By Jeanna Baxter White
They are piled on tables, stacked in boxes, and filling up the small back room, but the employees at Bookmarks don’t mind because these books will soon provide Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School libraries with hundreds of desperately needed shiny new books through “Book Build.”
Since the winter of 2018, 10,000+ books have been delivered to libraries at 32 Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and this latest batch is scheduled for delivery to 16 more before school starts this fall. The school system has 45 elementary schools, 17 middle schools, and 19 high schools, for a system-wide total of 81 schools with two new schools currently being built by 2020. By the time the Book Build project is complete in the fall of 2020, every single school in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system will have more than 300 new books.
Sponsored by Bookmarks, a literary arts nonprofit organization and independent bookstore in Winston-Salem, NC, “Book Build: Fostering Connections by Building Collections,” is a three-year, $450,000 initiative focused on infusing the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School libraries with current, culturally-relevant books.
Through Book Build, the school system will receive 25,000 new books. Among the most-needed reading materials are culturally relevant titles, books published in the last three to five years, and multiple copies of popular books. In addition, the Bookmarks in Schools program will arrange author visits, volunteer help, and funding for media assistant support to help process the new books during the semester in which they are received.
“Since the only access to books for many students is through their school library, we realized the best way to make an impact is to work with the public school libraries directly,” said Ginger Hendricks, Bookmarks executive director. “Easy access to recently published books and books that reflect the readers’ interests can provide the impetus that leads a reluctant reader to become a lifelong reader.”
The initiative was announced in June 2018 and gained momentum in October when it received a $200,000 grant from the Mebane Charitable Foundation of Mocksville, NC. Although the first $50,000 was released immediately, the remaining $150,000 pledge was issued in the form of annual challenge grants.
“The grant was a game-changer for this initiative, and I am grateful that the Mebane Foundation believed in our efforts so strongly,” said Hendricks. “We have an amazing community that I believe will help us raise not only the matching funds but all the funds we need so our students will thrive.”
“We are so grateful to have received a one-year $25,000 grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation’s Community Progress Fund. We have combined it with funds raised from individuals, family foundations, and sponsors, and our first Book Build Breakfast fundraiser,” Hendricks said. “We reached our goal earlier than we thought, and it helps the momentum keep going as we plan for 2020.”
In addition to the many donors, Hendricks is thankful for the dozens of volunteers who have helped by categorizing the books, applying barcodes and bookplate stickers, taping over the labels on the spines, adding protective book jackets, and packing the books in the boxes going to each school.
Grant funding helps media coordinators in that all books are delivered processed into the computer system with individual barcodes, and ready to be checked out by students – a task that can take nearly 100 hours for 315 books.
Volunteers include retired teachers and school librarians, as well as volunteers from BB&T, Novant Health, Truliant Federal Credit Union, and Winston Under 40 through the Chamber of Commerce. Winston Under 40 chose Bookmarks as their nonprofit partner for the year, and BB&T also adopted Bookmarks through its BB&T Lighthouse Project and sent volunteers over the course of three months to help Bookmarks.
Ten City of Winston-Salem employees also helped. Each year, city employees serve the people of Winston-Salem in ways that go beyond their daily responsibilities as part of Helping Hands, a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. This year, employees joined Jackie Pierson, the school system’s former director of library media services and others at the school system’s Instructional Resources Center (IRC) to get 2,400 new books ready to be sent to the media centers at a number of elementary schools.
“As children have checked out the donated books, I am OVERWHELMED with the enormity and quality of this gift. These books have done so much to broaden our collection culturally, inspirationally, and perspectively!!! Thank you for giving us so many quality and high-interest books,” wrote Lissa Carter, media coordinator at Mineral Springs Elementary School. “Thank you also for providing us with an amazing author visit – Gillian McDunn. The 4th graders were THRILLED to have their own book and have told me how much they love the story. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!”
“The donors and volunteers have been great to work with on this initiative, and we oftentimes have waiting lists at the schools before the books even arrive,” said Hendricks. “I am constantly in awe of our community which understands the importance of books and reading. Without this support, we would not be able to fulfill our mission and meet our fundraising goals to make Book Build a reality.”
Fundraising is underway through fall of 2020. One-time donations and multi-year pledges to “Book Build: Fostering Connections by Building Collections” may be made to Bookmarks online or by mail to 634 W. Fourth Street #110, Winston-Salem, NC 27101. Please put “Book Build” in the memo line. To donate online, please visit https://www.bookmarksnc.org/donate-bookmarks.
Bookmarks is a literary arts nonprofit whose mission is to connect readers with authors and books. It produces the Carolinas’ largest annual Festival of Books and Authors, a schools initiative that reached over 12,500 students in 2018 and year-round author and reading events around the Triad community and in its nonprofit independent bookstore at 634 W. Fourth Street in Winston-Salem. Visit www.bookmarksnc.org