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Volunteer librarian Gail Albers helped Nicholas Cristea find a book at the library at St. Cecilia School & Academy in St. Louis.
Volunteer librarian Gail Albers helped Nicholas Cristea find a book at the library at St. Cecilia School & Academy in St. Louis.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Volunteers lead effort to digitize about 11,000 books

The 25 fifth-graders breezed through the check-out process at their newly modernized library at St. Cecilia School & Academy in St. Louis.

Volunteers digitized the library records over the summer. Students no longer had to fill out cards by hand. Instead, library volunteers just scanned a bar code on the books. The librarians now can keep track of the books, order more of a popular book or series and establish a waiting list for books. Books are labeled by appropriateness for grade level.

“I like that you can look books up on the computer. It’s much faster that way,” said Asher Deaton, a fan of fantasy and science fiction books.

Lizeth Martinez, who checked out books from the “Dork Diaries” and “Judy Moody” series, said that previously some students in a hurry would scribble or not write their name on the card. The scanner “was way better,” she said.

Gail Albers is the lead volunteer along with fellow St. Alban Roe parishioners Lanita Lewis and Kay Clay, who are regulars at the library. Albers said it took about 950 volunteer hours to computerize the library. The total should exceed 1,000 hours when additional work is completed. Thirty-five people helped in the twice-a-week process, Albers said, including other St. Alban Roe and Holy Infant parishioners, Ele Chier, a student at Cor Jesu Academy, one of the archdiocesan ministry teams and the Today and Tomorrow Foundation staff. Some volunteers worked from home on the project, hauling suitcases full of books.

“The library is the best it’s ever been, and I’ve been here 20 years,” said Georgia Beyer, fifth-grade teacher.

The volunteer effort “has just been fun,” said Albers, who volunteers as part of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps program. She noted that the computerization was possible because of a donation to the school for the computer software, the same system used by at least one other Catholic school.

“We knew we were biting off a big chunk,” Albers said of the digitization of about 11,000 books.

When she started at the library nine years ago, many of the books were older and worn. They’ve gradually been replaced with newer books.

“The students were coming to us asking, ‘Do you have this book?’ and it was complicated to find out” before the digitization, Albers said.

On the opening day of the library last month, students received Matilda bookmarks, donated by The Muny in St. Louis.

Mary Loux, principal of the school, cited the importance of helping students develop a love of reading and to become lifelong readers. “We’re so excited that now we can find any book in an instant that they’re interested in and get the book at their grade level so they can continue to develop,” she said.

The digitization “was a huge community effort,” Loux said. “It’s amazing we were able to open so early in the school year.”

Third-grader Nicholas Cristea carefully looked through books that interested him. He settled on a book from the “I Survived” series by Lauren Tarshis. A native of Romania, Nicholas didn’t speak English when he came to St. Cecilia in kindergarten. Now, he has an extensive vocabulary and no longer requires some of the extra support he received because he’s advanced so much.


>> To help

Volunteers are needed at St. Cecilia School & Academy to work in a number of areas such as the library, directly with students in the classroom or in after-school care.

With the commitment of the Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation, the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and generous donors, St. Cecilia School & Academy provides a quality, Catholic education that will offer an opportunity for continued success in high school and beyond without creating a financial hardship for families.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities or how to support the foundation, contact Pete Cerone at the Today & Tomorrow Educational Foundation, 20 Archbishop May Drive, St. Louis MO 63119-5004, (314) 792-7732 or petecerone@archstl.org.


>> Higher grades

A 2016 study concluded that students who read self-selected books for pleasure average higher grades in English, math, science and history.

The study, published in the Journal of Multidisciplinary Graduate Research, was conducted by researchers at Sam Houston State University and Texas A&M University-Texarcana.

Other research on reading for pleasure is cited by the U.S Department of Education:

• Evidence suggests that there is a positive relationship between reading frequency, reading enjoyment and attainment (Clark 2011; Clark and Douglas 2011).

• Reading enjoyment has been reported as more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status (OECD, 2002).

• There is a positive link between positive attitudes toward reading and scoring well on reading assessments (Twist et al, 2007).

• Regularly reading stories or novels outside of school is associated with higher scores in reading assessments (PIRLS, 2006; PISA, 2009).

>>Benefits of reading for pleasure

• Reading attainment and writing ability;

• Text comprehension and grammar;

• Breadth of vocabulary;

• Positive reading attitudes;

• Greater self-confidence as a reader;

• Pleasure in reading in later life;

• General knowledge;

• A better understanding of other cultures;

• Community participation; and

• A greater insight into human nature and decision-making.

U.S. Department of Education, research by Clark and Rumbold (2006)

From the Archive Module

Volunteers lead effort to digitize about 11000 books 4377

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