The library at Rowen Elementary School in North Philadelphia is musty and outdated – a locked room used for storage and occasional meetings, a repository of yellowing, untouched books.
But Callie Hammond has big dreams for the room, whose leather-bound encyclopedias were printed in 1986, the year she was born.
Hammond sees the West Oak Lane public school as a launching pad for Library Build, a nonprofit group she recently started to renovate and staff school libraries with fellows in the Teach for America model.
The plan is to start in city elementary schools with no library. Library Build would recruit and pay library science graduates in exchange for a two-year service commitment to city schools.
“Libraries do amazing things,” said Hammond, who was a Philadelphia School District middle school teacher until she was laid off in June.
Research shows that library access matters. Students who have a library at school tend to perform better on assessments than those who do not. Libraries can encourage children to love reading and think of it not just as a chore to be handled in the classroom.
When Hammond was laid off from teaching social studies and science to nonnative English speakers at Wilson Middle School at the end of last school year, she figured it was time to work on Library Build full time.
These days, she divides her time between working on grant applications – Library Build received its first award, $10,000 from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation – and organizing the collection at Rowen. She is also studying for her master’s degree in public administration at the University of Pennsylvania.
More on this inspirational young woman from the Philadelphia Inquirer.