March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Disaster Relief Programs and Publishers Offer Many Ways to Help Schools and Libraries Afflicted by Sandy

First Book staff and volunteers unload boxes of new books at a warehouse in lower Manhattan. Photo by First Book

(This story was last updated at 9:32 a.m. on November 26.)

Those wishing to help school libraries and children’s collections that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy now have an array of giving options, thanks to several disaster relief programs, children’s book publishers, and charities.

Scholastic Book Grants Program announced plans to donate one million books to those in need. The initiative is a partnership with the organization Kids in Distressed Situations (K. I. D. S.) to assist educators, families, and students in the New York tri-state area who have lost reading materials due to the storm. Schools and libraries may apply for Sandy-related book grants through December 31, 2012.

Simon & Schuster’s education and library marketing department is offering aid in the form of donations of 500 “best of” titles to public and school libraries needing to rebuild their collections, according to a press release. S & S has partnered with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Literacy Lifeboats Initiative, individual schools, and state and regional associations, including the New Jersey Library Association (NJLA), in these efforts.

The nonfiction publisher Mason Crest, an imprint of National Highlights Inc., donated 500 children’s books to Operation BuddyPack, an initiative by the Heart of America Foundation, to assist schools and students affected by the hurricane.

Mackin Educational Resources, a Minnesota-based company that provides schools and libraries with books, ebooks, and other resources, is encouraging those affected by the hurricane to take part in their online fundraising program, Funds4Books Disaster Relief. For each dollar donated to East Coast schools and libraries, Mackin will provide a 10 percent match.

New York City teachers can turn to the online school charity Donors Choose with specific storm-related requests. A Hurricane Relief Fund donation page had logged more than $77,000 in contributions as of November 12. The New York City Department of Education also offers ways to help afflicted city schools. Donations can be made here.

In addition, the New York City School Librarians’ Association (NYCSLA) is creating a donation program organized by city librarians who attended the New York City School Library System’s 23rd Annual Library Fall Conference on November 6.

The Hudson Valley Library Association (HVLA), made up of private school librarians in New York City, Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey, and Connecticut, is also doing its part with a Google Document on its listserv offering HVLA members the option to ask for specific materials or financial assistance. HVLA will then match those requests with donors.

Urban Librarians Unite (ULU), an organization dedicated to promoting librarianship in cities, is also gathering book donations. ULU is specifically seeking children’s books because these materials usually sit on low shelves where flooding damage is worst. However, they are also accepting YA books, as well as monetary gifts.

Other established national disaster relief programs are renewing promotion of their services in relation to Hurricane Sandy. First Book, an organization that provides new books to needy children, announced a partnership last week with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the Albert Shanker Institute that pledged to match every donation of $2.50 made to First Book, up to $35,000 for new books. Donations can be made here.

According to First Book’s director of communications, Brian Minter, the organization distributed five million books after Hurricane Katrina, and has already raised enough money to provide 20,000 books in the wake of Sandy. In addition to that, First Book is in the process of delivering a truckload of 30,000 books to be distributed in New York at the request of AFT and its New York City affiliate, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), on November 12.

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Beyond Words Grant program, funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and established in partnership with the National Education Association (NEA), offers help replacing school library books, media, and other equipment, as well as financial aid associated with absorbing students from other afflicted schools in states served by Dollar General stores.

While Beyond Words was incepted in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina, AASL issued a new press release about the program on November 9, 2012, stating that Dollar General had distributed over $1.6 million to more than 130 schools during the past six years. Last June, AASL also announced two annual catastrophic grants in the amount of $50,000 for schools in need. Ongoing grants will be awarded to eligible applicants in amounts ranging from $10,000-$20,000.

“We wanted schools to know that assistance is available,” AASL President Susan Ballard told SLJ. “We are hopeful that members along the East Coast in the greater New York-New Jersey area will have a chance to apply for those grants.”

Ballard anticipates that “we will have a greater feel for what the needs are and how we can marshal a plan going forward” after the New Jersey Association of School Librarians (NJASL) conference from November 29 to December 1.

In the meantime, a new page on the New Jersey Department of Education site provides schools in the state with tips for navigating the federal assistance process and directs those wishing to help to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund.

Also geared toward aid in New Jersey, “YA for NJ” is an initiative in which over 170 YA and middle-grade authors offered items for an online auction, including autographed books, school visits, online meetings. All proceeds will go to the Community Foodbank of New Jersey.

Students whose SAT preparation was affected by Hurricane Sandy also received free assistance from Revolution Prep, an educational software and services provider that offered a free online SAT review session on November 15 to help students prepare for the tests, rescheduled for  November 17 and December 15 because of the storm.

Most New Jersey schools were open on November 13.  Katie Llera, a librarian at Sayreville Middle School, was one of many educators looking forward to returning to school after more than a week without power. Llera took part in volunteer efforts while schools were closed, and she also emphasized the importance of social networking to keep educators and students connected during that time.

Last week, Llera relied upon Edmodo, a social media website for educators, to keep in touch. The site is ordinarily used for her school’s book club, but Llera created other posts to distract students from the stress of the hurricane, offering news about the Garden State Teen Book Awards and information about a Skype chat with fantasy author Gail Carson-Levine. “I was just trying to get them to look forward to school, to keep their mind a little bit off of what’s happening,” she said.

Jennifer Jamison, a school media specialist in the Atlantic City, New Jersey, School District, has been working with Atlantic City Teachers United (ACTU), a group set up last week to help Atlantic City students and their families with basic needs after the hurricane. Though ACTU isn’t officially sanctioned by the Atlantic City Board of Education, it has reached out on the ground and through Facebook to gather donations, dropped off at school libraries, for those who are most in need.

The library at Atlantic City’s Brighton Avenue School was destroyed by the storm, Jamison said. While books are certainly on her radar, at the moment, “Kids don’t have underwear or mattresses.”  At ACTU, “We are collecting necessities,” she explained. “This is not a two-week thing. This will be a year-long initiative.”

As Jamison and others take the steps toward recovery over the coming weeks and months, they will have many ways to seek help.

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