*Sit-in for Books

In a largely Hispanic neighbourhood on the lower west side of Chicago, parents and their kids have been occupying a field house, demanding that it be turned into a library instead of being torn down and the land used for a soccer field. This is a neighbourhood where 40% of the students live below the poverty line.

With shouts of “We want a library!”…as many as 30 parents and children have defied local police since September 15, occupying the building and spending their time creating signs and saying the rosary.

So far, the Chicago School Board is unpersuaded, evidently indifferent to the fact that La Casita, as the small building is known, has been unofficially used as a community centre where English as a second language can be learned. The problem is that the building is unsafe and fixing it would cost much more than destroying it. Surely some billionaire philanthropist can save the building for these parents. Bill Gates? Oprah?

Even better–something ought to be done about American funding for public structures. Whittier, the local elementary school of the striking families, only has classroom libraries, which, according to a spokesperson for the Chicago School Board, is okay because 160 of their schools only have classroom libraries.

I find that very sad, especially in Chicago, which is home to one of the earlier and most beautiful public libraries in the U.S., with a ceiling made by Tiffany. I saw it years ago when I was visiting Chicago to promote The River Midnight, and researching the (later to be cut) Chicago section of my next novel. The library had amazing archives and an inspiring interior. If only it was still inspiring Americans to build more libraries.

It would cost about a million dollars to fix up La Casita. What does a million dollars get the American military in Afghanistan–a paperclip? Surely President Obama, formerly a resident of Chicago, could turn his sights to these brave and struggling families yearning for books.

(Full story here)

h/t Bookninja

10 thoughts on “*Sit-in for Books

  1. I’ve been in the doldrums due to work matters not going as hoped and so haven’t replied, but have read all the comments, and agree that it is shameful. I wonder if there is any possibility of sending donations and I’ll see if I can find that out.

  2. From here:

    “If you would like to contribute to the Whittier School Field House Library, the parents are seeking elementary school appropriate books (ages pre-k through 8th reading level) and educational CDs and DVDs in English, Spanish, or both. Please do not send monetary contributions to this address. Media can be sent to:

    Chicago Underground Library
    PO Box 11444
    Chicago, IL 60611-0444”

  3. Great to hear that people are actually fighting for a library! It is a great cause, I hope they set up a website so that donations can help them make this happen!

  4. How did I miss this post first time around? Dear, dear, I do wonder what can be done for libraries in situ and the provision of new ones the world over? It seems madness that in times of economic strain we cut back on the very resources that benefit the poor and needy. I hope they ask for donations of second hand books. I read about that happening in WW2 – the soldiers needed something to read, so a committee put adverts in the newspapers and so on, calling for people to send books they no longer wanted and they were swamped with hundreds of thousands. It seems easier somehow than asking for money (although of course rent and administrators have to be paid).

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