April 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

NBA’s Pistons Give Detroit High School Library a Makeover


Earl Cureton from the Detroit Pistons lends a hand during the renovation.

A Detroit high school has scored a slam dunk—a renovation of its school library—by winning the Detroit Pistons’ “Reading Room Makeover” for  2015–16.

Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School at Northwestern won the statewide contest, now in its third year and cosponsored by the NBA team and Farm Bureau Insurance, a Michigan insurance company. More than 30 Michigan schools from 24 cities applied for the makeover, which will include new carpeting, paint, and furniture. They sent in photographs of their school libraries and answered questions including “Why does your school need a library makeover?”

“This is one of the first high school spaces we’ve worked in,” says Heather Collart, senior director for community relations at Palace Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Pistons. “We’re trying to figure out the best way to get high school kids ready for college and the real world.”

Detroit Public Schools has 103 public schools, and has faced multiple budget deficits for the past 11 years, with four emergency managers appointed by the state in the last four years.


Detroit Pistons team member Aron Baynes.

The library at Detroit Collegiate Preparatory hasn’t been used for at least two years, nor does it have the funds for a school librarian, says Principal Kenyuano Jones, who joined the 500-student school last December.

Money for a school librarian is not included in the award, but Collart says that in addition to refurbishing the library, the school will likely receive new tablets, computers, and television monitors.

Encouraging reading is a huge focus of the renovation, with three to four nooks being created in the library, so students can have “personal reading spaces,” says Jones. Graphics related to  the Detroit Pistons brand will also be placed throughout the library, all meant to make it look “cool,” says Collart.

“It’s about making the space welcoming,” she says. “A place where kids want to be, which we see as positive to learning.”

Farm Bureau Insurance joined the Pistons three years ago as a partner in the project, but the team has actually been funding such renovations for more than 10 years, averaging one per season. Detroit College Preparatory High School’s is the 32nd project.

In addition to school libraries, reading rooms at hospitals, community centers and shelters have also been made over, Collart says. Remodels typically cost about $25,000 but can run as high as $100,000. Collart didn’t say how much the work at Detroit College Preparatory will cost, but Vic Verchereau, Farm Bureau Insurance’s vice president of marketing, says his company’s portion for the renovation is “roughly $10,000 for each school,” which comes out of its advertising budget.

Work has already started at Detroit College Preparatory, with 40 volunteers, along with Detroit Pistons center Aron Baynes and retired player Earl Cureton, better known as “The Twirl” for his spin moves, helping with both preliminary demolition and some early painting this month. A grand opening ceremony is scheduled for September 21, with representatives from both sponsors and other players for the Pistons expected to attend.

“When teachers and students show up every year, with paint peeling and no resources, it seems like no one cares,” Verchereau says. “If we can roll in and bring them some hope and some effort to make things happen, it’s just an exciting thing.”

Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.



  1. Debbie Remington says:

    How sad that they didn’t think to include funding for a certified Librarian. Who is going to oversee all these new acquisitions? Teachers? Volunteers? Truly sad!

  2. Marcia Rhinehart says:

    Glad they are remodeling the room, but it is vain if it doesn’t have a highly-qualified certified librarian to help the students and teachers utilize the space to it fullest potential. Hopefully the students and teachers can find a way to encourage the administration to find a master librarian to take their school into the future.

    We should not expect any award to include a librarian’s salary…it should become a priority in the school’s current budget to find a way to hire a librarian, especially if they go through the trouble of remodeling the room.

    Volunteers are fine as long you have someone who is certified as a librarian to manage everything. Sometimes volunteers are not always reliable or able to be there on a daily basis.

    Hopefully the principal will see the need to hire a librarian even if only for a few days a week. Students deserve the best — that includes a certified librarian who affects every student and teacher in the building.

  3. How can someone volunteer? I would love to be a part of an immediate solution.