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East Village School Aims to Save Library with Online Auction

By Gustavo Solis | June 18, 2013 9:19am
  The Nighborhood School has to raise $40,000 in order to keep their library open.
Neighborhood School Fights to Fund Library
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EAST VILLAGE — The Neighborhood School is fighting to save its library from budget cuts for the second year in a row.

Parents recently launched an online auction to help raise the $40,000 needed to keep the library open for another year. The auction features art donated by local children's book artists, including an original illustration by Raina Telgemeier and a limited-edition print by Maira Kalman, who also creates artwork for The New York Times and New Yorker.

The $40,000 fundraising goal for the library has become an annual tradition for the East Third Street school, where budget cuts over the past three years have forced administrators to eliminate the assistant principal, literacy coach and math coach, PTA member Marjorie Ingall said.

“It seems like we’re going to be hanging by our fingernails and teeth every year,” said Ingall, who helped organize the auction.

Last year, students sold lemonade and donated their toy money to keep the library open, and the school also received donations from local residents, Ingall said.

This year, the school, where about a third of the students qualify for free lunch, was told that it would have to cut programs down to the bare essentials due to the loss in federal and state funding. Having a library is not required by the Department of Education.

The only funding that the school recieves is for students in temporary housing, and that number increased for the next fiscal year, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said.

Although many classrooms at the Neighborhood School have at least one computer, the library is the only place where an entire class can use computers at the same time. The library is also equipped with a Smart Board and a 12,000-book collection.

“It’s the only place in the school where students have a choice [in what they read],” said Cheryl Wolf, the head librarian. “And it helps them develop their choices.”

Students love going to the library, which Wolf keeps stocked with something for everyone. Some of this year’s most popular books have been graphic novels, children’s cooking books and scary stories, Wolf said.

The Neighborhood School shares the library with P.S. 63, another elementary school in the same building, and the two schools split the annual cost of new books and Wolf’s salary.

If the Neighborhood School cannot pay its share of the expenses, both schools would lose Wolf, who has been at the school since the library opened in 2005. The Neighborhood School would also lose access to the room.

“It would be a tragedy to lose her,” Ingall said of Wolf, who also teaches poetry classes and practical research tutorials.

As of Monday afternoon, the highest bids for pieces of art were $1,100 for Kalman's fine print and $550 for Sophie Blackall's autographed subway poster.

The auction, which opened June 10, will close on June 21, the same day school ends for the year.