We can’t claim credit for writing or arithmetic, but the East Bay Children’s Book Project is proud to say that it’s easier for students in a number of Oakland public schools to get books to read, thanks to an ongoing project with Ann Gallagher of the Oakland Unified School District and the Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries.
In 2010, thirty-five of eighty-three Oakland public schools had no functioning school library. “They were all in a deplorable situation due to neglect and age,” says OUSD’s Gallagher. That sounded like just the right kind of challenge to Gallagher and to us at the East Bay Children’s Book Project. Over the past year and a half, we’ve teamed up with Gallagher and the Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries (FOPSL), and now the libraries are reopening with full shelves.
Gallagher and a group of dedicated volunteers have been on a crusade to renovate OUSD’s school libraries for four years. In August 2011 FOPSL came into existence and, says Gallagher, even more regular volunteers joined the cause. They have achieved amazing successes over the past year and a half, renovating and reopening libraries at Garfield, Frick, Madison, Howard, Hoover, Grass Valley, Reach Academy, and Marshall. Current projects include PLACE at Prescott and Community United/Futures. Although these projects aren’t finished and staff haven’t yet been hired, Gallagher says, “the students drop in and see the nice books on the shelves and we are hard-pressed to tell them they can’t have them” – so they allow some classes to come in on the days that the volunteers are working on the collection. To misquote “Field of Dreams”: If you give them books, they will come!
Says Gallagher about the East Bay Children’s Book Project: “We wouldn’t have felt so confident discarding those ratty old books unless we knew that we could get better books to replace them – and that means YOU!! Your steady commitment to delivering books to people in need has made all of the difference to us. We are forever grateful.”
This post is the first in a series about the crisis in school libraries in Oakland and California. If you have thoughts on this subject, please feel free to leave a comment.