POUGHKEEPSIE – The Poughkeepsie City School District school library upgrade project is nearing completion after major district investment over the past four years.
In 2019, each of the elementary school libraries were operating on shoestring budgets, part-time and volunteer staffing, catalogs that had not been updated in years and furniture that was grossly outdated and didn’t engender the warm environments associated with modern school libraries. Understanding the importance of the district’s youngest learners developing a love for reading at the earliest level of engagement, the Parent Teacher Association at the Early Learning Center (ELC) held fundraisers and sought philanthropic funding to begin the process of upgrading ELC’s library.
“I remember meeting with Ms. Harris (then ELC PTA president) as if it was yesterday and listening to the desire of ELC parents for the school district to provide the most for their children.” Superintendent Dr. Eric Jay Rosser said. “After having the opportunity to visit the library and speak with the principal and librarian, I was appalled by all that the ELC library and other elementary school libraries didn’t have. My elementary school library was an epicenter to my learning and exploration and more importantly my love for literature. Among the major projects I tasked myself to complete was upgrading these learning spaces in each of our elementary schools.”
Rosser did just that, reappropriating Community School Funding to support full-time librarians in each elementary school for the 2020-21 school year as part of the district’s new 5-year Strategic Plan. Under the 5-Year Strategic Plan, over the course of the next several years, upgrades to all elementary schools and middle and high schools included:
* An initial investment of $100,000 in culturally and linguistically rich text for pre-K-12 district students. Additional texts have been bought since 2021. “Our PCSD team of librarians has worked diligently to update the library collections, removing damaged and outdated texts and replacing them with a variety of high-interest texts in a variety of genres, from biography to fiction to graphic novels. Students have many options to find books that appeal to their interests to foster their love of reading,” Janet Bisti, director of elementary education said.
* Technology upgrades (i.e. Promethean Boards, etc.).
* New furniture in all elementary libraries (middle and high school received new furniture this past summer).
* Carpeting in all elementary school libraries.
* New dimmable lighting in each library to support a warm reading ambiance.
* Library aides at Poughkeepsie Middle School and Poughkeepsie High School.
“The role of 21st century libraries goes beyond reading books; they also function as multimedia centers where students can explore digital texts, research and work in online spaces to create, explore and question. The new library layouts include space for all of these activities in a comfortable, inviting space for both children and adults,” Bisti said.
Consistent with these upgrades has been the district’s emphasis on improving literacy in and out of the school environment, in the spring of 2021 the Board of Education adopted the i-Ready Curriculum, which provides K- 8 grade teachers with a standards based ELA curriculum and out-of-class resources for students to extend their learning beyond the school environment. PCSD has also strengthened its relationship with the Poughkeepsie Public Library District (PPLD), which has resulted in library card drives, the PPLD mobile library attending Community School events and the expansion of SORA, a digital library provided by PPLD to PCSD teachers and students. The district also made an early investment in the MyOn digital library and has recently redirected its investment to Scholastic Literacy Pro, a more dynamic and richer independent and instructional reading digital library for PCSD students. Remaining on the upgrade project is to further beautify each of the library spaces with unique art that evokes the imaginations of students to be eager to explore fictional and nonfictional text.