We stepped off the ferry and into Coho Joe, a local haunt. No sooner did we walk through the door than C was greeted warmly by name. She introduced me to two women, one a local artist, and both heavy library users -- one of whom we would see later that day.
|Coho Joe is my kind of place.|
|An adorable menu, great food, and amazing coffee.|
The small library, walking distance from the ferry, is incredibly well-loved by its community -- voracious readers whose tastes run a full gamut from esoteric nonfiction to paperback westerns. Twice a month a local textile artist leads a craft. A group of teens are working on bullet journals. C and I are planning a seniors program.
Most Sointula kids commute by ferry to school in Port McNeill, but there are also many homeschoolers. Public libraries everywhere are vital resources for homeschooling parents, and perhaps even more important in a small island community.
|How you know this is a stock photo: note the blue sky and sun.|
While we were there, a mom stopped in with a toddler, and C and the little girl did some building with connector straws. One of the women we met in the cafe also came by, and I worked with her on using the library's new website to access digital resources. What fun! I love doing "e-help" with motivated users, especially when we have to figure out some of the answers together.
Ever since learning its library would be part of my portfolio, I have been extremely intrigued with the town of Sointula. It began life as a utopian community, founded by striking coal miners! The name itself means "place of harmony" in the miners' native Finnish.
I've always been fascinated by utopian communities. In the 19th and early 20th century, there were several in New York and New Jersey, but you really have to dig to find any of the history. The dissident roots of Sointula are much easier to find -- in fact, it feels as though they are on display. The town is proudly eccentric and almost defiantly independent.
|View of Sointula from the Port McNeil ferry.|
A brief west-coast geography lesson
Between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland, in the Strait of Georgia (or the Salish Sea) there are more than 200 islands, collectively known as the Gulf Islands. Gabriola and Salt Spring Islands are the largest of the Gulf Islands, and also the most convenient to the population centres of Vancouver and Nanaimo.
|Southern Gulf Islands|
|Here you can see where we live relative to the islands.|
Note Nanaimo on both maps. Nanaimo is a 90-minute ferry ride from the city of Vancouver.
Still farther north is Haida Gwaii, an archipelago that is the heart of the territory of the Haida nation.
|Note Port Hardy, our North Island town.|
There are four VIRL libraries on Haida Gwaii.
|For more perspective, note Haida Gwaii relative to Alaska.|
You will occasionally hear people call Haida Gwaii the Queen Charlotte Islands, or just "the Queen Charlottes". The name Haida Gwaii -- which predates the anglo name by more than 10,000 years -- was returned to official status in 2010.
There is a movement to officially change the name of the province of BC as well. As this columnist wrote in 2016, the name itself is shameful, which may partly explain why one very rarely hears the full name spoken.