On renovating our school library

Grade 4 students enjoy the library for the first time this school year
Grade 4 students enjoy the library for the first time this school year

Libraries have held a special place in my heart for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, my family didn’t have much money, so instead of weekend trips to far-off places, my mom would pile us into the car and take us to the Napa Public Library.

Being the nerd my mother groomed me to be, I would always leave with my canvass tote bag filled to the brim with the maximum allowable number of books – 14.

When I arrived at my site in Trelawny, I was eager to see what kind of library my school had and perhaps even more eager to see how I could help make it more accessible. PCVs tend to obsess with worry about what kind of projects will help them leave a mark on their communities; I knew without a shadow of a doubt that, however “unsexy,” the school library would be mine.

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Back in May, I quickly learned that my school’s library was in fact pretty decent. They had a pretty sizable collection of books and some shelving, plus the library is inside of a larger, enclosed (!!) computer and resource room.

There was no apparent system of categorization and, because the space is so small, the clutter was pretty intense. Math textbooks, presumably donated by an American charitable organization, teacher guides, adult literature and bug-infested books from the sixties were crammed onto the shelves along with some quality children’s works by the likes of Dr. Seuss, J.K. Rowling, and Beverly Cleary.

Last June, with the help of my counterpart’s daughter, I scrubbed, organized, labeled, purged until the library resembled something familiar to me.

So where are we now? 

Our primary school’s library is now sorted into 26 color-coded sections. After lots of research, I chose to forgo the Dewey and instead opted for a more kid-friendly system with lots of pictures and simple categories that make sense, like Machines & Buildings, the West Indies Collection and Animal Picture Books.

I’m constantly reviewing our process and policies. We are completely offline for now, so everything at the circulation desk is handwritten.

We recently got approved for a Peace Corps SPA grant, through which we will make valuable improvements to our library/resource center, like the addition of a whiteboard that doubles as a projection screen, and wall mounted fans to help improve air flow.

This is a small part of our larger goal to open up the space to the larger community as a small library and computer center; there is a very real need for access to modern technology within our rural community.

In the coming months, we will seek to expand our collection of books through donations. I hope to increase our selection of adventure series books, like the Magic Treehouse, Harry Potter, How to Train Your Dragon, and others. If you’ve got any leads or would like to help, please feel free to leave a comment!

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