Blog post written by Jennifer Giffen. Teacher Librarian at Richmond Hill High School.

A few months ago a group of students came into our Library Learning Commons to ask if they could hang a poster to promote an event at which they were volunteering on the weekend.  The event was a book drive for an organization called Project 99A.  It was taking place near my house so I decided to go and drop off some books that we had with my children on a chilly Saturday afternoon. The students were thrilled to see my family and I arrive – students often forget that teachers have lives beyond the walls of our schools. At the drive, I met Josephine Vaccaro-Chang, the founder of Project 99A.   She told me that she started the organization because of her love for literacy, a love that I share.

You see, my whole career has been built around strengthening literacy skills in all learners, be it as an English teacher, a literacy lead, a digital literacy consultant, or now as a Teacher Librarian. When Josephine asked if I would be interested in hosting the first community-sponsored book drive with her organization, I jumped at the chance. I knew that Richmond Hill High School had a lot to offer and wanted the students to see how easy it can be to pay it forward when it comes to sharing literacy.

When we started to plan we decided that rather than just a traditional book drive, we would host a book drive and swap. The model was simple; staff and students could donate books to the drive and they could take books that had been donated. There was no need to have donated a book to take one. After all, the goal was to get the books in the hands of people who would read them And, frankly, we never know who might not have the privilege of getting new-to-them books – appearances can be deceiving.

We ran the book drive over the course of a week, advertising the initiative on school announcements, with posters hung around the school, and a social media campaign.  The word spread and with donations from staff and students we were able to collect over 300 books!

We kept all books in a very visible location in the Library Learning Commons to spark curiosity in students and to allow them to easily peruse the donations. The excitement was clear. We had students who would drop in daily to see what new books that had been donated. A couple even took books home and returned them once they finished them within the week – a “re donation”.   I myself took a couple of selections home and watched my own children devour them. The sharing of literacy warmed my heart to a deep level.

Today, as we process the books and get them ready for donation under the tutelage of Josephine, one of the students asked if we could make this a standing initiative in our Library Learning Commons. Of course, I said yes. So now, we will have a dedicated cart in the library for people to donate books on an ongoing basis and for others to take a book when they are in need of a literary escape.

The entire process was easy and fulfilling and I really encourage other teacher Librarians to give it a try.