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Disastrous library gets extreme makeover

Volunteer effort was work of parents, students and staff

With budget cuts eating away at resources across the district, parent volunteers at Edward Byrom Elementary School in Tualatin decided to do something about the user-unfriendliness of what is now an unmanned school library.

'We don't have a librarian anymore, and no one could figure out our system,' said Principal Rick Fraisse. 'We're modeling our school library out of the best ideas we've borrowed from other schools.'

Suzanne Coggins, a Byrom parent and library volunteer, decided to lead other parents in an effort to revamp the school library, which was apparently so difficult to use after the departure of the school librarian that even teachers avoided it. In fact, according to current media assistant Deb Kindrick, Byrom's was the worst library in the district.

'When you're putting away books and you can't figure out the system, and you're an adult, that's awful,' Coggins said. According to her, even Kindrick, who spends every day of the week at a different school in the district, couldn't figure out the system.

'You felt like either screaming or crying,' Coggins said. 'Kids couldn't find anything. You saw books not getting put away properly. This library is in the middle of the school, and it's kind of a first impression. I said, 'It's going to continue going downhill.' We needed to come up with a better plan.'

Coggins and other parents traveled from school to school, stopping at the Tigard and Tualatin public libraries as well, taking note of what did and did not work in other library settings.

'We're establishing a system that is more like other library systems - better labeled,' Fraisse said. 'In the process, we've weened out books that people weren't checking out, books that needed repair.'

Fraisse said the school had simply stopped ordering new books because the books it already had were too difficult to keep track of. Now, he says, they are looking forward to adding new titles.

Parents, students, staff and community members worked from morning to afternoon every day for a week, as well as a couple of evenings, to implement the new system.

More than 10,000 books were taken off dusty shelves and wiped down before being labeled. This week Byrom students began learning how to navigate the new library.

'I love the school, and when (I discovered) no librarian was coming back, I knew the problem was only going to deteriorate,' Coggins said.

'Do I do something? It's not so much my daughter I'm worried about; we have books, and I take her to the public library. But when I see all the other kids not coming to the library and avoiding it, that's sad. That's our future - not reading. Something needed to be done.'