By Dagmar Serota
Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries, or FOPSL, is delighted to be renting the Godly Play room at St. John’s. Our non-profit was founded in 2012 to support Oakland’s public school libraries and to advocate to ensure every Oakland public school student has access to quality school library services.
Literacy rates in Oakland are very low. Sixty-six percent of Oakland Unified School District students are not reading at their grade level. Forty-eight percent of OUSD students are reading multiple years below their grade level. This issue disproportionately affects students who are living in poverty.
We were looking for office space, because we started a new library book donation program in October, in response to the many library books lost from school libraries during the pandemic. This program provides “like new,” library quality books to OUSD libraries free of charge. The program involves FOPSL volunteers accepting book donations from select sources, sorting them, and entering them into a virtual library. OUSD librarians then select books by “checking them out” online. Our volunteers prepare the books for library shelves, adding barcodes, entering them into the library database, and applying protective coverings. Then, our volunteers deliver the books to schools. OUSD library staff have enthusiastically embraced this program. As of April 15th, we have delivered over 2,500 books to libraries with some donated books, not suitable for the libraries, passed along to their students. Because the libraries are chronically underfunded, there is a need for these high quality books to keep school libraries current and engaging. In fact OUSD has not provided collection development money to its school libraries for many years, so the libraries depend on FOPSL for these books as well as FOPSL book and programming grants.
Last year, FOPSL partnered with OUSD to launch the OUSD Digital Library of eBooks and audiobooks. We have raised over $90,000 to support the library thus far, which will, for the first time, give equitable access to books to every single OUSD student. Since we were founded in 2012, we have provided nearly $200,000 in funding to support OUSD libraries. We have rebuilt 24 libraries. FOPSL has donated thousands of books and skilled volunteer hours to support OUSD libraries.
We are excited that some of our supporters are St. John’s congregants. Louise Miller is a close friend of our Board Chair. Barbara Newhall has been a long-time supporter of our organization, and Nancy Davis Kho just appeared in our Fall Author Chat series. We are hopeful that we’ll be able to engage some of your congregation in volunteering with FOPSL.
We are happy and grateful to be a part of your extended community. We feel that this space will help us grow our very popular and needed library book donation program and will help us build student literacy in Oakland. To learn more about our organization, please visit fopsl.org.
The Mouse is the long-running news source for St. John's. With decades of history, our blog now features the same great news about what's happening at St. John's with a more frequent publication cycle.