LOWELL – One year into a two-year comprehensive plan to revitalize school libraries across the city, Superintendent of Schools Joel Boyd and Mayor Sokhary Chau are proud to announce that our school library spaces have become vibrant learning hubs and comfortable spaces for students to find and enjoy books they love.
The duo recently toured the libraries at the Lincoln Elementary, Laura Lee Therapeutic Day, Bailey Elementary, and Daley Middle Schools.
“It is incredible to see these library spaces come back to life and for the students to be so excited about books,” said Boyd. “A well-equipped, up-to-date library/media center should be a central hub for every school community. Thanks to the advocacy of Mayor Chau and the work of our Office of Teaching and Learning, that will be the standard in Lowell.”
Library services and staff in Lowell Public Schools were among the resources that were reduced five years ago to resolve the district’s structural deficit in the wake of the financial crisis of 2018.
The district has invested heavily in a multi-tiered system of support to accelerate learning for all students to overcome the academic impact of the COVID-19 shutdowns. Among those investments, Lowell Public Schools earmarked approximately $2 million from the federally-appropriated Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund to:
- Update library book collections and digital library resources to ensure all schools are fully equipped with a 21st century library-media center and that the media offered is reflective of the diversity of all LPS students.
- Assess and supplement staffing levels to ensure all school-based, library-media centers are accessible to all students and families.
- Purchase software to be used in libraries to help students improve their reading levels and access resources that align with their interests, improving K-12 literacy.
- Implement cataloging software that makes it easier to sign-out books as well as digital offerings and technology.
Mayor Sokhary Chau stated, “Library resources to our students and community are vital to the learning process and future student achievement. As a Gateway City, we must provide these vital learning centers both in space and technology to all our residents. Our City’s successful future depends on it!”
Use of these ESSER funds complements the technology upgrades made possible by the $3 million awarded to the district by the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund program. Those funds are being used to upgrade technology infrastructure, as well as provide hot spots that students can borrow in times of temporarily interrupted internet connectivity at home.
According to Melissa Newell, the district’s Coordinator of Language & Literacy, there are 500-700 books being borrowed weekly from each school library. There has been $1.6 million spent on books this school year, with another $800,000 in purchases pending.
“It was important to us when choosing books to purchase that they were inclusive, so every student could see themselves in the characters and in the authors,” said Newell, who has been working with the schools and library teachers to assess their specific needs as we head into the next school year.
Additionally, the schools are listening to what the students what to see more of and have added funding to bring in more graphic novels, Manga (Japanese graphic novels), and non-fiction works.
Students not only have access to the physical books available in their school libraries, but also thousands of other titles through the Sora digital library app. Newell reports there have been 20,000 check outs of new e-books through Sora this school year.
This summer, Lowell students can access all recommended summer reading books, as well as comics and other fun summer beach reading on any device through Sora. Recommended summer reading books are also available in hard copy at the city’s Pollard Memorial Library.