The Tuscaloosa City Board of Education members have an ambitious plan to create robust library collections. Currently, Tuscaloosa City Schools' libraries fall well below the standard for “exemplary” libraries based on the Alabama Department Education’s benchmarks. Of the system’s 18 libraries, none meet the designation--yet.
The Board’s “Strong Libraries; Strong Schools.” campaign seeks to change that. State funding ranging from $0 to approximately $1.50 per student per year over the last 10 years have left most school libraries across the state with collections far below the standards for size and average age. However, this board of education is unwilling to wait for slowly rising library allocations to correct the damage done over that time.
“We have the chance to leave our legacy,” said Eric Wilson, board chair. "We want to be the board to raise this money to outfit all of our libraries.”
According to TCS superintendent Mike Daria, this campaign is a logical fit with the district’s focus on literacy, and reading before 3rd grade in particular. Daria said it wasn’t until the district looked a little closer at the issue, the problem became more clear and the drive to address it became more urgent.
“We started looking at the books on our shelves and said ‘we want our kids to read a lot, but there’s nothing of interest in that library because it’s all old,’” he said. “I think this is something that the community and the public can look at and say of course we need good libraries.’”
During the 2017-2018 school year, board of education members expressed interest in making this effort part of their goal lend their personal efforts to the work of improving the district in addition to their collective leadership and impact as a board. Since May of 2017, the board has allocated a total of $180,000 to four schools and has signaled an intention to provide large system allocations to all libraries over a total of five to six years. As individuals, however, they are passionate about this effort to launch a campaign to make reading engagement soar by providing new and relevant books to every library.
Strong Libraries; Strong Schools is a tiered giving campaign with recommended gifts ranging from $20 - $1,000. In addition, the board is seeking 18 “Champions of Literacy” to make large, one-time donations to name each school library. Online donations to the campaign can be made at www.tuscaloosacityschools.com/libraries. More information about the campaign is available by contacting any board member or the Office of Special Programs at 205.759.3722.