When we first visited the library at Santee Elementary in San Jose, the books were hard for the students to access as there was extra furniture blocking some of them, and the shelves were cluttered with piles of paper, boxes, and textbooks for the classrooms that made the books less inviting. The library books themselves were decades old, worn, and far too few of them for a school of that size. However, we could see the potential. The library was spacious, had plenty of windows to let natural light in and had a great library staffer who made sure every student at the school visited the library to check out books from their worn outdated collection every week.
With our help and encouragement, the school staff completely decluttered the library of the old furniture and materials that weren’t needed. For the Santee library project, we were fortunate to receive a special donor gift that allowed us to buy new comfortable and colorful reading furniture. We wanted the kids to have a place to read that was more like a cozy living room instead of a stiff and formal classroom. Our volunteers also weeded over 1,000 tattered and outdated books from the collection to make room for the new books.
The library is housed in an institutional building, and didn’t have any signage at the two entrances to indicate that a library is inside. It lacked anything whimsical, cheerful or child-like. Our volunteers added many new murals to brighten the library, make it more cheerful, and welcome the community. At the front of the library, we added new “Library” signs in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. The school has 82% Hispanic students and 14% Vietnamese students, and the Principal is pleased that the facade is now welcoming to all of the families.
With a generous grant from the Dougherty family, we purchased 1,000+ new books for the library focusing on newer high-interest titles and books that feature diverse characters and/or are written by diverse authors. This was the first project in a long time where we’ve been able to bring together dozens of volunteers, including lots of volunteers from the school itself. Everyone chipped in to paint murals, prepare books for the library, assemble furniture, and more. Thank you volunteers!
We are so excited to be transforming the library at Santee Elementary! The library manager, Christina, tells us that the students are thrilled with the new books, furniture, and colorful murals.