UPPER WEST SIDE — The Manhattan School for Children is one of the Upper West Side's most popular K-8 public schools, but it lacks a fundamental school resource — a library.
Teachers have their own robust classroom libraries at the school, located at West 93rd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, but because of its popularity, they were running up against space constraints, said parent Maydelle Liss. Educators had to swap books back and forth, creating extra work for them, she said.
Liss and fellow parents Maura Duffy and Maureen McDermott took matters into their own hands and created a school book room where teachers could access a large collection of books to borrow and share with their students. Liss said the administration, led by Principal Susan Rappaport, was extremely supportive of the endeavour, giving them the green light immediately.
"Now we have a place where [teachers] can centralize everything," Liss said.
Hundreds of parents joined the project, which took three years and opened to teachers on Monday, and contributed thousands of dollars, books and in-kind donations like room renovations and design skills, Liss said. The PTA also received a small grant from the Harnisch Foundation, she said.
"Two of the school's parents run Book Culture. They worked with us and we bought books for 40 percent off," Duffy said.
Parents also bought books online and donated books from their own collections, and books were pulled up from the school's basement, contributing to a collection of more than 18,000 books that now reside in the room.
"It is a dream come true," Liss said. "We never thought [the collection] would be so extensive."
Liss, Duffy and McDermott generated a list of desired books by consulting with a parent who is a librarian and was educated at Bank Street College and input from Teachers College at Columbia.
Parent Aimee Musell helped them install a computer system so that books could be systematically checked out and tracked.
One of the most challenging aspects of the getting the library off the ground was going through each book and assigning it a reading level, based on educators Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell's leveling system, Liss said.
"It took all of last year — that's the most time consuming [part,]" Liss said.
The book room was designed as a resource for teachers and not as a place for students to drop in, the PTA said. Though there are 10 core volunteers that now oversee to the room's operations, the school doesn't have a librarian. Teachers can either email the volunteers their requests, visit the room themselves or send a parent volunteer to check out books.
"Our goal is that at minimum, 70 percent of teachers use [the book room,]" Duffy said.
Liss said it's exciting to see the project reach fruition.
"People are thrilled and the kids are thrilled," she said.