LETTER: Greenwich Public Library’s role in the achievement gap

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorTo the Editor:
I am heartened to hear that Selectman Drew Marzullo and members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation have called for the immediate funding of approximately 120 students in Greenwich’s public schools to gain Internet access at home.
It is ennobling that leaders in our community have pushed for an interim appropriation on this matter, realizing as I do from my years in municipal government that interim appropriations are generally reserved for main water breaks and roof collapses.
I have an idea which will prevent the need for an interim or emergency appropriation. The money, indeed, has already been allocated.
The $10,000-$50,000 in question should come out of the line item — for outreach — from the Greenwich Public Library’s budget, no later than Dec. 1, 2015. I actually commend the BOE for guestimating the number of students/households, although I do roll my eyes that this is somewhat of a Johnny-come-lately, top-down approach to releasing the unicorn of “the digital learning initiative.”
Before a school district can succeed with a digital learning initiative it must address any existing digital divide in its community. I hope this was told to the BOE by the experts they hired.
Librarians have a professional obligation to bring attention to this matter and to conquer it as one of the public library’s first mandates. Three years ago, I told the — then — Director of the Greenwich Public Library — and her Deputy Director — this was a serious issue in Town. How did I know? From one afterschool visit I made to the Boys and Girls Club. Have you seen the computer room at the Boys and Girls Club lately? I did — again — just last week. Now compare it to the children’s computer area at the Greenwich Public Library. Need I say more?
Yes, a check — covering the cost of providing Internet access to these students — needs to be given to the BOE by December 1. Otherwise, the investment being spent on the digital learning initiative will not efficiently reach the students in our district who need it the most.
If the librarians at the Greenwich Public Library did more outreach in our neighborhoods, they would realize that the children living in Wilbur Peck, Armstrong Court, Putnam Green, New Lebanon, Hamilton Avenue are not surmounting the Divide with the four designated workstations at the Main Library, nor the five at the Cos Cob Branch. The main library’s adjacent 1,000 square foot room dedicated to thousands of picture books in toddler-friendly bookshelves communicates the main library’s lop-sided priorities vis a vis children along with providing 72 hours a week of “Candy Crush” access to adults, many of which are non-residents hailing from the Tri-State area.

The Director of the Greenwich Public Library should deliver this check to Mr. Marzullo within 2 weeks. This amount represents .005% of her annual budget of 9.2 million dollars!

Indeed, not one more gallery showing; not one more “Star Wars Return of the Jedi” movie night; not one more “Healing Touch Therapy” program until the Greenwich Public Library allocates this very small amount of money — in percentage of its huge annual budget — to closing the Digital Divide in Greenwich.

If the Greenwich Public Library does not fund this priority, then I staunchly question its priorities and leadership. I do realize that Ms. Ormerod-Glenn resides in Rye, NY and that this issue may not be on her radar. I am also prepared to donate a $1,000 dollars to closing — once and for all — the Digital Divide in Greenwich and will be happy to help fundraise the remaining.
Ms. Ormerod-Glenn, the Digital Divide exists here in Greenwich and we want it closed. We want you to work with the BOE on this obvious need for resource sharing. You have the funds to do this.
Our students deserve more than four workstations 14-20 blocks from their homes. Their parents will not allow them to walk home at night — back to Josephine Evaristo Avenue — alone.
This is an urgently needed appropriation. Since it is we who fund the Library, along with The Friends, we want this money allocated by Christmas.
Happy Holidays,
Jodi Weisz, MLIS
Permanent Member of Beta Phi Mu
Honor Society of Library & Information Professionals

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