The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation is more than doubling its
Baltimore Elementary and Middle School Library Project
from the original $2 million commitment to $5 million over the next four years to renovate and/or build libraries at 12 Baltimore City public schools.
The international foundation, headquartered in Baltimore County, announced the library project in December 2011. Less than a year later, it is unveiling its expanded initiative at a Sept.12 celebration at Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle School, one of three schools to receive funding in the project’s first round. The other two schools are Moravia Park Elementary and Southwest Baltimore Charter School.
Amy Gross, Weinberg Foundation’s program director for education, children, youth and families, says the library project was expanded because of its early success. It is already partnering with 30 businesses, nonprofits and government entities on the project.
Says Gross, “We wanted to extend our commitment now for planning and to get others involved.”
At the September celebration, the second round of schools is being announced. This round also involves three schools, one of which is the East Baltimore Community School, due to open in the 2013-2014 academic year, for which a new library is being built. Gross declined to name the other two schools before the event.
Gross says that as part of a federal funding process, Baltimore City picks about six schools per year with library needs. The Weinberg Foundation uses that list as a basis for choosing project recipients although it also has its own criteria.
“We look for a school with a full-time librarian and strong principal support as to how the library can be utilized through the school, not only for instruction but for community involvement,” she says.
In the schools in the first round, Gross says that the existing libraries were gutted and a new design installed. Work included a new layout, new furniture, and additional books, computers and e-readers, aka nooks.
“We pretty much stayed in the footprint of the [existing] libraries but they look nothing like their previous spaces,” says Gross, adding that in new schools, the library space may be expanded. “Basically, it’s what makes sense for the school.”
The cost and size of the library project varies with the school. The spaces average about 2,000 square feet. The total cost of all construction and programmatic activities runs about $980,000 per library. The foundation contributes, on average, $335,000 per library for capital and operating costs, with a U.S. Department of Education program contributing $360,000 and the city school system $145,000 per library. Partners provide the rest in additional financial and in-kind contributions.
The library project goes beyond the physical. The foundation’s funding provides for professional development and to hire an additional staffer at each library to assist the librarian. Partners are providing other services, among them:
• Barnes and Noble, nooks and instructions to teachers on using them in an educational setting;
• Dyslexia Tutoring, teacher training for early identification;
• Enoch Pratt Free Library, management of the Parenting Corner that is being set up in each library, with books on parenting and job search, and access to the Pratt system; and
• Wells Fargo, financial literacy training.
Source: Amy Gross, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
Writer: Barbara Pash