How do I find, collect, beg, borrow (but not steal) new books for a school library that is filled with 30 year old, out of date, books?
September 15, 2011 7:28 PM   Subscribe

Boy brought home this ancient science book from the school library. I mean, so ancient that it was just flat out false. (It was about global warming, and had been written in the 80's and 90's. It was hopelessly out of date.) When I talked to the librarian about it, she said that they had almost no books newer than 10 years old, and that more than half the collection was over 25 years old. It is one of the oldest library collection in North Texas schools.

See, we share a tax district with Plano schools, which means I pay as much in tax to the county as if I lived in Plano...and while Plano kids get free laptops and football stadiums and orchestras and gardening classes, our schools get no funding and 30 year old books in the library. Welcome to school in America, where the rich get everything, and the rural students get bupkiss.

I want to do something to get newer books in to the library stacks, but I'm not even sure where to begin. Obviously, I don't have the resources to replace the stacks out of my own budget. If you were trying to get a metric ton of books delivered to a school filled with kids who have never seen new library books, where would you start?

As far as tax disbursement is concerned, I'm researching where to start addressing that problem. We've just moved into this district this year, and one of the reasons I bought the house was because it was in a county that had such outstanding education. I had no idea that one city (Plano) was siphoning off all the money and not giving any of it to the tiny little school districts in the county...and while I'm willing to chase that dragon to try and right that wrong, in the meantime, I'd like to get new(ish) books into the hands of these kids.

Mefi is a fantastic collection of people who know how to do damn near everything. Help me figure out how put books in the hands of poor kids.
posted by dejah420 to Education (61 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't anything I have personal experience with, but this seems like the kind of thing the Gates Foundation is interested in. And they've got Bucks.
posted by colin_l at 7:32 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

If I remember correctly, college professors get sample textbooks sent to them by publishers trying to entice them into using books for courses. The same thing must happen with high school and primary schools. So maybe try starting a campaign to solicit donations of those sample textbooks?
posted by XMLicious at 7:36 PM on September 15, 2011

I'm assuming you're looking to build a full library. This is feasible!

Your first step is to build a book list. Consult a fashionable English teacher in your area to get an idea of what your community's kids consider to be high-interest, on-level reads. Science books are important, but getting kids to a level where they can read science books is more important. That means lots of independent practice, and that means using high-interest reads as an investment tool.

Now get those books!
See if the school librarian or a teacher is willing to make a plea for books on You'll need a specific book list. The poorer your school, the more likely you are to get a donation. Also, don't ask for more than $200 at a time.

Ask friends to either donate recently used books or simply buy some.

Host a fundraiser.

You can make this happen!

Older books have value, too. No one has knocked Roald Dahl from his spot on top of the children's fiction hill. And showing your kid that what we know about the world changes is a real lesson. And what about the feeling of connection with something so much bigger than yourself when you hold a book that's 100 years old?
posted by jander03 at 7:40 PM on September 15, 2011 [8 favorites]

When I was in seventh grade my English teacher coordinated a reading incentive programmwhere you earned points according to the number of pages you read The prizes were donated by companies - every student wrote to a company and asked for a donation with a personal letter and a photocopied form from the teacher with the details. We got a TON of cool stuff, including a lot of books (my first introduction to TMNT and the Stainless Steel Rat). I bet you could get amply of donations from publishing companies if you organized a letter writing campaign with your kids teacher; or you could arrange a fundraiser with donated items from other companies.
posted by bq at 7:42 PM on September 15, 2011

What about having a book drive? Everyone donates books, library keeps ones that might be useful, sells ones that aren't useful, plus ones they have that aren't useful, and uses proceeds to buy useful ones?
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:42 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

The first thing I'd do is talk to the PTA and see if they are a) aware of the problem b) interested in making this one of the years' fundraisers. They might also know where to look for extra cash in your town.

Talk to the school librarian and see if they are frustrated/have ideas for what the library needs. If they can provide you with a good list, that will give you an idea of how much cash is involved/where the gaps are.

Googling turns up many school library drives around the country; maybe you know some corporate-sponsor people who could match donations...?

