It’s Literacy Week in Williams Lake and it marks the first one the Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy’s new president Anton Dounts has headed.
Dounts, a Russian-born and Montreal-raised first-generation Canadian, has been the area librarian for the Cariboo Regional District Library for the last four years. For most of that time, he has also been involved with the CCPL as a member of the board of directors.
It was the CCPL’s previous president and longtime pillar of the community, Bruce Mack, who passed away a year ago in March, who initially got Dounts interested and involved with the organization. When Mack approached him about joining the board, Dounts admits he was a little bit sceptical as he wondered what type of contribution he could make while maintaining a full-time position with the library.
Despite his reservations, Dounts said he acquiesced and joined up, a decision that proved to be very beneficial for him. Being a part of a non-profit taught him a lot and got him more deeply involved with the community, to the point where he became the vice-president of the organization a few years later.
Mack served as a mentor for Dounts during that time and he credits him with introducing the then new-librarian to many community members he works with today. He found this treatment extremely welcoming and was touched by the gesture.
With the unfortunate passing of Mack, however, Dounts became defacto president until his position was formalized at the CCPL’s recent AGM where he was elected for a two-year term that ends in 2021.
Dounts’ approach to his new position is based around providing as much support as he can to all the programs and initiatives put forward by the CCPL’s board members and staff.
“All the work that they’re doing, I think they’re doing a phenomenal job with the resources they have and really my perspective is that I want to be as supportive as I can so they can do their job as they see fit,” Dounts said.
The biggest lesson Mack taught him was the importance of networking and building relationships with community members to help fund and achieve the CCPL’s goals and services. Mack’s easy demeanour and affluent personality is something Dounts has done his best to borrow and use as president now.
In addition to maintaining what they have, Dounts hopes that they’ll be able to increase the Cariboo’s literacy rate by enhancing or providing programs that connect with illiterate people or people whose literacy may not include areas like financial literacy or digital literacy. Just because you can read doesn’t mean there aren’t other things you can improve upon, he observed.
To Dounts, literacy is a crucial part of being a Canadian and making well-informed decisions in the 21st century. In fact, he wrote an entire piece for this edition of The Tribune on the topic of misinformation and its dangers.
“It’s a tough question when someone asks you ‘why is literacy good?’ There are so many answers to that question,” Dounts said. “The ability to read and write and critically absorb and analyze information is imperative for anyone to be a well-informed citizen within a democracy.”
Thus far Dounts has enjoyed the camaraderie amongst the CCPl the most since accepting the presidency as he’s developed quite a few relationships with everyone involved. He finds it very enjoyable to be a part of the organization and help out as much as he can. Part of the reason he came to Williams Lake in the first place was to get the chance to make meaningful changes on a small scale, and this position is certainly allowing him to do that.