New Books, New Beginnings

It was too quiet in my library last year. Silence…crickets. There were no laughing kids, no one creating something in our makerspace, no one playing games and talking with their friends, and no one checking out books! Because of COVID protocols, students weren’t allowed in the library. The only way that students could check out books the entire school year was either by requesting a book online and using curbside pick-up or by me pushing a cart into classrooms for checkout. I missed the noise and I missed the interaction with students.

North Shore Middle School (NSMS) educates approximately 1,500 seventh- and eighth-graders in the Galena Park Independent School District located in Houston, TX. We are a diverse school with an 81 percent Hispanic and 12 percent African American population. We are also a Title 1 school with 85 percent of students classified as economically disadvantaged and 70 percent considered at risk of not graduating.

NSMS is located on the Houston Ship Channel, a heavily industrial area, and most of our parents work blue collar jobs. In 2017, our area was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey and some families are still struggling to recover after losing housing and possessions. The Covid-19 pandemic has added additional financial pressure on our families as they struggle to pay rent and buy food. It’s not uncommon to see lines that stretch far down the road for free food giveaways in our area.

Like most districts, Galena Park ISD in Houston, TX, decided to move to online learning in March 2020, immediately following spring break. Our district was not a one-to-one district at the time, so there was a scramble to get devices and WiFi access into the hands of our students. When it came time to collect the checked out library books at the end of the school year, we struggled to recover our inventory. Initially we had about 1,500 books missing. By the time we finished doing curbside drop-off for checked out items and vigorous contacting of students and parents, we ended the year with 776 books missing, worth a total value of $11,051.31. That seemed like an overwhelming obstacle to overcome.

We found out in June 2021 that we had been awarded an AASL Inspire Covid Relief Grant. What a blessing! Our plans are to use the funds to replace new inventory that was not returned and to invest additional funds into adding items to our Sora collection online. Using the funds this way will allow us to adequately reach all 1,500 students through a blended hard-copy and e-book investment. We’re replenishing and renewing our collection to be ready for whatever Covid-19 throws our way.

An even bigger blessing to our community is how the AASL Inspire Covid Relief Grant has given us hope. When our students found out that we had been given a check to purchase new books for THEM, they smiled, they cheered, and they sat in awe. Sometimes, just one thing can turn your situation around, and this grant has done just that. You have inspired hope into our community and we are so thankful.

My library isn’t quiet this year. Boisterous students come to the library every morning before school and throughout the day. It’s loud, energetic, and welcoming…just the way I like it.  Thanks again, AASL!

Author: Chari Kauffman



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