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John Monfredo: Worcester’s One City, One Library Launches

Saturday, June 22, 2013


The One City, One Library program partners Worcester schools with the Worcester Public Library to bring children improved access to books and other educational resources.

We are on our way to reaching the goal of making Worcester: the City that Reads! This week at a press conference headed by Mayor Joseph Petty, City Manager Michael O’Brien, Superintendent Melinda Boone and a host of other city advocates the “One City, One Library” program was launched. Mayor Petty announced that there will be collaboration with the Worcester Public Library and the Worcester Schools to start four branch libraries within a school setting. This collaboration has several goals in mind: to increase student performance, literacy levels, sustainability and to bring the neighborhoods to the library. He spoke about the how critical is it for our students to have access to books, to learn the necessary resource skills and to have a support staff who will guide this partnership and make it work.

The schools involved as branch libraries will be Tatnuck Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary, Burncoat Prep, and Goddard Science and Technology. This concept will bring library services to our children and to the people in and around those schools.

Needless to say the principals of those schools were excited about how it would impact their school. Ellen Kelly, principal of Roosevelt, echoed, “I am very excited to be a part of the One City, One Library partnership. It will give Roosevelt students direct access to many resources including updated literature, informational text and technology. Our community will also benefit from having a library close by for children of all ages to research topics, complete projects, choose books and just enjoy reading.”

Principal Deborah Catamero from Burncoat Prep also was most enthusiastic and stated, “One of our priorities as we strive to make Burncoat Prep a high performing school is for the school and it's wealth of resources to become known as a "highlight" of this community. The one city, one library initiative will provide us with yet another neighborhood gem right here at the school where we can celebrate and share our love of literacy with both students and adults in the community.”

The press conference was chaired by literacy advocate, Patty Eppinger who spoke about the importance of this service to the community and stated, “National studies have shown that when students have access to library services and school based librarians, they will score higher on standardized achievement test in reading.” Ms. Eppinger a member of the committee that has developed the program played a key role in choosing the pilot sites. The schools were selected after visiting 14 sites. Factors such as simple geography to the diversity of schools to practical considerations like access to parking, handicapped accessibility, and convenient outside entrances were all part of the decision making process.

Mrs. Eppinger articulated about the need to establish branch libraries in Worcester. Study after study talk about the need for students to reach proficiency in reading by the end of grade three. The Annie E. Casey Foundation study found that students who don’t attain proficiency by the third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma than proficient readers. In Worcester, 59% of the third graders are failing to reach that benchmark on reading proficiency. Thus, a community effort needs to take place for as the African proverb states, “it takes a Village to raise a child.” The schools can’t do it alone for it has to be a community effort.

Mrs. Eppinger spoke about how this project came together and that it was individuals such as City Manager Michael O’Brien who collaborated with various colleges and UMass Medical School to make it happen. The program will be funded by a mix of public and private donations. Mr. O’Brien also announced that $1.2 million has been committed to the project and that there is a fund raising goal of $2 million needed to meet the needs of the libraries. Leslie Fish, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Worcester Public Library Foundation is involved in this initiative and urged everyone to visit the website, OneCityOneLibrary.org. The Worcester Public Library Foundation, the Worcester Education Development Foundation and the Worcester Education Collaborative will raise private dollars to build out the spaces at the schools, update the collections, develop programming and purchase new technology.

Susan Gately, President of the Worcester Public Library Board of Directors, stated, “One City, One Library is a really great idea. It’s resourceful, creative, responsive, and impactful. It’s bold and audacious. We all win with this one.”

Dr. Melinda Boone praised the project and stated how important it is to be pro-active and work on prevention rather than on remediation. The Worcester Public Schools embraces the partnership to move literacy to the next level and is well aware of the importance of putting books and resources into the hands of our students. She went on further to say, “My goal as superintendent is to connect every elementary school with access to library services and materials, while allowing principals and teachers to focus on strong literacy skills and grade level reading.”

More details will be forthcoming about the hours and days of the week for the neighborhood to access the library. One City, One Library will ensure that students, teachers, and parents will have access to public librarians and the library’s worldwide inventory of more than one million materials in all mediums and for all reading levels, not only during the school hours, but also when school is not in session (summer, vacations, holidays and when children are not in the building for school hours). The goal is to get the libraries in operation by September. All four libraries will have an updated physical facility, new shelving, furniture, and computers including early literacy stations, iPads, e-readers, and other digital media. They will also have updated books, materials and a parenting center. Most importantly, the sites will offer new programs that will make reading fun for everyone.

As directors of Worcester: the City that Reads, my wife Anne-Marie and I strongly applaud the city for this initiative. It was over 13 years ago that Worcester, due to budget constraints, closed all but one of the branch libraries the city. The closing of those branch libraries prompted me to write a letter to the editor of our local newspaper stating that this was a great way to promote illiteracy in our city. When my wife and I retired, having that unpleasant event still reeling, we launched a counter-attack on illiteracy by promoting Worcester: the City that Reads. Our goal was and is to promote the importance of literacy in our city and get books into the hands of our children. Let’s all get behind this literacy initiative and make it work!


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