African Library Project

Tips from a Serial Bookdriver

Kristen Lee is a Teacher Librarian at Escondido Elementary School in Stanford, California. Kristen has done 2 ALP book drives with her young students. Here are some great tips for success from her.

Kristen Lee

ALPHow did you learn about ALP?
Kristen Lee: I learned about ALP from one of my parent library volunteers. Then, the Palo Alto High School librarian, Rachel Kellerman (who was in my same grad school program at UC Berkeley with me) contacted me to see if Escondido would be willing to partner with her high school students.

ALPWhy did you decide to do a book drive?
Kristen Lee: I love introducing our students to ways they can think outside of their small world and help those who are less fortunate. I appreciated that we were not asking students for money, but just to donate the books that they had already read and were willing to let children who had no books enjoy now.

ALPHow did you encourage the kids to donate books? And how did you teach the students about Africa? Any creative or fun activities?
Kristen Lee: I showed students the slideshows and videos on the ALP website. The "Cinderella" video was particularly moving, and one of my students brought her Disney "Cinderella" book to donate the very next day.

As for teaching the students about Africa, I arranged for some of the PALY students from the Global Literacy Club to come and present to my students one year, and another year, the PALY librarian came to give a presentation. We looked up Swaziland and Malawi on the map and researched them online to use the information literacy skills we had already learned.

In our second ALP year (two years after the first), I also had pictures of the library we had helped to start in Swaziland because two of our Escondido students had relatives living in Swaziland who traveled to the new library, took pictures of our books being unpacked (and pictures of the actual boxes with their labels clearly showing Palo Alto as the originating city) and the books on the shelves of the new library. Having concrete evidence of our participation was highly motivating.

In both drives, I made sure to put information about our efforts in our parent newsletter, our e-news, and in my library blog.

ALPHow did Escondido raise the shipping funds?
Kristen Lee: We teamed with PALY High School. The high school students were in charge of raising the shipping funds and for packing the books (the librarian admitted that they weren't as good about donating books), and we focused on getting the books donated. One year, my library volunteer, Pamela Hornik, underwrote the shipping costs on her own.

ALPWhat have you learned from the ALP book drives, personally or professionally?
Kristen Lee: I like empowering students to make a difference in age-appropriate ways. Given that I work in a library, what better way than a book donation project?! ALP provided me with a universally appealing way to help students who live far away in vastly different circumstances. We were able to make practical use of the information literacy skills I had been teaching. Finally, I loved how motivated students became when they realized that they had the power to help other students.

ALPAny suggestions for others?
Kristen Lee: If you are thinking about an ALP drive, partnering up with another school is a wise way to be successful. My students and I would have been hard-pressed to pack the books and raise the shipping funds. However, those tasks were easy for the high school students. So... find another school, divide the work, and enjoy sharing the load.

October, 2011