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Press Release: Bache-Martin Elementary School Celebrates Grand Opening

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Philadelphia public school provides model for community support and student success

PHILADELPHIA, Pa., January 14, 2019 – On the day before the 90th birthday of Martin Luther King, Bache-Martin Elementary School–a pre-K-8 public school located in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia—celebrated the opening of its library after being closed for seven years.

Through $90,000 in generous donations to date and book drives, the library is stocked with a collection of 10,000 fiction and nonfiction books, Chromebooks, furniture and equipment, and staffed with a part-time library coordinator.    

“We want our story to inspire fellow district schools whose kids will benefit from their own library, just as ours have immediately upon opening. And we hope our progress encourages ongoing consideration and emphasis of the importance of a literacy hub in all of Philadelphia’s schools,” said Jerilyn Dressler, Board President of the Friends of Bache-Martin. “It’s worth noting that we are a community of dreaming ‘realists’ and we know that a library can’t be most effective long-term without a professional full-time librarian. As a community, we are supportive of the District’s continued efforts to secure additional resources for libraries in schools.”

Attending the event and providing remarks were Mayor Jim Kenney, Superintendent Dr. William Hite, Councilman Darrell Clarke, Councilman Bill Greenlee, U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, State Sen. Lawrence Farnese,and State Rep. Donna Bullock.

“This beautiful new library is a great example of how communities can work together to meet their schools’ unique needs,” said Mayor Kenney. “I’m grateful to the families, staff, community members, and businesses who rallied around our city’s most precious asset – the young readers who will grow up to be tomorrow’s leaders.

”School libraries are a cornerstone of student learning and academic achievement, and their benefits are clear and decisive. High-quality library programs are a crucial part of a high-quality education, fostering a culture of reading and writing and boosting student achievement, including higher test scores. School libraries are nurturing environments that instill critical thinking, creativity and confidence, provide support and deepen the learning process of children. In addition, libraries help prepare students for future careers and for lifelong learning.   

As Dr. King once said: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

However, school libraries are often viewed as optional, and Pennsylvania does not require them. HB 740, a bill introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 2017, would require each public school to have at least one certified librarian. Philadelphia has fewer than a dozen certified, full-time school librarians—down from nearly 200 librarians a quarter century ago.

The Bache-Martin community can attest to the difference this library has made to our students, as we witness the impact of this investment on their daily lives. Children walk the halls clutching or reading their library books. We did not simply open a closed room, but rather we built one to connect with our students and teachers. Now the kids, some of whom have only ever had access to curricular materials, have access to books that interest them. Moreover, they can make valuable connections to what they are learning in the classroom. 

At a time when school libraries have disappeared due to budget cuts, Bache-Martin serves as a model for how community support can have a positive impact on a school.