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City and School District give library cards to nearly 100K students

By the Notebook on Apr 15, 2014 02:02 PM
Photo: Nathaniel Hamilton/NewsWorks

Mayor Nutter hands out library cards to kindergarten students at James G. Blaine Elementary School.

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

In a year that's seen budget cuts all but eradicate librarians from the Philadelphia School District's buildings, the District is now leaning even more heavily on the Free Library of Philadelphia to help make up for that shortfall.

The schools and the library have merged their databases and determined that roughly 98,000 of the School District's 136,000 students do not yet have cards for the city's public libraries. Based on that data merge, the library and the District will now distribute personalized library cards to every student without one.

On Tuesday, Philadelphia schools Superintendent William Hite, Mayor Nutter and the leadership staff of the Free Library gathered at James G. Blaine Elementary in Strawberry Mansion to distribute the first batch of cards.

"No matter what your age, no matter what your circumstance, there's a card that everyone should have," said Nutter as he pulled from his wallet a red and white library card, brandishing it for the cameras to see.

"I've been a card-carrying member of the Free Library since I was in single digits," he said. "I want everybody in Philadelphia to have that same experience, that same opportunity, and I would suggest that other than a U.S. passport, there's nothing else that you can carry on you that can take you farther than a library card."

In 2008, under Nutter's leadership, the city cut $8 million of the library's $41 million budget, leading to the elimination of 117 staff positions and reducing branch hours.

Nutter's new budget calls for a $2.5 million increase in library funding to allow longer hours at more branches. When announcing the measure in March, Nutter characterized the library cuts of 2008 as "the absolute worst decision I have made in the time I've been in public office."

If approved by City Council, the funding increase would keep all neighborhood libraries open six days a week. Since the 2008 budget cuts, most of the branch libraries have been open only five days.

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Comments (14)

Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on April 15, 2014 3:17 pm
Yet no librarians in most schools. How nice of these guys. Maybe next they will hand out 10 sheets of copy paper to each student.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 15, 2014 4:25 pm
They are trying to replace school libraries with public libraries. Its like throwing a kid in the ocean to see if he will sink or swim. They closed many public libraries a few years ago. Do they think all these kids will wander to the Central Library. And they deal to grin in these kids faces and pat them on the head for photo opps. Pathetic!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 15, 2014 4:28 pm
Really? WHAT A JOKE!!!!! Unless you live under a rock no words are needed.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 15, 2014 5:34 pm
hmmmm. 1) will give kid a library card, but no Librarian in their school?! 2) the school district turns over their data base of PRIVATE information on each student and their families to the City without people's knowledge or consent?!!!
Submitted by Darnel X (not verified) on April 15, 2014 7:25 pm
Well...first I must wonder why kids don't have library cards in the first place? Since they don't have the money to sustain librarians at schools, it seems to make sense to encourage the utilization of public libraries. All of the naysayers here making comments is rather silly. It's something the city can do to help kids. I still don't understand why the city politicians are not pushing to regain control of the school district. John Street was crucified for allowing state takeover, but Nutter and company seem to be okay with it.
Submitted by Alison McDowell (not verified) on April 15, 2014 9:05 pm
City libraries will never be able to serve Philadelphia's school children the way a school-based library could. I have the fondest memories of my elementary school librarian pulling books from shelves and placing them into the hands of my excited classmates. She knew all of us and what we liked to read. It was a personal relationship I still value decades later. It's so depressing to have the city confirm that there will never likely be the resources to provide that experience to my child or my future grandchildren. I think the Free Library should seriously consider the role they are playing in enabling the permanent destruction of the school library system. I would hope they would feel some sense of regret. It's so, so sad. What are we doing to our children and our future?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 16, 2014 7:19 am
Maybe the district will merge databases with local health clinics too, since they are choosing not to properly fund school counselors and nurses either. How about merging data bases with the YMCA, so the district can get off on the cheap by closing school gyms? Oops, I hope I'm not giving them tantalizing ideas.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on April 16, 2014 9:11 am
You say this with an element of satire. Trust me, this is EXACTLY what they who know nothing of the insides of public school think is the solution. You must be a person who works INSIDE a school. What really NEEDS TO HAPPEN is that more people like you commit yourselves to becoming more familiar with the insidious/ridiculous/arrogant/outrageously off the mark ideas of the "experts" to circumvent funding public schools. Next step, a point on which I am in agreement with James Lytle , join grassroots action to stand our ground. Persistent action until this reverses. Never say die.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 16, 2014 8:21 am
Considering they have been making cuts to the libraries for years the children will most likely have to walk past their closed neighborhood library and walk/ travel farther to the closest library. Which may end up being in a rival neighborhood deterring them from going. And this is not a new concept neighborhood libraries used to do this to make sure all kids had a library card for the summer and their programs. It came from the concern of the libraries back then not the school district's or the mayor's "concern". BUT since the libraries no longer have all the neighborhood building they used to or the staff to continue that outreach lets pretend that the district has developed this new great partnership in spite of all the hardships they have to deal with. Please.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 16, 2014 8:17 am
This program depends on parents getting their children to a public library on a regular basis. In no way can this replace a school library. That it is based on this assumption shows an appalling unawareness for the worsening social and economic conditions for low income families.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 16, 2014 10:57 am
You have a valid point regarding the need for an adult to bring/supervise children to the library; however it is an opportunity to leverage some Title I or EC dollars in getting school staff to "field trip" children to the library. It is not ideal, but could be a way to start building a community school. Consider that one of the big reasons the schools have lost funding is the City is losing families with school age children (whether it be for perception of schools, lack of employment opportunities, high taxes coupled with corrupt government, etc.), and simultaneously the District is losing enrollment to charters while being burdened with a charter funding formula that fails to take into account utilization. One very good solution/alternative proposed by PCAPS to the closure of schools was to create community schools. Community schools require community partnerships.
Submitted by Morrie Peters (not verified) on April 16, 2014 12:26 pm
Ms. Cheng, This is an example of the complete and utter abrogation of authority of the "leaders" in this community. Libraries and discipline are basic requisites of any functional school. Your EC comment speaks to the "Elephant in the Room". Schools are not meant to be jobs programs for members of the community. In fact, the farming out of basic school responsibilities such as libraries and discipline hurt children and is in direct violation of the State Code (law). Hite's initial response, through Gallard, to the Bartram chaos was the canned, paid for Restorative Justice Program. Essentially admitting that he and his minions have no idea how to administer discipline... so we will pay this group to sing kumbaya until somebody dies then we'll fire them and hire another group to do the job that all of our suburban counterparts handle first and foremost. This is intellectual genocide being committed on the daily to the children of this once great city. How far we have fallen? Make no mistake, the "White Devil" exists. The tragic part is that she or he has invaded the body and minds of Mike Nutter, Bill Hite and Barack Obama. Money, money, money......MONEY:-(
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on April 16, 2014 2:35 pm
Mr. Peters I understand your point. My point is we're in a situation, historically decreasing enrollment, that requires solutions. Solutions that may require a rethinking of how to get services to children. Yes, it's about money, but always about the wisest use of money. How does doing things "the way it should be"/"the way it's always been done" stand up when there's a recovery from a recession? My understanding is they/sticking to this, regardless of the situation require(s) borrowing against the future. Haven't we done enough of this? When we live in prosperity (like outside the City where there exist no onerous taxes, or self patronizing DROP pensions), then we might recover our school libraries, where they rightly belong. Also, EC money does not go to members of the community. It goes to teachers. ASAP in fact raises EC money that is not in school budgets, for teachers willing to coach Chess clubs at their school. Title I money can be used for SDP teachers and personnel, or, if for services in the community, only to SDP approved vendors/organizations. I'm not happy about the situation, but I've been in many situations where it's about damage control, and working for the best outcome with what you have. Why not write for grants to partner with libraries? Grant opportunities already exist for these partnerships. Check out the Ezra Jack Keats mini grant program.
Submitted by Morrie Peters (not verified) on April 16, 2014 9:46 am
Why would children need a place in their school environment to research and quietly reflect?

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