Indigo Girls To Play School Library Fundraiser

Georgia middle school will host Grammy winners for a concert to update its library.

When teacher librarian Marcia Kochel came to Druid Hills Middle School in Decatur, GA, three years ago, she knew she needed to update the space.

“My library has all the original furniture—same tables same shelving, everything from 50 years ago,” says Kochel.

She also knew such a major renovation would take time and money. Kochel spent her first year working in the library as it was, deciding on her vision for the space and goals of educating in it, and creating relationships with parents interested in fundraising to improve the library.

Drawing from her experience having previously turned an outdated library into a learning commons, the 21-year veteran school librarian reached out to vendors and created a plan to create a flexible and collaborative space with mobile furniture, shelving on casters, a little café, and a makerspace with cabinetry. The cost: $100,000.

While the district makes sure the Title I school has an updated collection, she says, there isn’t money for renovations, so Kochel knew it would require fundraising. At the first meeting with parents, there were no ideas for the much-needed large fundraiser. But they all knew that the middle school building opened as Shamrock High School, and that high school had a very active, engaged alumni that included musicians Amy Ray and Emily Saliers—known to most music fans as the Indigo Girls.

“Wouldn’t it be amazing?” Kochel remembers thinking of possibly getting the Grammy-winning duo to agree to a fundraising concert.

Kochel and her group of parents spent her second year talking about that possibility while doing smaller fundraising that earned about $20,000 according to Kochel. Then she met someone with a connection to the duo, and after a little more deliberation, she decided to act on it. It wasn’t a complete longshot. Kochel knew the two women were proponents of libraries. Saliers mother was a public librarian in Georgia, and the Indigo Girls played a scholarship party at the American Library Association Midwinter in 2002. So she enlisted some students’ assistance and gave it a shot.

“I had a student write a letter, I had my kids write “I love my library” in the different languages they speak,” says Kochel, whose first date with her husband was an Indigo Girls concert. “I got pictures together showing our diverse kids and some of their book clubs and showing what we do. I put it all together into a big poster.”

She also made a handout that included information on the fundraisers they had already done, the amount of money raised and still needed, and what those funds would be used for. She passed it along to her connection in hopes of getting it to the famous Shamrock alumni.

Early in this school year, Kochel’s library assistant received an email directly from Ray saying the women would be perform for a fundraiser and their management would be in touch. When contacted by the group's management, Kochel had another ask—would they agree to do the concert at the school?

They did.

So Ray and Saliers will return to the halls of their former high school and play in their former gym with fellow alumni, current school staff, and community members filling the bleachers for the special show.

Kochel isn’t sure exactly how much will be raised, but expects to bring in about $35,000 from ticket sales alone for the sold out show. That happens to be the amount needed for the new, mobile shelving. She’s hopeful the extra fundraising from parking, merchandise, and concessions sales will help her purchase more of what’s needed to complete her renovation plan.

Truth be told, the students aren’t overly excited about the return of the famous musicians. Most don’t know or aren't fans of the Indigo Girls, says Kochel. But they many are participating in the event. Chorus students will be singing with Ray and Saliers at one point during the show, others are helping with the decorating, merchandise and concession tables.

“It’s pretty exciting,” says Kochel. “We have sound people coming in. We’re doing all kinds of new things. Putting on a big show is nothing I’ve ever done before.”

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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