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4 Urban Districts Awarded $4.6 Million for Libraries

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The DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund has awarded public education funds in four urban school districts $4.6 million to revive their libraries.

The new grants are part of an expansion of the fund's "Library Power" program launched in the New York City Public Schools in 1988.

The grants will be administered by public-education funds in Baton Rouge, La.; Providence, R.I.; Rochester, N.Y; and Tucson, Ariz. Each fund will receive slightly more than a million dollars to provide professional staff development and to finance physical renovations for their elementary and middle-school libraries.

DeWitt-Wallace will also match dollar for dollar state and local funds allocated for acquiring new books and materials.

The goal of the project is to improve the quality of school libraries by providing "resources that have too often been neglected in recent years as schools struggle to make fiscal ends meet," M. Christine DeVita, president of the DeWitt Wallace Fund, said in a statement.

The grants send "a message that libraries [are] a critical component of elementary education," said Donna V. Dunlop, DeWitt Wallace's program director.

Ms. Dunlop anticipates that the program will expand to at least three other cities later this year: Paterson, N.J.; Cambridge, Mass.; and Lynn, Mass.

The original project in New York was aimed at revamping the city's elementary-school libraries after years of neglect wrought by the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970's, according to Sara Schwabacher, a program officer at the Fund for New York City Public Education, which oversees the New York project.

When the Library Power program first began in New York City, fewer than 17 percent of the district's elementary schools still had full-time librarians, according to Ms. Dunlop.

The four new districts were selected for the program because they incorporated innovative partnerships and services into their proposals, Ms. Dunlop noted.

For example, in Providence, students at the Rhode Island School of Design and Roger Williams College will help plan the physical renovation of the libraries.

In Tucson, the grant will fund a bilingual, multicultural book mobile that will augment the resources of schools with ethnically diverse student populations.

As in New York, each school to receive funds under the new grants will be required to commit its own resources, in particular by hiring a full-time librarian and designating a room to be used solely as a library.

In addition, by the third year of the project, the four sites must generate at least one-third of their financial support through outside sources, and have developed a longterm plan for institutionalizing funding through local sources.

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