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Foundation Boosts Library Program by $28 Million

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The DeWitt-Wallace Reader's Digest Fund last week announced that it will commit an additional $28 million to its program to revitalize public school libraries in urban districts, in order to expand the effort to 17 more cities by 1996.

At the same time, the fund announced that, as a part of the expansion of its "Library Power'' program, it will award a $604,000 grant to the American Library Association to administer the program and a $270,000 grant to the Public Education Fund Network to provide technical assistance to local education funds selected to participate.

To date, DeWitt-Wallace has invested some $12 million in the Library Power program in eight cities. Founded in the New York City public schools, the fund first expanded the program last February with a $4.6 million grant to public education funds in Baton Rouge, La.; Providence, R.I.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Tucson, Ariz. (See Education Week, Feb. 19, 1992.)

In July, the fund added three new sites: Paterson, N.J.; Cambridge, Mass.; and Lynn, Mass.

"The assumption on which the program was based has proven to be true: that the library can become an integral part of the teaching and learning activities at the school and that you can get the support at the community and school board level to make it work,'' said Bruce Trachtenberg, a spokesman for the fund.

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. By 1988, fewer than 17 percent of the city's elementary schools still employed full-time librarians.

At elementary and middle school libraries in the new expansion sites, the grant money will be used to provide professional staff development for librarians, teachers, and administrators and to finance physical-plant renovations.

In addition, the fund will match dollar for dollar any state and local funds allocated for acquiring new books and materials.

Each school that receives funds through the program will be required to commit resources of its own to the endeavor, including hiring a full-time librarian and setting aside a room to be used solely as a library.

For more information, write or call Ann Weeks, National Library Program, 50 East Huron St., Chicago, Ill. 60611; (312) 280-4386.--M.S.

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