There seem to be some places online that do this kind of thing, but you have to sign your school up for it.
posted by emjaybee at 7:43 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: colin_l: "This isn't anything I have personal experience with, but this seems like the kind of thing the Gates Foundation is interested in. And they've got Bucks"

Yeah, I thought of them, but (and I'm quoting from their website):

The United States Program focuses on providing greater opportunity by improving U.S. high school and postsecondary education, access to information, and stable housing. Please note: The United States Program only accepts unsolicited proposals for Pacific Northwest Community Grants. We do not accept unsolicited proposals for our work in education and libraries.

We partner with grantees working on long-term solutions for people with the most urgent needs. We award the majority of our grants to U.S. 501(c)(3) and other tax-exempt organizations.

There's no easy way in the door to the Gates Foundation for a rural school district in Texas, unfortunately.
posted by dejah420 at 7:44 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

emjaybee makes a great point: make sure you get the key players on board before you start renegade book-driving.
posted by jander03 at 7:45 PM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

I am not sure about the practicalities of making this happen, but if the schools and their libraries share a tax district, then why can't they share books as well? In MA, every town seems to have (and fund separately from other towns) its own library, but many of them are connected to many of the others. Anyone can make a request for a book from another library, and I believe that there is some spontaneous circulation of the books, even when they're not specifically asked for. Seems like the schools of your tax district should rotate their books with each other (although in the case of the 25 yr old reference books, I think those should rotate directly to the circular file). I wouldn't know where to begin arranging this though -- start with the librarian and PTA?
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:54 PM on September 15, 2011

So, is great, if you could get teachers to write project proposals. There are lots out there looking for books that you could use as examples.

Also HS teachers don't get sample copies of anything for free. I wish...
posted by guster4lovers at 7:55 PM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Not necessarily the teachers, but I would have thought that whoever makes the decision of which textbooks the school or district will buy might have access to sample copies.
posted by XMLicious at 7:59 PM on September 15, 2011

I was just in North Texas at a conference. As you probably know Rick Perry seems to hate learning and cut state funding for libraries a terrible amount, basically defunding all library consortiums in the state except the ones that could set themselves up as non-profits which is, I think, two. One of them, however, NTRLS, was the group that invited me out. I do not think they cover your area, but they are smart people and could let you know who, if anyone, DOES cover your area and give you some advice about working with the library and/or the community to get grants and/or book drives going.

You're going to get a lot more done working through channels [and dismissing channels that are non-productive but at least starting with working through channels so you don't seem like some hopped up person "from away" that is trying to change things] and working with the library in some capacity than showing up with new books and saying "here are your new books" So, I'd call the people at NTRLS and ask them who, if anyone, works with lirbries in your location and see if they have resources or contacts in that general area. You may find that you have some alliances you can form with the public libraries who may be less hamstrung by local regulations and do some partnership stuff that would wind up really helping out the school library but in a way that is useful to them.

Also seconding DonorsChoose, it's a great resource and you could work with the librarian and help her choose some books for the collection and maybe find local business to do matching grants and etc.
posted by jessamyn at 8:00 PM on September 15, 2011 [7 favorites]

Pamela Ribon of does a book drive every year, maybe shoot her an email and ask her to consider making your son's school the recipient this year? I get the sense that they donate hundreds of books each year.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:07 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Dewey Donation System was started in 2003 by a couple of bloggers as a way for people to donate new books to the desperately cash-strapped Oakland Public Library. Since then, they've done book drives and fundraising for new acquisitions in American and international public libraries and school libraries. It is closing its ninth annual book drive at the end of this month. You could get in touch with them now and tell them exactly what you've told us, to find out if your school could be the focus for next year's drive. I think your description of the state of the library is certainly compelling (and appalling!) enough to at least get them to consider you. (That story about your kid bringing home the out of date science book--yikes!)

[on preview: what Snarl Furillo said]
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:10 PM on September 15, 2011

Best answer: Ok, I do this for a living- started out at my daughter's school and now do it full-time for a high poverty middle school.

