Stack the Shelves: Call to Action To Support Local School Libraries During Banned Books Week

Earlier in the week, we reported on a startling situation in Pittsburgh’s Northside – Manchester Elementary School had fewer than 40 books in their library and most were in poor condition.  More from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The librarian predicts that the 250-student school’s decaying fiction section has now grown from less than 100 usable books to more than 500.

Ms. Ramey, an American Council of Learned Societies new faculty fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, suggests that the Manchester situation not only highlights a community’s honorable response but also the disparity between educational opportunities in predominantly black, low-income neighborhoods and more affluent areas within the school district.

Theresa Cherry, the Manchester principal, said the school last had a librarian two days a week in the 2009-10 school year. When budgets were tightened, she had to focus on retaining core staff.

“We needed the classroom teachers,” she said. “Unfortunately, the librarian becomes a numbers game at that point. I wish it weren’t, but it is.”

The principal said parents in the struggling North Side community don’t have as much time to dedicate to parent-teaching groups, which bolster efforts at other schools when budgets force reduced services.

An unfair division of resources at the district level has also plagued the school.

“In the past we haven’t gotten the same share of funding as other schools, but they’re making an effort to provide equity now,” she said.

Among other improvements, a new plan called “Equity: Getting to All” was introduced by the district last month and is being implemented at Pittsburgh Perry High School on the North Side and Westinghouse 6-12 in Homewood with the aim of closing the racial achievement gap.

New requirements that each school have one day of library services are also improving the quality of education.

People are responding. And we have a challenge for you.

September 30 – October 6 is National Banned Book Awareness Week. Organizations around the nation commemorate the struggle to keep books available in public libraries, often with live readings.

We posit that poverty is the ultimate censor.  While its useless to point fingers at this stage, it is clear that a lack of resources for low income schools creates a dearth of books – a lack of any books is a powerful form of censorship. And it requires thoughtful systemic solutions – dialogues with the Pittsburgh Public Schools, the School Board, the Corbett Administration and more. The sustainable solution is to adequately fund our public schools and stop blaming public unions. This is *our* responsibility as tax payers and neighbors – not to simply organize book drives, but to demand that our children have the educational tools they need to receive a solid education.

For the immediate term, we are launching “Stack the Shelves” a book drive around National Banned Books Week. We invite you to take the following actions

  • Organize a book drive. You can access the Manchester librarians recommended reading list on Amazon.com – the lists is set up to send the books directly to the school.
  • Organize a book drive specifically around banned books – investigate age appropriate books that are considered inappropriate by “someone” … what do you think? Often LGBTQ books and other multicultural books fall into these categories.
  • BlogSwarm on Tuesday Oct 2 – write about this. Write about whatever resonates with you. The big picture of educational funding for public schools. The politics. Your own experiences checking school books out for the weekend. The books you loved. The books you want your kids to read. The books you are going to donate and why. The list of topics is endless. But let’s use the power of social media to “Stack the Shelves” and keep the momentum going to raise awareness about this issue.

Book Drive Details

Drop-off Spots: The Toonseum, K.S. Kennedy Floral and Bistro to Go will all accept donations of books during Banned Books Week (yes graphic novels are welcome) Books can also be shipped to the school directly

Pittsburgh Manchester PreK-8 (label packages for the Library)
1612 Manhattan Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15233

Types of Books: New books (preferably hardcover) appropriate for K-8. Special emphasis on chapter books.

What Happens to the Boooks? The librarians are assigned to multiple schools so they will be able to share the wealth for duplicates and extras. This is not an isolated situation.

Blogswarm – please sign up via email pghlesbian at gmail so we can include your blog. If you don’t have a blog, write a facebook status update or a note. Use social media to share the links. Anyone can participate from anywhere in the world. All we ask is that you encourage people to donate to this or their local school library.

Other Events: The Toonseum is offering a 20% discount on books purchased from their gift shop for this project.

For updates, we suggest you follow the blog Yinzercation 

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