ALA Student Members at ECU Share Gift of Literacy

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by Jennifer Dry, East Carolina University 

In the few, busy weeks leading up to Christmas 2009, students in East Carolina University’s Master of Library Science department gathered more than 12,000 books and materials to donate to homeless shelters, children’s homes, after-school programs, women’s shelters and a nursing home in eight North Carolina communities.

This was students’ fourth year participating in the ECU-ALA Student Chapter Holiday Book Drive in which library science students – inspired by the idea of giving the gift of literacy – collect gently used books from friends, co-workers, students and their families, and from their own collections at home, to share with children and adults in need. The 2009 book drive netted nearly four times as many books as the previous three years combined.

Those who work at public schools took the drive as an opportunity to get their students involved, resulting in an outpouring of support for the project. Melanie Kloack, an eighth-grade writing teacher at John Griffin Middle School in Fayetteville, NC, put the student government association in charge of the drive, explaining that many children their age have little access to books.

Student government leaders divided the school into teams to see who could collect the most books, advertising the drive with posters and intercom announcements and offering a “movie day” for the winning team. Together, they brought in more than 8,000 books and gave them to five non-profits in their hometown.

“I was very happy with the results,” Kloack wrote, “Our SGA reps were overwhelmed and surprised at the number of books students and families donated.”

Angela Finn, media specialist at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Raleigh, said her students helped collect 1,100 books for the Raleigh Rescue Mission, where their gift was greatly appreciated.  Middle school students participated by boxing books according to series and reading levels and then helped deliver them, as well.

“They were so touched and could not believe the number of quality books that we brought to be given to children staying there, to build their in-house school library or to use as Christmas presents, Finn wrote. “It sure makes one feel good to know these books will be put to good use. I am so proud of my students for coming through again."

Faculty members in the MLS department also contributed to the project this year by donating new books to the drive instead of giving each other Christmas presents.  A total of 35 new books were given to the Little Willie Center, an after school tutoring center in Greenville, NC.

Other ECU students and faculty who donated books were Valerie Blokland, Jenni Dry, Kate Fisher, Delane Fuquay, Dr. Jami Jones, Greg Mills, Kristy Sartain, Kimberley Trillet, and Jill Whitson.