In the wake of a cut in funding a decade ago, the library at the John W. McCormack Middle School on Columbia Point was closed, leaving students without a quiet, out-of-the mainstream place to study and read.
Neema Avashia, the school’s 8th-grade civics teacher, was in her third year when the library’s doors closed. Over time, she and her faculty colleagues tried to fill the gap by building classroom libraries using money from their own pockets.
“The effort was there, but it wasn’t the same,” said Avashia.
The teachers knew that the model wasn’t working and over the past 12 months, they, along with school administrators, have joined forces and started writing applications for foundation grants dedicated to literacy issues, a successful effort as it has turned out. They received a $7,500 grant from the Willow Tree Fund and another $7,000 that came from the Laura Bush Foundation, which each support the purchase of books. Donors Choose weighed in with $4,000 that went to furniture for the new 600 square-foot library space.
The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that enlists veterans in community service projects, provided ten volunteers who painted the room, which is nearly twice the size of the old library. All told, the teachers and administrators raised over $20,000 to re-build and stock the library with 1,500 new books and artwork.
On Monday, the school hosted a service day to begin to get the library in shape. A dedicated cast made up of students, alumni, faculty, staff, parents, and community volunteers assembled the furniture and catalogued and shelved the books in setting up an inviting space for renewed environment that is inviting to all and inspiring to students.
“It has been a great community effort, and it is cool to see the collective energy and excitement about it,” said Avashia.
The school hopes to have the library up and running by “the start of Term 3, the end of January,” according to Avashia. Administrators plan to hire a full-time librarian and give students opportunities to work or volunteer in the library after school.
“We commend the incredible commitment of our educators and families in raising money for their schools, including helping secure the resources needed to build and enhance libraries,” said Tommy Chang, the superintendent of schools in Boston.
“This is truly an exciting time,” said McCormack principal Jose Duarte of the educators’ efforts. “Their dedication will provide our students access to state-of-the-art technology to explore and do research online and to a range of hard-copy books to help them continue to deepen their love of reading. The space will also be used to ensure that all our students have access to the web and as a quiet space for homework after school.”
*This article has been amended to reflect a correction: The grant from the Willow Tree Fund was awarded to support the purchase of books. Donors Choose was used for the purchase of furniture.