A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

News & Opinion

School Libraries in Baltimore Don’t Take a Summer Vacation

by on September 29, 2016

Once school lets out for the summer, many students don’t set foot inside again until they absolutely have to. But at ten school libraries in Baltimore, Md., hundreds of students, mostly K–3, spent part of their summer in the library, learning hands-on through SummerREADS. SummerREADS started in 2014 in collaboration between the Maryland Out of School Time Network (MOST), the Baltimore Library Project, and the Baltimore City Public Schools.

Each summer, school libraries renovated by the Baltimore Library Project stay open for six weeks in the summer to offer drop-in programming to students from around the city. This programming is provided by staff and volunteers from MOST as well as community partners including Young Audiences Maryland, the Maryland Zoo, and Code in the Schools, among others.[1] During the six-week program, the libraries offer programming Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. On an average day, students show up at nine for a free breakfast from the Summer Food Service Program,[2] read aloud in the library until the first workshop of the day, followed by free lunch, recess, and a second workshop or other activity in the afternoon. The average program attendance this year was twenty-one students per day per location, with a wide range of attendance across the locations.[3]

In addition to the daily workshops and activities, participants in SummerREADS work on a long-term project at each library location. This year’s project was to create an Olympic stadium out of found materials. “We kept the description vague so students could develop, design, and be creative,” said Paul Mincarelli, SummerREADS program manager at MOST. “We ended up with ten very unique, different visions for what a stadium should include.”[4]

The libraries also play host to a small summer reading program. Students can log fifteen minutes a day of reading to earn prizes, and the schools give out ten self-selected books to all students, not just SummerREADS participants, through a grant from the Abell Foundation.[5]

Staffing SummerREADS is the hardest element to handle, said Mincarelli. MOST tries to keep the student-adult ratio at 15:1, so each of the ten libraries is staffed by the school’s librarian and two AmeriCorps counselors and supplemented by Foster Grandparents where needed. The AmeriCorps staff manages the daily programming, and the school librarian is on hand to operate the library, check out books, and be the connection between the schools and the students that participate.[6]  At Harford Heights Elementary School, librarian Hope Kimbrow also recruited student and parent volunteers to lead groups of students during activities.[7]

Although Baltimore is lucky enough to have support from big-name community partners, other libraries can and do put on similar programming during the summer. “What we’re doing is a model of what libraries can do,” said Mincarelli. “You don’t need a philanthropic arm to renovate libraries to do this.”[8]

And the program does more than just keep kids learning over the summer. “This program provides a safe haven for students. Students know they can come to a welcoming environment where they can be provide a fun, loving, and happy learning environment,” said Kimbrow.[9]

References

[1] Paul Mincarelli, SummerREADS program manager at MOST, in a phone interview with the author, August 19, 2016.

[2] Paul Mincarelli, “In Baltimore, The Library Is Open,” Huffington Post, July 22, 2016.

[3] Paul Mincarelli, SummerREADS program manager at MOST, in a phone interview with the author, August 19, 2016.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Hope Kimbrow, Library Media Specialist at Harford Heights Elementary School, in an email interview with the author, August 31, 2016

[8] Paul Mincarelli, SummerREADS program manager at MOST, in a phone interview with the author, August 19, 2016.

[9] Hope Kimbrow, Library Media Specialist at Harford Heights Elementary School, in an email interview with the author, August 31, 2016


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,



Leave a comment

Name required

Website