November 17, 2014

The quiet car: a library inside a train aims to raise local literacy rates


trainHow do you get young kids to go to the library? The children of Hamilton, Ontario can now pick up books from a 1954 CN passenger car known as the Larry Paikin Literacy Express.

The Rothwell Center raised $100,000, hoping to improve literary rates in Keith, a neighborhood on the north end of Hamilton. According to local news station CHCH, 43% of the residents in Keith are living in poverty, 37% have never finished high school and the drop-out rate of 17% is nearly three times higher than anywhere else in the city. A man named Larry Paikin, the head of a steel company nearby, helped to get the library up and running.

“Every child deserves an even chance to be educated,” Jeff Paikin, son of Larry Paikin, told Saira Peesker of the Hamilton Spectator. “For all the flashy-dashy buildings that exist in downtown Hamilton with people’s names on the side … [Larry Paikin]’d want to be on this railway car.”

With a collection of 1,500 titles, this is a pretty appealing place to pick up your next book. Seats in the railway car have been removed, and it offers both heat and air conditioning. There’s a “first-class” section of the car for quiet reading, and tables for parents to sit and have a cup of coffee. Operating costs are $20,00-$30,00 per year, and the library is mainly run by volunteers.

Don MacVicor is the founder of the Rothwell Center, and gave this project a big push as well. Volunteer Horst Streiter contacted someone he knew at Random House Canada, and many titles were donated by the publisher.

We’ve just presented you with all of these details without once using the phrase “back on track,” or any other train-related pun.



Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.