September 25 — 11:33 am, 2002

Students fight for library improvements

Due to the efforts of student members of Youth United for Change (YUC), Olney and Strawberry Mansion High Schools began the school year with certified librarians and libraries that are accessible to students more hours of the day. They also garnered some resources for redecorating the Strawberry Mansion library to make it more student-friendly.

For over a year, YUC students have been calling for the National Library Power Program to be implemented in their schools. The program puts the library at the center of instruction, making it more inviting for students and a resource for students and teachers.

Leonard Bryant, an Olney eleventh grader, reported on the need for changes in their library at the end of last school year, “Our library is in a dark and dreary place. Students don’t really want to go in there, and it’s often closed. How are we supposed to be prepared for college if we don’t know how to use a library and do research?”

At an assembly at Olney in June, YUC members presented student survey results showing students’ desire to have a more accessible and student-friendly library to Principal Ed Monastra and Crystal Patterson, lead coach for library services for the School District.

In response to their research and demands, Monastra committed to keep the library open at all times and to make the library the center of instruction in the coming year. Patterson promised to help get more grant money for the library.

In August, YUC students from Strawberry Mansion continued the fight for better libraries by taking their concerns to the School Reform Commission and CEO Paul Vallas.

Tenth grader James Thompson testified about the school’s need for more relevant books and a certified librarian and asked for the SRC’s and Vallas’s help in securing more funding for the library.

Vallas assured students that the restoration and modernization of libraries was a “top priority.” After the meeting, he told the students that he would get them the $2,000 they were requesting to purchase additional supplies and books for Mansion’s library.

The students received the check for $2,000 and are planning to begin decorating and working with the Library Power program to get new materials and books.

Thompson says that the students’ fight for libraries is far from over. “This is a milestone, but we still have a lot of work to do,” he commented.

Contact Youth United for Change at (215) 423-9588.

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