First of all, there are many resources out there that Librarian use to build their collections. If the library is staffed by a certified person they should know where to start in terms of a wish list. If not, then there are all sort of groups out there that will lay out the standers. Off the top of my head there should be about 20 books per student, the collection should be roughly 50 percent fiction, 50 percent non fiction and there should be a standard operating budget of $25.00 per student once the library is at capacity. The collection should be throughly weeded(which means books should be gotten rid of- it's better to have a small current then a large out dated on) and no books should remain that are more then 10 years old unless they are classics. In a school library books should always be judged by their cover- out dated covers should go.

In terms of getting new books- Laura Bush has a great library grant- $10,000 to update the collection. I have been successful writing grants from Lowe's Toolbox for education which gives $5000 grants. I got it twice for two different libraries.

Finally 3 big library vendors have fundraising programs where you ask for money through their sites- Mackin, Follet and Perma-Bound. Donor's choose isn't great for books because they have one book vendor that sells paper backs. You need hard covers or library bound or finally reinforced paperbacks.

Hope that helps, memail me if you want more information.
posted by momochan at 8:16 PM on September 15, 2011 [18 favorites]

Run a book drive. It won't take many hundred dollars to update the collection considerably. Just make sure you make sure the library wants to do it or else they'll sell your donated books in a sale.
posted by michaelh at 8:17 PM on September 15, 2011

Put your school's needs up on Send me the link. I will disseminate the link to my lazy NYC privileged friends who slag off your state like it ain't no thang and guilt their sorry asses into donating towards book $$$.
posted by elizardbits at 8:20 PM on September 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: emjaybee: "The first thing I'd do is talk to the PTA"

Yep, I'm in the PTA, and I'll be bringing it up on Tuesday. :) The paperback swap thing is fabulous, I'm sending the link to the principal for her approval. I've emailed the librarian to ask her if she has time to meet with me, or go have coffee or whatever when she has time, to talk about what she would like to see replaced first. She has already said "any donations are welcome", in her email to me.

I agree that I tend to jump on my horse and ride off in all directions, which is why I came here for ideas before I did anything crazy. :)

The school itself is tiny; pre-k to 4th grade only, no class bigger than about 15 students. There's a total of about 45 kids per grade, 1-4, and a huge, huge, huge pre-k and kindergarten because all of the kids in the township do preK and kinder at this location. So, getting the kids to write letters wouldn't be as effective as if they were 7th graders...because really...have you ever tried to read the handwriting of a 6 year old? ;) But corporations are sitting on record piles of treasure, breaking some of it free for local schools is something I want to try, I'm just not sure where to start.

Tandem, if the people in Plano were willing to give *anything* up, we wouldn't be looking at 30 year old science books in the library. Seriously, one of the high schools had a bonfire when they remodeled the school, rather than give anything away. These are not people who understand "sharing".

Donorschoose looks like a great resource. Yay! Jess, thanks so much for the heads up on NTLP, I would never have found that on my own.

b1tr0t, we're talking about toddlers to 9 year olds, and we're talking library books, rather than curriculum. Curriculum in this state all teach to the No Child Left Behind standardized tests. Any "real" knowledge outside of those parameters that these kids are getting is coming from books they check out on Library Day

Snarl and hurdy gurdy girl; fantastic, thank you!

Momochan, I'll be all over you memail as soon as I talk to the librarian...thank you so much for your offer to help!

Great ideas guys, keep em coming! Y'all rock!
posted by dejah420 at 8:22 PM on September 15, 2011

Follett also has a school book donation program. I don't know much about it -- but I think it'd be worth checking out. They are Texas Library Association sponsors and pretty decent corporate citizens, I believe.
posted by pantarei70 at 8:30 PM on September 15, 2011

I favorited jander03's idea because it sounded superlative!

But as someone who has served in local government and implemented a program near and dear to my heart by sending the corrupt politician standing in my way to jail for using their office to embezzel tons of $$ (and I did this VERY quietly, no one even knew I had a dog in the fight) I see further options here.

There was an accidental two-pronged approach. Folks in the community willing to be visible promoted the cause and outer the politician to the press as standing in the way of public good. I figured that would go nowhere and asked those community folks to take point with the press while I collected info and data. It was a righteous cause and a lot of what I need kinda miraculously fell into my lap.

