Just-renovated school library missing one thing — a librarian!

Just-renovated school library missing one thing — a librarian!
Photo by Tom Callan

Schoolchildren in Prospect Heights just got the brand new library they’ve been waiting six years for — too bad they can’t use it.

The Underhill Avenue school unveiled the formerly defunct room — which would serve both the elementary school and MS 571 in the same building — on Nov. 12, but the kiddies can’t take advantage of its glory until the schools find money for a librarian.

“We raised the funding for this project — but the same [kind of] funding isn’t available for staff salaries,” said Rebecca Shulman Herz, leader of a PS 9 parent committee that solicited grants from city officials like Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) and Borough President Markowitz — but the schools and the Department of Education have not allocated money for a librarian.

Herz and her group went ahead with a ribbon-cutting on the $500,000 book room last week to dramatize the need for salary money — and to highlight arcane city rules that prevent parents from volunteering to run the library themselves.

Parents can’t do the job themselves because the school’s computer system groups students’ confidential information with harmless data like their library book choices. Only accredited employees can have access to that data, city officials said.

Herz hopes that the committee and schools can raise enough extra money to hire a part-time librarian by next fall, but for now, a timeline is unclear. Only one thing is certain — the budget-cutting city isn’t going to pitch in.

“Principals have discretion over their budgets,” said Department of Education spokeswoman Marge Feinberg. “PS 9 and MS 571 share the same building and will be sharing the cost of a full-time librarian.”

At the “opening” ceremony, kids like Conway McGrath, 9, and Emmayrabbi Mohammad, 10, flipped through the stockpile of more than 4,000 books in the library, which was once a cheerless junkyard of musty books, paint-crusted furniture and washed-up technology. Volunteer designers transformed it into the “book hive,” with a floor of yellow beeswax, new maple hexagonal tables, and windows that flood the room with light.

Students can have restricted access to the library when accompanied by specialized Department of Education employees.