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Falls City Elementary students Sophie Davis, Miranda Ziegler, Jacob Major and Judah Morales, from left, check out some of the school library's new books Thursday.
October 23, 2012
FALLS CITY -- Despite knowing that she would need space for more than 1,000 new books inside Falls City Elementary School's library on this day, Holly Kraus was resisting the urge to purge her existing inventory.
It wasn't easy.
"Would this be appealing if you were in third grade?" Kraus asked, pulling a musty-smelling copy of "The Wee Little Man" off the shelf.
It was a beginner's reader, published in 1965. And there were plenty more like that.
Still, "I need to see how many picture books there will be versus chapter books," the librarian said.
With a smile, she added: "I'm excited. It will be like getting a present."
Those arrived minutes later, in the form of Western Oregon University literacy professor Tracy Smiles and a cadre of education students delivering a pickup load of new books.
Kraus pored over hardback copies of modern children's fiction, young adult novels, illustrated encyclopedias and more.
She held up "Brains for Lunch," a children's tome of zombie-centric Haikus.
Falls City Elementary librarian Holly Kraus looks through a box of books Thursday. WOU literacy professor, and donor of the books, Tracy Smiles is at right.
"This is fitting for this time of year," Kraus said.
The donation came from Smiles, who sits on the book award committee of the National Council of Teachers of English and is regularly sent books for youths to review. She's received almost 2,000 books during the last three years from 40 different publishers.
"I've just been inundated and was running out of space," she said.
Smiles began searching for a place to donate the books. A graduate student of hers suggested Falls City Elementary. The school district doesn't budget for library books from its general fund, though there is $1,200 annually for K-12 books from a library endowment and the Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Service.
The school's library has about 5,500 books, nearly all of them donations or discards from other school districts. Many of the newest ones still date back to the late 1980s.
Smiles and Kraus have been in contact with one another for almost six months about the contribution, which, based on the cover price of the books, may have been worth more than $15,000.
Smiles said lack of materials at an early age will ripple through a child's school career. Unfortunately, school libraries have been some of the first areas on the chopping block during the recession, she noted.
"Access breeds a desire to read," she said. "If kids don't have access to books, they can't make a decision to what they like."
Smiles said as she collects more books, they may end up at Falls City Elementary in the future. That suits Kraus fine, as she began to separate children's texts from those aimed at adolescents.
"I really haven't thought much about how to display these," said a happily flustered Kraus after the delivery. "They're so nice ... I want to get covers on them."
Kraus opined students would devour the new books as soon as they got the chance. Third-grader Jacob Major and his classmates gave the materials a big thumbs up. He dug out a graphic novel, "The Unsinkable William Bean," and began reading.
"It's about a place kind of like Atlantis," he said without looking up from the pages. "It's really good."