What you need to ask about how your library/school gets funded vs. how the other library and school gets funded is:

- Who? (makes the budget decision?)

- How? (what is the legally codified procedure for making the decision?)

- When? (what times of year, or in a series or years, is the budget decided)

- Where? (where being in what forums - public or private - do the funds get divvied up!)

I think once you have the answers to these questions, you'll have a plan of attack. You might have to quietly attend many many meetings to get a feel for this, but I don't see why you won't be able to find an overt or otherwise process to change this dynamic.

Then, again. Texas has a gnarly system of cronyism in place, so who knows?

At least jander03 gave you an immediate work-around.
posted by jbenben at 8:31 PM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Damn auto-correct! Geez.

I am actually literate. Pffft.

Yes. I left the actual execution of what I did with my evidence of wrongdoing out of my answer, but you can MeMail now or in the future if you find anything juicy.

Sadly, I'm sorta assuming that I you try to rally public opinion that will fail since this status quo has been acceptable for so long. That said, you could have tons of options depending on the particulars.

I've accomplished other magical civic feats, too! So whatever you do, don't give up!

I also know a MeFite who might be able to give you direct insight. MeMail?
posted by jbenben at 8:36 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

+1 Dewey Donation System. Seriously, write to; she basically asked herself the exact same question eight years ago and has done annual drives ever since.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:42 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

i went to school in plano. you are absolutely correct that looking that way for charity (or sharing what they should be sharing anyway) is a pipe dream. there is only wasted time and effort down that road.

plano feels they already have to share too much of their money with the poor. it's bullshit and it's offensive, but it's still totally true. the high schoolers i went to class with would loudly complain that their father's paying taxes and instead of us getting the money, it's being shipped downtown. i tried to point out to these spoiled brats that a school less than 20 minutes from us couldn't afford text books for the students so there was one set per classroom. they didn' t have money for xerox so all homework problems had to be written out during class. of course, our school had brand new computer labs and the athletes got free shoes and nice, plush chartered buses to out of town games.

if you're looking to affect change, read everything you can on the ISD system, how it's funded, how it's voted on, how rick perry has been fucking over education. vote locally for the candidates who have the power to change or influence how things in this area are. become annoying to them with all your letters and letters to the editor and showing up at campaign functions. make them pay attention and then give them your support just as loudly when they indicate they're on board.

sadly, i think you're looking at an uphill battle. but the only way anything ever changes in issues like this is for people to make slow, steady changes until the goal is closer...
posted by nadawi at 8:42 PM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

The paperback swap thing is fabulous

It is one of the social sites that MeFi keeps track of, so you might be able to put together a Project and have people donate credits, if you got that up and running. I know I'd love to help.
posted by jessamyn at 8:43 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

See, we share a tax district with Plano schools, which means I pay as much in tax to the county as if I lived in Plano

Collin County doesn't run any schools. Instead, independent school districts have taxing authority, and both Plano ISD and your ISD have the county collect on their behalf. Unfortunately, you will only be able to improve the situation by pursuing changes at the state level.
posted by grouse at 9:06 PM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Check with universities around your area. Several schools in Texas have a Masters in Library Science program, and this estudents may be willing to raise some money for your library. Also, don't discount writing to the fraternities and sororities and the teacher education student orgs at some of these universities. They may be willing to donate some money to your cause.

I can't look up anything at the moment, but MeMail me some Universities near you and I can help identify the Greek orgs that have learning or reading as their philanthropy and may be willing to help. I also have Greek Advisor friends at a few Texas schools who might help make some connections.
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:21 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, hey, Pre-K to 4th grade? I may have some new books to send you. I get books sent to me all the time to review for my blog, and no matter how many times I say, "YA, tween and teenagers are our focus," some will still send me elementary-age stuff too. I usually gather those up after a while and donate them to our library but it sounds like yours could use them more.

