Students gather books for community center Tomes will fill void left when bookmobile visits were eliminated

March 20, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

William Shakespeare, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Francine Pascal have a new home: the Roger Carter Neighborhood Center.

"Romeo and Juliet," "The Scarlet Letter," and the "Sweet Valley High" series are some of the more than 8,000 works Centennial High School students donated Tuesday to the Ellicott City community center.

The books are to fill the shelves of a makeshift library that is trying to fill a void created when budget cuts ended the visits to the area of the Howard County Public Library System's bookmobile.

Several other Howard County schools -- including Glenelg High, Dunloggin Middle and West Friendship Elementary -- also have contributed to the library at the center.

"This will help us a lot," Lynn Glaeser, who manages the center, said of the donations. "Now the kids will have the resources they need at their fingertips, and I hope that it will get them reading, too."

The center, at Ellicott Mills Drive and Fells Lane, is within walking distance of several low- to moderate-income apartment complexes whose residents depended on the bookmobile for access to a public library.

But the library system cut the bookmobile program in 1991 and the closest libraries -- the Miller branch library in Ellicott City and the Catonsville branch of the Baltimore County Public Library System -- are at least four miles away.

"A lot of people don't have the funds to use public transportation or the private transportation to take themselves to these facilities," said Barbara C. Moore, who supervises the center. "To have a bookmobile in the community, what could be a better asset?"

The loss of the bookmobile affected local children the most, said center volunteer Jackie McAfee.

"The kids missed it a lot for their summer reading and for their school projects," said McAfee, who would borrow books from the Miller branch library for the children. "They just didn't get their projects done. How could they?"

Three years ago, the Columbia Continentals, a public-service sorority, began running a small library in the center's conference room, Glaeser said. Though open only on Saturdays, the library's collection of a few thousand books was well-thumbed by area residents.

Last fall, McAfee and Jackie Harrell, another center volunteer, began a book drive in their Dunloggin neighborhood and their churches, hoping to expand the library's collection. They managed to gather about 250 books, but wanted many more.

Earlier this year, a Glenelg High School student read a notice promoting that drive and called Harrell to see what she could do to help.

The youth's initiative caught Harrell by surprise.

"That spurred me to call Centennial," said Harrell, whose son, James, is a sophomore at the high school. "I thought that if Glenelg can do it for us, Centennial can do it for us, too."

In February, Harrell contacted Joyce Decker, an American literature teacher at Centennial, who advises the Students Helping Other People (SHOP) club, an extracurricular organization involved in food drives, alcohol awareness and AIDS prevention.

"How many books do we have that no one even looks at?" said Decker, who organized the book drive two weeks ago. "Everyone has books that they've outgrown."

To encourage contributions, Decker, Harrell, and McAfee, whose two sons attend Centennial, got Bruegger's Bagel Bakery to offer a free breakfast to the three second-period classes that donated the most books.

The friendly contest ended Friday with 8,174 books. The top three classes contributed an average of 2,000 books.

On Tuesday, the books were loaded into three trucks and a mini-van and taken to the center. The bounty included a bound collection of "The Harvard Classics," a set of encyclopedias, and a series on the U.S. Civil War.

Senior Alexis Smith said she decided to donate her Nancy Drew collection and her Sweet Valley High series because she had already read them.

"I enjoyed reading them so much that someone else should read them, too," said Smith, who is vice president of SHOP.

Sara Condron said she grew tired of piling the National Geographic magazines in her bedroom.

"They've been sitting there collecting dust," said the sophomore. "I felt like giving them to some place that will actually use them."

Several months ago, Glenelg High School -- where the idea for the book drive started -- joined with West Friendship Elementary School to donate a total of 500 books, according to Harrell. Dunloggin Middle School also contributed about 250 books.

Though still open only on Saturday, the library will now have a much bigger collection, And Glaeser said some of the books will help the center's tutorial service and allow it to start up reading clubs in the future.

The idea of reading clubs caught the eye of James Harrell, Jackie Harrell's son. "I just hope that it can spark a flame in someone else's heart," the sophomore said.

Pub Date: 3/20/97

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