books for young people are storybooks, not textbooks.
The plan for apportioning as many of them as possible Saturday is still somewhat in the making. Volunteers are 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 have contacted him, and he has been approached about sending some books to Montserrat and Antigua.
"We will give them to any organization that has a need for them," he said.
He's hoping the second trailer can be shipped intact to St. Croix. The Friends of the Florence A. Williams Library in Christiansted, on behalf of both that institution and the Athalie McFarlane Petersen Library in Frederiksted, "would like about 7,000 books," according to Karlin. "I'm hoping the Crucians will take the whole thing. That would be a perfect world."
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, he'll let them walk with whatever they want for "10 cents a pound or something like that."
Anyone who wants to know more should call "Doc Karlin" at 775-3147.

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