Students can once again check out books.
For Pasteur Elementary School graduate Elizabeth “Liz” Jacobs, the school’s library, a sunlit room with dark wooden shelves, was a happy place presided over by the school’s longtime librarian, Mrs. Robinson. Jacobs, who graduated in 1962, is one of many Jewish alumni of Pasteur, located at Stoepel and Pembroke in Northwest Detroit. She is the recording secretary of the Friends of Pasteur, a nonprofit support organization for the school.
Mrs. Robinson retired years ago, and the library was transformed into a testing room with large tables crowded with desktop computers. “They needed a room for computer testing and moved in desks. The other furniture and card catalogue were moved out. The last time a book was taken out was in 2006,” Jacobs explains.
The remaining books were stored in a hodgepodge collection of cartons and disorganized stacks on the shelves. However, when the school switched to using laptops in classrooms for testing and other purposes, Jacobs saw the possibility of reconstituting the library.
“It had the bones for a good library,” she said, and thought it would be a good project to undertake. Jacobs met with Michelle Hall, Pasteur’s principal, who was supportive of her vision for the library. Jacobs then recruited volunteers, including many fellow members of the Friends of Pasteur, as well as other individuals with a desire to help. Deborah Manning, a co-founder of the Pasteur Alumni Association — predecessor to the Friends of Pasteur and a current member of its board — was a strong supporter of the library project, Jacobs says.
Over a period of about three months, 15 volunteers sorted through hundreds of books, eliminating those that were obsolete or in bad condition, and then organized, dusted and shelved those that were usable. (Some books were returned to the central school district.) The Friends of Pasteur spent more than $1,000 on 181 new books and other items for the library.
Another 10 volunteers helped Jacobs select new books for the library, focusing on books that have received the prestigious Newbery and Caldecott awards for children’s literature. Pasteur teachers provided ideas for the library collection as well.
A library open house was held in early December so students and teachers could see the orderly, cheerful library and celebrate its opening with special cakes featuring pictures of the library and the inspirational slogan “Reading is an adventure that never ends.”
The teachers are working out a schedule so that each class will have a designated weekly time in the library. In addition, the library will be used for tutoring and special educational services. New tables have been ordered, and the volunteers hope to add some comfortable chairs for the teachers to use when reading to their classes. Each student will receive a Pasteur Library card and will soon begin taking out books. Hall, Pasteur’s principal, plans to apply for a librarian from the Detroit Public Schools Community District.
While there was some initial skepticism about the ability of volunteers to renovate and reopen the library, Jacobs was committed to this goal and convinced others to share her mission. “Each day, the library evolves,” says Jacobs, an attorney who lives in Southfield. She continues to help out at the library — such an important part of her childhood at Pasteur — and hopefully, now for its current and future students.
For more information, visit friendsofpasteur.org