Wearing a rolled up black tee, a two-toned afro, torn jeans and a pair of worn converse, Alesia Aird does not appear like your conventional librarian. But then again there is nothing conventional about the Mt. Zion Library; founded by an unlikely trio consisting of a church, a writer and a grassroots organization and nestled between a barber shop and a cell phone repair shop in the heart of St. George’s.
It is a humid Wednesday afternoon and Alesia is busy writing up catalogues, brows furrowed in concentration as she seeks to mentally block out Peter Tosh’s powerful voice. She isn’t scheduled to volunteer on Wednesdays but the 20–year old musician and artist, whose name appropriately means ‘Helper’ in Greek is keen on spending whatever available time she has in service to the library.
Alesia plays the guitar and violin and ‘messes around’ with the piano and though music will always be her first love, Caribbean literature and Science Fiction novels are vying for a close second. When asked about her favourite book, she cited ‘The Duppy’ by Anthony C. Winkler and had difficulty explaining what it was about, “Yuh just have to experience The Duppy for yourself!” she exclaimed.
However Alesia wasn’t always a reader. In fact she recollects that reading had always felt like punishment; something that she was forced to do. She describes her experience in school as being analogous to teaching a fish how to climb a tree, as the school system failed to recognize and apply different styles and paces of learning. So how on earth does a non-reader become a volunteer librarian?
Alesia’s relationship with the library started a little over a year ago when her friend Damarlie Antoine asked her to assist in the sorting out of books. Being true to her name she came out to help and hasn’t stopped assisting since. She cites the “good vibes” of the people involved as what kept her coming back and the smiles of converted non-readers coming upon a book that they loved as the reason she stayed. “If this were a regular library I wouldn’t be here” she says. She believes it is the passion of the volunteers, for whom the library isn’t a source of income, and its location and origins which all give the library its unique characteristic and unorthodox feel.
“More smiles, more reading” she said, when asked about her dreams for the library, as seeing people, particularly persons who had never before enjoyed reading find a book they like brings a special joy to her. She notes that the library is increasing in popularity, particularly with secondary school students who mainly account for the average two member per day growth that the library is experiencing. Alesia is eager to see the library continue to grow and expand and hopes that persons from different walks of life will volunteer and contribute to creating more smiles, one book at a time.
Since this interview we’re happy to announce that Alesia has been hired part-time as head librarian alongside Shanna Julien. Look out for Shanna’s interview coming soon!
You can support the Mt. Zion Public Library, Homework & Reading Center by donating here.