What happens when a student wants the newest manga, another copy of Thirteen Reasons Why, or their book club’s next read, and nary any of these requests can be filled? This is a dilemma many librarians face every day. I love seeing students’ faces light up when they hear the words “new books” or they discover a book they can’t wait to read. What I don’t love is having to tell them that I don’t have what they’re looking for.
My library suffered a major setback this past academic year when our funds were cut 75%. A school librarian should never have to decide between monies spent for newspaper and database subscriptions and books, but that is the dilemma my library faced last year. For many of my students, the school library is their only means of information and reading access, so the financial blow hurts them most.
I am finally at a point in my job where I can expand my library’s services and offer programs. Yeah! How will I make this happen, though, with my slashed budget? I did what many in the field of public service do: I went searching for money. This is what led me to apply for the Inspire Collection Development Grant.
The Inspire Collection Development Grant Award is not for me or just for my library. This grant is for my entire school and all of the students and staff who will benefit from the services, materials, and programs that it will provide. This past school year, I was fortunate to be able to collaborate with the local public library to provide joint library programs for the school. The programs were a big hit, and we look forward to partnering together next year for additional activities. This grant will allow me to purchase books for prospective programs such as Virginia Reader’s Choice, Cafe Book, Read-Alouds for the severely disabled classes, and my library book club.
This past year, the book club’s theme was multicultural literature. As we sipped beverages at Starbucks, while discussing our final book of the year, I looked around at the group of students who had gathered, and I thought that the title “Library Multicultural Literature Book Club” didn’t just refer to the type of books read, but to the participants. Somehow in a 100% free lunch, minority-majority school, Asian, Hispanic, African-American, and Caucasian students were drawn together by one commonality-a love of reading. If if weren’t for the school library providing books to these students, there would be no book club.
I’ve seen students, especially the disadvantaged or disengaged, find their voice and a purpose in something as simple as reading and/or discussing a book or participating in a library program. In the chaotic and often cruel atmosphere of my school and community, the library is a place of refuge. I see students who would spend all day in the library if they could and sign up for every program/activity offered. Most of these kids like to read, but there is something else drawing them to the library, something intangible that can’t be measured in statistics or explained to the higher-ups in the school board office and beyond, and in some small way, it validates my career choice.
So, as the school year came to a close, I was asked by both students and teachers if there would be a book club and more programs next year. Without hesitating or having to say, “I’m not sure. It depends on the budget,” I verified that there would be a book club and more activities. This grant makes that and all other library enrichment programs possible.