The Loss of an Academic and Social Space

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I took this photo as the librarians were preparing to move out of the old Trenton High.  The busts of these scholars, thinkers and writers were prominently displayed in the library, however, like the books and other materials they have been placed in storage while the new school is being built.

When I first sat down to type this post I figured I would talk about how teachers and staff members are affected by the demolition of the old Trenton Central High School.  For example, I wanted to describe how some staff members, me included, now have to travel to different locations to provide instruction or work with students because the youngsters are now housed in different buildings throughout the city.  Additionally, I planned to point out how some displaced teachers now pay $90 a month for parking rather than park their vehicles on the street in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city.  However, rather than talk about how staff members have been inconvenienced, I feel it is more important to talk about how students are affected during this transitional period.  I am particularly concerned by the fact some students no longer have the ability to walk into a functional library.

One of the school’s librarians, Ms. Nancy Lee, indicated that before The High was razed between 10,000 to 13,000 students signed in during a given year, but since the school was torn down an average 1000 kids per year sign in.   When the old TCHS library was up and running thousands of youngsters went there to check out magazines, log onto the internet to complete college applications, conduct research, and finish assignments.  Others stopped by because it was one of the few places in the building with air conditioning, comfortable seats and large full length tables.  To be sure some students went to the library during their lunch periods have a bite to eat, hang out, have conversations and quite possibly hook-up.  My point is that for many the library was more than just a place where books were stored; it was an academic and social space.

Since I work at the High, I can honestly say that school officials and the librarians have worked hard to replicate the scholarly and social ambiance, which existed in the previous library.  Their efforts, however, have largely been thwarted in part because the majority of books, periodicals, and other valuable materials have been temporarily stored in a warehouse.  Additionally, as I have mentioned above, the students are now spread out all over the city and some of the buildings simply do not have the physical space to accommodate a library.

It would be easy to say it will all work out and in the end and the students will eventually have a new school with a better library.  Such a sentiment, however, misses the point.  It is a crime that hundreds of Trenton High students are missing the social and academic feel of a school library while the new school is being built.

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