Now, do you just need books? because I might also have some age-appropriate DVDs to donate too, for the library to check out or rent to the kids to view at home.*

*Loan/Rental of Video
Libraries may loan/rent videos, in whatever available format, to patrons for their personal use. This is true even if the video is labeled "For Home Use Only." (ALA)

posted by misha at 10:17 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Book drive! Someone set up a book drive for kids at the community college where I was taking classes last year, and I donated some current foreign language books (and some old classics like Tintin). I saw some other people donating science textbooks that were only about a year old.
posted by thelastcamel at 10:32 PM on September 15, 2011

Whatever you do, focus first on replacing/updating the books about math, hard sciences like geology or chemistry, history, etc. As much as I love fiction, it's more important that the kids get new factual books before entertainment books.

(Oh, and just as a counterpoint to your "Welcome to school in America, where the rich get everything, and the rural students get bupkiss" line: I'm in Northern Virginia, where only 18%, yep just eigthteen percent of my state taxes returns to this area --- 82% goes to schools in the southwest of the state...... Is THAT any more fair than the Plano situation?)
posted by easily confused at 2:51 AM on September 16, 2011

If and when you get the DonorsChoose page set up, would you mind reposting it here? I'm a science librarian (on an adult level) and things like this drive me bananas. I'd be on board personally to help out.

Also, thinking on a corporate level, look at your big foundations with a science focus. My company has a foundation that allows employees to do 'science education grants' to the schools we're affiliated with. Look around your area and see if there is anything comparable, because I know for a fact my company has donated money for projects exactly like this. We want kids interested in science, because we want future employees.
posted by librarianamy at 5:24 AM on September 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

You might just call up other libraries in the area and ask if they have books they're clearing out. I've needed books as props for plays, and have had more than one library give me 5-6 boxes just for picking them up. Yes, many of them aren't any better than the ones you've already got, but you may get a few that you can use, or add to your book sale.
posted by Morydd at 5:56 AM on September 16, 2011

Response by poster: momochan: "there should be a standard operating budget of $25.00 per student once the library is at capacity. The collection should be throughly weeded(which means books should be gotten rid of- it's better to have a small current then a large out dated on) and no books should remain that are more then 10 years old unless they are classics."

I've just discovered that our budget is $7.50 per kid. Annually. Seriously. How sad is that? There are almost no books in the stacks that are more recent than y2k, and at least 50% of the stacks are older than most of the teachers.

I've just sent a letter to the principal of the school asking for her permission to start enrolling the school in different programs, grants, etc. I've volunteered to do all of the leg work, grant writing, research, filing, begging, phone calls....anything that needs to be done, I will personally try to do it.

I cannot tell you how much help you have all been. Thank you so much for shining rays of light into what looked like a very dark situation. I will be tapping some of you, who've volunteered, to share your expertise and experience...and I thank you so much for offering. Together, we can show these kids that we believe in them and their future. It all starts with one little book.
posted by dejah420 at 6:54 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am in the central Texas area. My child does not go to public schools yet. However we do frequent our local library. Our local librarians are very good at grant writing which is how a portion of their programs are funded.

Perhaps you could encourage the school librarian to write for grants, or you can support them with the grant writing. I know our local small business development centers (SBDC) offer low cost ($10) training classes on grant writing.

Here is a link to your local SBDC:
Collin SBDC
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 7:04 AM on September 16, 2011

A good source for cheap books is public library book sales. They are not all old books, by any means - they are frequently books picked up at garage sales and donated to the library, or just people donating their books outright. Personally, I was amazed to discover there are people who buy a book new, read it once, and then get rid of it! In your area, the Dallas Public Library has a monthly sale:

Monthly Book Sale

Bookends offers a special book sale every 3rd weekend of the month where books and other materials are sold at extra low rates.

50¢ per Item
$6 per box (fill up a box with as much sale items as you can and purchase it at this amazing price! Standard–sized boxes only, please. Boxes can be provided)

In Houston, they have a book sale once a year, and on Sunday, it's everything you can stuff into a paper grocery sack for $10, or everything you can stuff into a box for $20. If you raise $200 at a bake sale, that will buy you a lot of books! (Pro Tip - if you pack carefully, you can get 3 bags worth of books into a box - that's a LOT of books! Second Pro Tip - bring a hand truck or dolly or little red wagon. And at least one helper. They have a holding area, but you still gotta get it all into your vehicle at the end of the day!)
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:13 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing posting your donor choose link (should you choose to do it) in Projects. I'd be on board to help, especially when it comes to science and a fellow Mefite.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:15 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can't really put a DonorsChoose thing up on Projects, by the way, it would have to be much more of a project-type thing than that, not just a fundraiser. Not trying to rain on your parade, but channel things appropriately. Please feel free to ask if you have questions.

