We can all agree: libraries are magical.
They’re places of knowledge. Of enjoyment. Of growth. The library is a welcoming, encouraging environment.
We can all also agree to this: not everyone has a library.
A fellow Book Rioter shared a link a couple of weeks ago about a small town in rural, impoverished California which has no library — the students in the local schools, especially, were missing out on reading opportunities because they lack the resources and access to them. It’s a clear case of “free ebooks” not solving the underlying problem plaguing many who are part of the lower class. If you don’t have the tools, the ereaders, the internet, and you don’t have a physical library, then you have nothing to work with.
The longer I thought about this situation, the more I realized that sharing the call for books for this library felt vital. More than that, I wanted to put out the call and ask if you, STACKED readers, would take up the charge in helping publicize this call for books, as well as help stock this library so when students arrive back at school in the fall, they’re overwhelmed with choice?
I live in a town of 1200 people in the Northern Sierra Nevada –where it meets the Cascade Range near Mt. Lassen National Park and about two hours drive northwest of Reno, NV. Two hundred of that population is students. Over the years as the population dwindled after mines closed, then mills–nothing except tourism and retirement have emerged as ‘industries.’ Many businesses have closed down and with it many things we take for granted—like libraries.
The local junior/senior high school has not been able to purchase new books since the 90s. Some of the “check outs” for old books are in the 1980s. There are no books by people of color in the library. Hardly any books by women are in the few book cases except your standard Austen and Lee. It’s an uninviting place. There hasn’t been a librarian for nearly a decade. And volunteers weren’t allowed. The last eight years students couldn’t even check out books.
I’ve lived here 13 years. I’ve watched kids succumb to despair. Our suicide and alcohol abuse is rampant as it is in many small rural communities. 75% of our county is beautiful national forest. 44% of jobs are government jobs—mostly forest service. There used to be mills but they closed down in the 90s. So much of that other 56% is underemployed and unemployed. It’s a beautiful place to live but it’s also a scary place for the mind to atrophy. We have a median income of under 30K. At the local elementary school 2/3 of students qualify for free lunch. Getting the picture?
Things though, as she notes, are changing. This will be the first year that the school will have a library again. It’s actually one library that will serve two separate schools: Greenville Junior/Senior High School and Indian Valley Academy. Both schools have principals that are supportive of bringing the library up to date, but they lack a budget to bring it up to the 21st center.
More from Margaret’s post:
We need racially diverse books. We need graphic novels. We need women’s studies. We need science. We need series. We need film. We need comics. We need music. We need biographies of important people. Looking for Young Adult. Classics. We want zines! Contemporary. Poetry. Everything that would make a difference in a young person’s life. Writers send us YOUR BOOK. We have many non-readers who we’d love to turn on to reading. We need a way to take this tiny area and bring it into the 21st century. We have a whole bunch of kids who don’t like to read because all they’ve ever been given is things that are either dull , dated, or dumbed down.
The students who are excelling are doing so because they have supportive parents at home and access to books and tablets elsewhere. But most students are without.
What Margaret would like is for people to send her Just One Book. By donating a single book to the library, you’ll help build it from the ground up. All of the information for where to send books is available here, at the bottom of her initial post.
I reached out to ask whether there was a wish list or anything, and indeed, teachers at the schools helped build a wish list of titles for the library collection. You can access the entire list here.
If you can do so, I hope you’re willing to send a book or two to this powerful cause. But if sending a book or choosing a title seems like it might be too much work, I am happy to collect money via Paypal, the same way I did with the #1000BlackGirlBooks project, to send the library a huge collection of titles. I’ll mine booklists put together by professionals to send inclusive titles, to send feminist titles, to send great comics, and more. Since collection development and teen lit are my specialties, I feel more than capable of ensuring that a lot of really great, exciting, interesting stuff gets sent that way.
I will collect financial donations through Paypal through July 10. If you’d like to help, you can send your donation to my email address [which will be deleted from this post on July 10]: kellybjensen /*/at\*\ gmail.com. Remove the fancy slashes and dots.
We were able to raise $3000 for #1000BlackGirlBooks together, and we were able to send 1000 copies of Some Girls Are to Charleston, South Carolina last summer. Can we rally together and make this small library something spectacular?
Even if you don’t donate cash, sending them, as Margaret notes, “Just One Book,” will help them get there. If you can’t do either, share this post and/or Margarets so the word gets spread.
It’s heartbreaking to hear stories like this. But it is incredible to see motivated people wanting to do best for their communities and the kids in it. Here’s a chance for us as book lovers to lend a hand.