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Local Book Donations Benefit Readers Across the Globe

Updated: May 4, 2023


Every day in a remote village in the Philippines, a group of indigenous children called Aetas walks to Iram Elementary School, mostly barefoot. There they eagerly read books marked “Donated by Friends of the Barrington Public Library.”

Of the thousands of books donated each year to the Friends of the Library, most are sold at bargain prices to directly benefit the library.

But not all find a home.

Fortunately, since 2014 the Friends have enjoyed a partnership with the nonprofit Hower-Bates Library Network (HBLN), which sends unsold books from the annual sales to schools and libraries across the Philippines like Iram Elementary.

Alvin and Prima Hower, who met and were married while Alvin was serving in the Peace Corps in the Philippines in the 1970s, formed HBLN in 2004. What started as a $400 purchase of books from a fall book sale soon after the couple moved to the East Bay has turned into a robust partnership over the past decade, resulting in more than 55 public schools and libraries in the Philippines receiving over 50,000 books from Barrington. What’s more, HBLN has helped to build five libraries there from the ground up.

The Howers personally fund the transportation costs to the Philippines. Friendly donors also contribute, as do the Hower’s grandchildren.

A few years ago, Typhoon Haiyan decimated Notre Dame High School in Jaro, Philippines, where Alvin worked as a Peace Corps volunteer over 50 years ago. Alvin and Prima will soon send more than 600 unsold books from the Friends fall book sale to help replenish what was lost in the typhoon.

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