Morton McMichael School library re-opens after two decades

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

By Kofi Biney

For 25 years, Morton McMichael School has operated without a library, not unlike many schools throughout Philadelphia. But today students at the West Philadelphia school celebrated the library’s re-opening.

Getting the school library up and running again was made possible by the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC), a nonprofit that helps to renovate and set up school libraries, and the Hamilton Family Foundation, which provided WePAC a substantial grant to do the work.

McMichael is the 16th public elementary school library in the city to be opened by WePAC since 2009, and the 12th one it will be running this year.

“It is absolutely critical at this stage, given what’s happening with the School District, that private funders are able to support public schools,” said WePAC executive director David S. Florig.

“We provide our library services to the schools at no cost to the schools and the School District.”

Volunteers and staff worked throughout the summer to clean and outfit the library. Though the library does not have a dedicated librarian, WePAC volunteers will staff the library two days a week, reading stories to students and conducting various activities with classes.

Nancy Brent, executive director of the Hamilton Family Foundation, said the re-opening of the library fits with the organization’s overall mission to provide financial support to help improve the educational lives of students in under-resourced schools.

“We feel that the access to school libraries, especially to kids at a young age, improves their educational achievement and their long-term academic success," Brent said. "So we were anxious to have a good library in place for them.”