A Saskatchewan woman with a passion for reading is in a bind over hundreds of thousands of books.

Shaunna Raycraft saved about 350,000 books from being burned seven years ago, but now she might have to strike the match herself.

Raycraft and her husband bought the books for $823 after a neighbour died and his widow was struggling with the collection.

"We had absolutely no idea what we were getting into," she recalled in an interview from her home in Pike Lake.

 

'There will be books being burned. That's the reality of the situation.'—Shaunna Raycraft

They couldn't afford to buy boxes to put all the books in and went dumpster diving for boxes. They had to buy another house to store the books.

Last year, they started noticing structural damage at the house.

"The building was starting to collapse and definitely showing signs of wear and we were getting roof leaks. It was misery and we were faced with losing the entire collection," said Raycraft.

The house was shored up and the weight of the books redistributed.

Raycraft even took out loans and borrowed money from friends and family to help save the collection.

"I thought about the waste. I thought about the fact that I love reading and I love books and I didn't want to see them burned. I thought about the legacy that this man had left behind, this man that I didn't know," she said. "This was his legacy, this was his life."

Some books, about 100,000, were given to non-profit organizations. Raycraft especially wanted to help children and northern Saskatchewan residents.

Storage house to be sold

But Raycraft and her husband are now separating and the book house needs to be sold.

Raycraft is planning a massive book sort from July 1 to July 7. Whatever is left over will be burned.

"Hopefully it will be very few books that will be burned. Hopefully I'll be able to recycle as many as possible and distribute as many as possible, but there will be books being burned. That's the reality of the situation, as much as I'm not necessarily happy with that reality, it is what it is," she said.

Some of the books, like old computer guides, are no longer useful. But Raycraft said some of them should be saved.

Political science text books, she said, could be sent to Africa where "the kids are thirsty, craving knowledge."

"It's a matter of determining who can best use the book that I'm holding in my hand at that moment. It's about determining where that book should go and it's about using that book to the best of its capability," she said.

"I think I'm giving life back to the books. I don't want them sitting on some musty shelf somewhere like they have been for seven years. I want them being used and read and enjoyed."