MARSHALL - It's difficult to imagine a school without a library. With a recent donation of 7,000 books, students at Marshall East Campus Learning Alternative (MECLA) no longer have to.
Rent issues forced the Southwest Minnesota State University chapter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) to close the doors of their student-run bookstore this fall. After MECLA administrators contacted the organization, SIFE decided to make the donation.
"People take for granted that a school has a library," said Jeremy Williams, MECLA assistant principal. "We didn't have one, although we did have access to the high school library. But for the kids to go on the computer and research a book that you can't touch and feel or read the book jacket, it makes it more difficult."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Marshall East Campus Learning Alternatives students Alex Wenzel, Josh Michael and Gabbi Davis helped organize a new library at their school.
At the beginning of the school year, MECLA started off with no books, but Williams asked staff members to donate a what they could. With the new arrivals, MECLA will build a library and also start a small bookstore connected to its coffee shop.
"With the reading incentive program we're doing, we wanted to get the kids reading," Williams said. "Our test scores are lower than we'd like them to be. With the staff donations, we had about 700 books, enough to fill one bookshelf."
On Dec. 8, arrangements were made for various MECLA staff and students to retrieve the books from a storage unit. Using vans and pickups, two trips were made.
"We're really excited," Williams said. "It's fun watching the kids go through the books. You hear them saying 'hey this looks good' or 'I'd read this one.' That's fun to see. There should be something for everyone. Now the next step is to see them actually pick up the book and read it."
MECLA seniors Josh Michael, Gabbi Davis and Alec Wenzel have been instrumental in helping with the massive overflow of reading materials.
"We've helped do a lot of the sorting, weeding out the bad ones and organizing the good ones," Wenzel said. "We put them out so you could see them."
Michael and Wenzel arrived at school one day and nearly freaked out after noticing the books were gone.
"We came in one day and all the shelves were empty," Michael said. "We thought all of our work was just wiped out. We'd been helping to put the books out and organizing them."
But it turned out that MECLA administrative assistant Leanna Ginocchio - who has a library degree in her background and is the school's unofficial librarian according to Williams - had a system.
"The kids had roughly alphabetized them, but then I went back in and did the exact alphabetizing," Ginocchio said. "We've really got a lot of good quality books. It's wonderful. I'd love to get the kids reading."
Word of the donation didn't come until three weeks ago, so there wasn't much time to prepare.
"Everything happened really fast," Ginocchio said. "We got the books a week ago. We had some bookshelves, but luckily SIFE donated everything they had related to their bookstore."
Eventually, MECLA will load the software, stick on barcodes and enter each book into the computer.
"The whole district uses Follett Destiny, so we'll tie into that," Ginocchio said. "By the end of next week, we should have it done. Other kids from the district can check out our books and vice versa."
In the future, Ginocchio said she would like to get more current non-fiction and also play-a-waves to help some of the more reluctant readers.
Being patient has been somewhat of a struggle, though.
"The kids are getting impatient," Davis said. "They want to check out books and they haven't been able to do that yet."
"Some teachers are getting impatient, too," said Wenzel. "They want to get their kids reading."
Davis will manage the bookstore and coffee shop - which opened this past spring - after graduating from MECLA today. Michael will be one of the employees.
"I'm excited about it," Davis said. "I want to own my own business, so this is a good place for me to start before I go out and do it on my own."
The coffee shop and book store will be completely student-run.
"They're in charge of ordering materials, helping to get the other employees trained and keeping track of the budget and books," Williams said. "Obviously, they work with us, but it's a student-run project. Gabbi will be in charge of keeping the stock up and advertising, which is a big thing for us."