Baltimore school's library getting makeover

Brehms Lane to get gift from foundation, Target

March 26, 2010|By John-John Williams IV | john-john.williams@baltsun.com

Brehms Lane Elementary School, which has a high percentage of low-income students, has struggled to update its library with books and equipment. All that will change this morning when the Northeast Baltimore school officially receives news that it has been picked for a Target School Library Makeover, which will bring thousands of dollars' worth of new books, furniture and equipment into the school's reading and research area.

In addition to the library's receiving 2,000 new books, computers, furniture, shelves and carpet, each student will get seven new books to take home.

This is the first time a Baltimore school has been chosen for the award, according to Target. The makeover is being awarded to 32 schools nationwide.

"The library is an essential part of every school, as it's where learning and discovery happen," said Angie Halamandaris, president and co-founder of The Heart of America Foundation, a Washington nonprofit that provides books to low-income students and has partnered with Target. "Through this partnership, we are thrilled to give the students a new library and tools they need for future success."

Two other elementary schools in the city - Mary E. Rodman and John Eager Howard - were named finalists for the prize and will receive $1,000 to purchase new books.

Brehms Lane, where 97 percent of the 731 students receive free and reduced-price meals, now has 5,300 books in its library. The average age of each book is close to 20 years old.

The renovation at Brehms Lane is expected to be completed by the start of the 2010-2011 school year.

About 200 area Target employees are slated to come to the school and put last-minute finishing touches on the library before it is unveiled.

Since the program launched in 2007, Target and The Heart of America Foundation have donated more than 1 million books to 2,000 schools across the country. Last year, 18 schools received the library makeover.

Schools that have a high percentage of low-income students and demonstrate a need for the library makeover are eligible.

Target has declined to release the total cost of each school's makeover or how much it has spent since the program's inception.

The makeover makes a huge difference to a school's culture, according to a principal at one of the recipient schools. Principal Lillian Raimundi-Ortiz has noticed a positive change since P.S. 155 in New York City received the makeover in 2007. Students are now able to visit the library more frequently, and they are using more books on a weekly basis.

"The children's attitudes have changed toward books," Raimundi-Ortiz said. "They are borrowing more books, taking better care of them and even suggesting books that I should purchase."

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