By MEGAN JAMES
VERGENNES — After a week visiting friends in Addison County, Pam Shelton is headed back to Botswana, where she lives six months of the year, bringing more than her own luggage. During her stay in the Vergennes area, Shelton collected 1,500 books destined for classrooms and libraries in the southern African country.
About 11 years ago when Shelton moved to Botswana, she founded an organization called The Botswana Book Project. Since then the organization has been responsible for distributing about 275,000 new or nearly new books to children and adults throughout Botswana.
The former head librarian at the Shelburne Village School, Shelton returned to Vermont last week to visit friends, but she couldn’t quite peel herself from the cause. She asked her friends Carol and Tom Spencer, at whose house in Addison she stayed, if they could donate a few books. They asked their friends if they could donate and those friends asked their friends. The results snowballed. Shelton also held an informal fund-raiser during her time at the Spencers.
“I didn’t want textbooks, I wanted the kind of books we all love — Danielle Steele, John Grisham — books kids and adults love,” she said of starting the project.
Shelton plans to return to Addison County again next year and will be looking for more books for Botswana.
The organization has also established 60 primary school libraries in the northern region of Ngamiland.
In Maun, where Shelton lives, the secondary school has tripled the size of its library since the project began to accommodate the addition of about 12,000 volumes.
According to the organization’s Web site, “The library database is enabling students to be effective researchers and the expanded collection provides them with the sources of information they need. Students are reading novels for pleasure, which has increased their literacy as proved by their test scores in English comprehension and vocabulary.”
About her work, Shelton said on her Web site she feels “like a book farmer… seeding the country with books.”
To find out more about the project, visit www.botswanabookproject.org.