In June, Rachelle Nocito toured school libraries in a gloomy way—boxing and organizing books from libraries closing throughout the School District of Philadelphia.
As the 2012-13 school year nears, Nocito oversees a challenging yet more positive task—opening new libraries and redistributing unused books to needy schools.
"We're organizing and figuring out what we have, and now, as you can see, we're getting our shelves in order," she said.
Nocito, with assistance from library intern Jonathan Burton, readied the AMY Northwest Middle School Library in Roxborough last week, as the school prepares for its first year at the former Levering school.
Working this summer for the district, Burton usually manages the Powell House for the Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks in Society Hill. Last Thursday, he was knee deep stocking shelves according to the Dewey Decimal System and cataloging what books are too old/inappropriate and which books deserve a new life elsewhere.
Burton altered the layout for the former Levering library—positioning shelves toward the back and side, while opening up a larger teaching area up front.
"We wanted to make it more user friendly and more wide open," he said, adding AMY Northwest will also make room for 10 desktop computers.
Money for Libraries
With 47 certified librarians employed for the district's 252 schools, Nocito says there's clearly a shortage. Sometimes, she said, those specialists are pulled into classrooms for staff coverage, taking time away from libraries. And although 12 more school libraries are run by teachers that want to keep the facilities operational, the district lacks the finances to do more.
"I don't know a school where a principal doesn't want a library, but it depends on how much budget money the school is working with," she said.
At AMY Northwest, she said probably would budget for a full-time teachers assistant with a library background.
Nocito's title is content specialist for libraries, and she works to form partnerships and link schools where she can.
The school district teaches its students, especially the middle school ones like at AMY Northwest, how to conduct reliable research. Traditional research through trusted hard copy sources is crucial, as is learning how to find solid, safe online sources.
Nocito said the school district will partner with NBC Learn this year, which allows students access to the company's 80 years of primary sources.
In addition, students may utilize the district's library resources at home—which includes programs run through Central and Ben Franklin High Schools.
The School District's Future
Roxborough felt the impact from the district's first round of school closings when elementary students from Levering were redistributed to the three other elementary schools and AMY Northwest.
on the horizon at yet-to-be-determined schools, Nocito may face reorganizing libraries again next summer.
"The district will have to find a balance when looking at closings based on population and achievement. Philadelphia has to move forward, and we're doing what we can," he said.
While she recognizes the district possesses a shortage of librarians, she's hopeful "winning situations" like what's happening at AMY Northwest will emerge and buildings and their libraries can rally.
"A little TLC and the good leadership here at AMY is what this building needs. I believe AMY Northwest will help move this neighborhood forward," she said.
She and Burton worked to finish AMY Northwest before tackling their next school before the .