When Anita Cooper’s son started going to Mission Hill K-8 School in Jamaica Plain in 2018, she was disappointed to find that its library had fallen into neglect. Due to budget cuts, it has not had a librarian since 2012 and its inventory has not been updated in at least as long.
Cooper is now spearheading an effort to transform what is now essentially a repository for old books into a fully functioning school library that the students of MH K-8 can enjoy for years to come.
When MH K-8 moved to 20 Child Street (the site of the old Agassiz School) in 2011, the interior received an overhaul. The library is a physically attractive space, but there is currently no system for locating specific books or signing them out. Students can physically browse titles and check books out on a piece of paper, but returning them is done on an honor code and there is currently no system of enforcement.
Cooper’s first goal was to renew the library’s old online cataloging system. However, she was told that there was no money in the school’s budget to pay the annual $400 subscription fee to LibraryWorld, the online library automation service that historically managed their collection.
“We couldn’t afford to keep the catalog online and pay every year to resubscribe,” she said.
So Cooper turned her sights to a community partner who could step in and bridge the gap.
When it came to partnering with an organization in the community, she knew she wanted to keep it local. That’s when it occurred to her to approach McCormack & Scanlan on 68 South Street, literally around the corner from the school.
Cooper knew that the real estate agency organized an annual sock drive and thought that they perhaps could organize a book drive to boost the library’s inventory. But the local company went even further, agreeing to cover the yearly subscription cost of the library’s online catalog and to volunteer at its annual Scholastic book fair.
“The project is a basic revitalization of an important resource within our school, which we couldn’t do without the support of McCormack & Scanlan,” said Cooper. “We are so fortunate and excited to have this partnership.”
Colleen Scanlan of McCormack & Scanlan is also thrilled about the collaboration, having enjoyed the same library when she was growing up.
“It will be great to make sure the library can continue to offer recent publications to the students,” she said. “[This] will be the stepping stone of awareness and appreciation of our public library institutions.”
With the library’s online catalog up and running again, Cooper’s next step will be to remove old, outdated titles and register some new books that recently arrived.
“Any reference books older than ten years are outdated,” she said. “Slowly we’re trying to weed stuff out, and we’ll have an idea where the gaps are.”
The school is also talking about hosting a spring book drive to bring in a new selection of titles.
Currently, Cooper is championing the MH K-8 library revival by herself. She plans to speak at the school’s Family Council meeting in December to drum up interest in her efforts.
“I’m hoping to get more parents involved,” she said, adding that her work schedule only allows her to devote three hours per week to the project. “At the moment it’s just me.”
To volunteer or contribute in another way, call the school at 635-6384.