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How One Mom Rejuvenated the School Library

Pam Lally brought her school's outdated library back to life.

Pam Lally
Pam Lally

By GreatSchools Staff

Pam Lally

Pam is the mom of two children. Her son, Ethan, was in fourth grade at East Gloucester Elementary School in Gloucester, Massachusetts, when she got involved with the library. Pam is active in the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) at the elementary school and formerly worked as an executive administrator for the CEO of a software company.

The Problem:

Four years ago East Gloucester Elementary School had a well-used library with a full-time library aide. The Gloucester School District,

however, faced severe budget cuts over the past several years, and had to make many cuts to programs and staff. The school lost its library aide and the library began a downhill slide. East Gloucester was lucky to have a retired man who volunteered in the library and kept it functioning so students could check out books, but many things didn't get done. Keeping everything in order was too much for a part-time volunteer. The library got very dirty and became a dumping ground for things teachers no longer needed in their classrooms. The book collection was outdated, and the card system was old and hard to manage.

Making a Change:

The East Gloucester PTO held its meetings in the library, which was in the center of the small school, and members often commented on how run-down and dirty it was getting. When the PTO raised several thousand dollars from a successful holiday fair fundraiser, Pam, who was co-president of the PTO, suggested that they spend the money on library improvements. The PTO agreed that the library was a priority and they got started. Pam's co-president, Juliana Hood, took over most of the PTO duties so Pam could focus on the library.

Pam and the other parents who helped took on two main projects: a physical rehab of the library and installing a bar-code system for keeping track of books. The physical rehab took the whole summer. Pam wanted to make the library look inviting and fun, but they did not have a huge budget. Pam herself painted the library, ordered carpeting for a rug area, moved the picture books to lower shelves so they would be accessible to kids, and ordered a new, space-saving table for the computer. She spray-painted the desk and file cabinet bright blue to liven up the room.

Teachers voted on their favorite quotes about reading and the winning quote was painted on the wall. It said, "Books are like a garden carried in your pocket." Two students from the National Honor Society painted a garden on the wall.

Four or five other parents and a local retired librarian spent the summer going through the book collection. They weeded out very outdated books and then donated them to Hands Across the Water to be sent to villages in Africa. They ordered new copies of worn-out favorites and ordered some new books. Old books were cleaned, mended and covered.

Pam also researched bar-code systems to automate the library. Many cost $20,000 or more, which was far beyond the PTO budget. Eventually they found the CASPR library system, which was far less expensive and had a modest yearly fee for storing files. Getting all the books bar coded was a big project, but with help from several parents, it is finally now complete. All of the physical upgrades, the new books and the bar-code system were completed for between $7,000 and $8,000 total.