I've been digging through links for libraries in VT trying to rebuild their collections after the flood [we were lucky, very few libraries were really destroyed] and came across the Libri Foundation. Don't know if your library qualifies as rural or whether it's also doing double-duty as a public library, but worth checking out and maybe you could work out a deal with the public library, if so.
posted by jessamyn at 7:56 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

This claim:

1. Why not focus on fundamental subjects like basic biology, chemistry, physics - areas of study where a textbook from 1960 would do just as well as one from 2011?

is flat-out wrong. Sorry to be so raw, but science has moved tremendously since 1960, and it's just not the same. Also, most of the science books from that era paint all scientists as white men, and exclude everyone else. This is not a good message to send -- besides the fact that much of what was written is just not right given the tremendous advances in science in the last 50 years. Frankly, I'm stunned to see this statement. Stunned.
posted by Capri at 9:32 AM on September 16, 2011

Response by poster: jbenben: "- Who? (makes the budget decision?)- How? (what is the legally codified procedure for making the decision?)- When? (what times of year, or in a series or years, is the budget decided)- Where? (where being in what forums - public or private - do the funds get divvied up!)"

I've just sent an email to the city budget manager asking those same questions. Thanks!
posted by dejah420 at 9:52 AM on September 16, 2011

I've just sent an email to the city budget manager asking those same questions.

With one exception, cities have absolutely nothing to do with school funding or budgets. The city budget manager isn't likely to know any detail about school district budgets. You should talk to your school district instead.
posted by grouse at 10:20 AM on September 16, 2011

Response by poster: grouse: "With one exception, cities have absolutely nothing to do with school funding or budgets. The city budget manager isn't likely to know any detail about school district budgets. You should talk to your school district instead"

You are correct. I got an email back from him that said:

However, I can direct you to ---- at the School District who would be better able to answer your questions concerning the school system. The City and the School District operate as two distinct entities and the City has no financial influence over the school district. The school district issues their own bonds, sets their own tax rate, and handles their own business operations, etc. The relationship between the school district and the City can seem confusing since the county sends out the tax bills with all entities included.

He then included a breakdown of which entities get which percentages of the overall tax bill...which are numbers I wanted. To quote:

As for the tax rate, the City’s portion of your tax bill is 0.89890 per $100 of valuation. The school district’s tax rate is $1.64 per $100 valuation. Based on a $150,000 home, which is our City average home value, for example, the city portion of the tax bill would be approximately $1,350. Based on the same information, the school district taxes would be approximately $2,460. If memory serves, the county tax rate is .24 for the county and .086300 for Collin College. The City’s portion of your total property tax bill based off of the tax rates listed above is 31.37%. The school district’s portion results in 57.24% of your total tax bill.

With a school district that has a tax rate *that* high...I want to know where the money is. Now I know that I need to get the isd budget and comb through it, since it is obviously not underfunded, given the massive golf course community in our district. That money is going somewhere.
posted by dejah420 at 10:43 AM on September 16, 2011

Following up on Mexican Yenta's suggestion to try library book sales, consult Book Sale Finder to learn about upcoming sales in your area. Texas September 2011 and Texas October 2011 - June 2012.
posted by mlis at 10:52 AM on September 16, 2011

you could get the school signed up for paperbackswap's school donation program.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:04 AM on September 16, 2011

Response by poster: misanthropicsarah: "you could get the school signed up for paperbackswap's school donation program"

Yep, just waiting for permission from the principal to get the ball rolling there. :)
posted by dejah420 at 11:22 AM on September 16, 2011

Do you have Scholastic book fairs? They send home flyers usually every month with book options you can purchase, and also they come to the school for a week or so every year. I'm pretty sure they were around when my kids were in Lewisville ISD. Anyway, they have an option at the book fairs to donate books to the teachers. The teachers leave a list of books they want/need, and parents buy them and donate to the school, and the book gets a sticker "This book donated by the family of Little Johnny" (or whoever). Maybe you could try that?
posted by I am the Walrus at 11:36 AM on September 16, 2011

Does the librarian have any contacts with librarians in other states, maybe through a professional association or a list-serv or something, where he/she could get the word out and ask for help? I know some of the schools in my area have held book drives in the past for schools that have been hit by natural disasters (Katrina, the tornadoes in Joplin).

