Community Stories: A Lifetime of Books - Francoise's journey
To celebrate Children's Book Week this year - May 2nd-8th - Library For All is proud to highlight one of our Haitian team members, Francoise Thybulle, about the impact of books in her lifetime.
Francoise Thybulle is former Director of the Haitian National Library. Though she retired her position in 2012, Francoise joined Library For All in 2014 to lead the curation of Library For All's digital library for Haiti - a collection filled with books in Haitian Creole, French, English, and Spanish.
My name is Francoise Beaulieu Thybulle and I am a librarian. My convictions, actions and long journey practicing in the field allow me to say that proudly.
Librarian!? Why?? The question everyone pondered since the day I chose to follow that path. My family, friends and even teachers made me feel as if I was becoming a nun… In fact…being the only girl in a family of 6, I had to be near my parents at all times, (the boys were free to move around, but not me).
So, books became my closest friends in the corner of my bedroom during a necessary 'siesta.' The fulfillment and joy books brought me rapidly became a tool in class: I was able to answer all questions before my classmates, could write better French and travelled through readings faster and farther than anyone else … It was 20 years before physically visiting France, but I already knew the taste and aroma of freshly baked French bread…which is why a French bakery was the first place a rushed to when I finally visited Paris.
I had the privilege to attend a school in the U.S., which at the time was the only Ivy league with a very good Library Science school. 116 Broadway, Columbia University in New York, NY… Yes! I am a New Yorker at heart. I did not even participate in the Graduate School ceremony, having been so eager to go back to Haiti and put my hand in the dough of development. My father’s command was 'God seeds where he wants you to grow your roots and bear your fruits. Every substance acquired in foreign land is precious… you must come back to fertilize your soil.'
Rebuilding the Haitian National Library
So I did. Imagine a country with 7- 8 million people, where only 5 people could call themselves librarians. I was needed badly indeed! After the first week of my arrival, I accidentally met a Minister who offered me the Head position at the Haiti National Library… what a challenge! The main library had just weathered 2 consecutive hurricanes which left it physically and institutionally devastated… 3 years had passed without government intervention; they needed to repair and reopen.
My first visit was the nightmare of all libraries! No windows, no roof, soaked books… They had taught me everything at Library School - except how to start a library from scratch! I spent 32 years as Director in a very politicized Haiti…it was a public servant record. After repeating the 'start from scratch' process due to the 2010 earthquake, I retired in 2012.
Library For All in Haiti
It was in the comfort of my retirement that a young librarian I had mentored introduced me to the Library For All staff. The product was demonstrated and I immediately fell in love with the extreme possibility of a digital library for my people. Sincerely, I became convinced after a tour of schools that read using Library For All’s platform. The team took us to a heavily populated area in a school established in a poor, Creole environment. I saw little girls, same age as my grandchildren, read from their tablets in perfect French with light and pride in their faces.
That brought tears to my eyes…I am still fascinated by the capacity of that digital library to raise the level of education in Haiti. Haiti, the first black republic of the world, became independent in 1804 after a revolution of 4 decades of slavery …We are still proud of our victory over Napoleon’s army. Despite a very large amount of illiteracy - 35–40% in Haiti - my country has a very prolific literature. We publish close to 600 titles a year. When added to 212 years of my country’s existence, it becomes quite a package! As a member of the jury of the oldest and most prestigious Haitian Literary Prize, we receive 60 to 70 manuscripts to be evaluated…half of them are usually worthy of publishing. The possibilities for distributing content digitally to students in Haiti are endless.
When Tanyella asked me to offer my experience towards Library For All’s effort, I thought Library For All was already mine! Working at Library For All helps me to fulfill a dream that we all hope will become a reality: that every child will have access to the books they need. I am learning more about my country’s school system through Library For All… In some ways, it gives me a belated opportunity to mend the educational system’s weaknesses. I have a deep conviction of providing everything I can to make Library For All illuminate Haiti, and I hope you will join me in spreading Library For All throughout Haiti and across the developing world."