This kind of situation pisses me right the fuck off. If you make a Chip-In page or something please let me know.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:42 AM on September 16, 2011

One route for finding people to help you with the legwork would be getting in touch with local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and seeing if they know of anyone looking for an Eagle Scout/Gold Award project. Getting in touch with local business groups (Rotary, maybe?) and churches might also be a good idea- reaching out into the community can get you a lot more resources, and a lot more knowledge about why this situation exists.

Also, honestly, I wouldn't be so quick to discount Plano and the willingness of people there to help. It's the largest and wealthiest community near yours, and there are just going to be more people and resources than in your town. (Full disclosure: I'm from Plano, and I'm a product of Plano public schools) Have you considered reaching out to the Plano Public Library? I think they usually have a book sale in the summer, but it still might be a good place to try. Individual librarians at elementary schools might also be people to get in touch with. The local colleges would probably be Collin College (aka Quad C aka the community college) and University of Texas at Dallas (actually in Richardson, just over the border of Plano).

You might also want to reach out to other small local school districts- Anna, Celina, Princeton and Lucas all look like they're around the same size as your community, have their own ISDs and are all going to be dealing with somewhat similar tax situations. How are their libraries at the elementary level?
posted by MadamM at 12:27 PM on September 16, 2011

With a school district that has a tax rate *that* high...I want to know where the money is. Now I know that I need to get the isd budget and comb through it, since it is obviously not underfunded, given the massive golf course community in our district. That money is going somewhere.

That sounds like an excellent idea and I would encourage it. I would also encourage you to get involved in parent organizations or attend school board meetings and read the board materials for more information, and maybe consider running for the school board eventually.

School taxes are earmarked for either maintenance and operations (M&O) or debt service. Your school district has a 2011–2012 M&O budget of $6,877 per student. Plano has an M&O budget of $7,905 per student (after removing their Robin Hood plan expenses), which is only 15 percent more. Keep in mind that capital expenses are funded by an entirely separate budget, and other enrichment activities are often funded by parent groups or private foundations. But it seems like it would still be worth looking into what may seem like a more than 15 percent disparity in educational value.

I was a reporter for my high school newsmagazine on the school board beat in a Texas ISD and went to a lot of school board meetings a long while ago, so I know a little bit about this stuff and am glad I can put some of that old knowledge to use here.
posted by grouse at 1:12 PM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

In addition to paperbackswap, bookmooch and also offer ways for schools to get books for free. Bookmooch lets you register as a charity and Swap lets classrooms have their own wishlists.
posted by soelo at 1:36 PM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Learn more about how taxes and school finance in Texas works because you are seriously barking up the wrong trees. In my small district not too far from yours, as the campus principal, I have control over the library budget from within my limited campus budget, approved by the school board. Talk to the principal and see how much leeway he or she has in the library budget. Become invovled in the PTO/PTA and convince them to do a fundraiser for the library. A lot of our library books are paid for by the money raised from twice-yearly Scholastic book fairs. Offer to help with that.

Most districts will have approved their budgets for this year. The time to take action is in the spring and summer. Ask to make a speech/presentation to the board. Learn more about how taxes and school finance in Texas works because you are seriously barking up not just the wrong trees, but the wrong forests. Learn about the Robin Hood system of school finance in Texas, in which the wealthiest districts must give up some revenues to help poorer districts.

Scholastic does hold super sales where you can go and load up a box or shopping basket for cheap but these are not usually library bound books. Oh, and if you can get that overworked librarian who probably covers two campuses to go to coffee with you, you just might be a miracle worker. Better to bring her some instead.
posted by tamitang at 8:12 PM on September 16, 2011

Uh, sorry that I used the same metaphor twice in that reply. Arg.
posted by tamitang at 8:15 PM on September 16, 2011

Response by poster: I'm sorry tamitang, I don't understand how trying to find the ISD budget is barking up the wrong tree. Without the budget, I have no idea how they're spending the money, or why this particular school doesn't seem to have the same resources as the new schools over by the golf course communities that are in the same ISD.

If I'm barking up the wrong tree, then what should I be doing to find out why this one school is underserved?
posted by dejah420 at 10:57 AM on September 19, 2011

If you are still reading this thread, I said that because you were mentioning contacting the city to get the budget. Obviously you have since realized that the city and the ISD are two separate entities. You could petition the school district for a copy of the campus budget but I'm not sure what you would have to go through to get it. If those other schools are indeed in the same district, it probably is a matter of campus priorities OR if those schools are newer, maybe they had all new libraries when they opened. As I said, in my district, the campus principal sets the budget within certain guidelines, so start with the principal.
posted by tamitang at 9:19 PM on September 25, 2011

Response by poster: An update: the school superintendent has politely asked me to go the fuck away. They do not want me to do any fundraising, or write grant applications, or break out my rolodex of insanely wealthy people who are a soft touch. He would like me to stop talking about how this, filled with brown people is the only school that has not had its library or infrastructure improved.

I'm not sure what to do now, actually.
posted by dejah420 at 4:56 PM on September 26, 2011

What was the response when you brought up this issue within the PTA? I would urge you to start trying to figure things out at that level.

At some point, you will probably need to move beyond the PTA and school level, but you will be much easier with a command of the facts, local history, and allies that you don't seem to have yet.
posted by grouse at 5:31 PM on September 26, 2011

you will be much easier more effective

(or it will be easier).
Sorry, dejah420.
posted by grouse at 5:57 PM on September 26, 2011

An update: the school superintendent has politely asked me to go the fuck away.

Well, what do you think about that? Do you want to go the fuck away? Do you want to put up a fight? Do you want advice? Do you want help?

Think about it and let us know.
posted by I am the Walrus at 6:21 PM on September 26, 2011

I'm not sure what to do now, actually.

You might contact the local alternative newspaper or investigative reporter.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:23 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really wouldn't do that, yet. You may want to do it eventually. Problem is, if you are wrong on the facts, district officials will paint you as a crank and you won't be able to undo that easily.
posted by grouse at 8:42 PM on September 26, 2011

Response by poster: Well, what I want is for the school to have the resources it should have. What I don't know is how to make that happen, if I'm being politely shoved away by the superintendent, even though I have the backing of the principal.
posted by dejah420 at 3:35 PM on September 27, 2011

Wow, you really are in a tough spot.

FWIW, I have a bunch of books/DVDs packed up for you (I need to get out to the post office!), and I think if you have the backing of the principal you should at least be able to work on this at the school level, if you can't get out there in the wider community now that the superintendant has weighed in. Book fairs and swaps shouldn't be off the table completely (?).

Out of curiosity, is the superintendant up for re-election soon? Sounds like he's embarrassed about, basically, screwing things up for your school, and doesn't want to come out looking bad because of it. Which I kinda feel is too bad for him. His image is not more important than getting the kids what they need, IMHO. But I do understand if you want to back off rather than have to deal with all the hassle.
posted by misha at 9:54 PM on September 27, 2011

I'm sure you've already thought of this, but I think you need to talk to the principal and the school librarian, and see what they want to do. What you want to do is the _right_ thing - kids need resources for education, that's just plain and simple. The superintendant wants to play politics. But before you're labeled a "rabble rouser" or a trouble maker, see how the staff wants to move forward. I think you could better make a decision from there.

FWIW, I have a close friend who is a school librarian in Texas (elementary) and she mentioned recently that there are huge gaps in her collection (she's at a new school this year). No Clifford the Big Red Dog, no A Wrinkle in Time, many books that those of us who were readers starting at that age consider key. So it sounds to me that this is a much much much larger issue on a state level, than just your little school. That's heartbreaking. I know that's not advice, but man, something needs to be done down there.
posted by librarianamy at 5:17 AM on September 28, 2011

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