Crank up the volumes

Friends of Perkins Library donates hundreds of books to SCMS


Jessica Jewell, Swartz Creek Middle School librarian, selects some titles from more than 200 crates full of books in the Friends of the Perkins Library’s storage unit. The Friends donated hundreds of books to school last week. Photo by Lania Rocha

Jessica Jewell, Swartz Creek Middle School librarian, selects some titles from more than 200 crates full of books in the Friends of the Perkins Library’s storage unit. The Friends donated hundreds of books to school last week. Photo by Lania Rocha

SWARTZ CREEK — Jessica Jewell cradled a bundle of books in her arms and looked around at some 200 crates filled with tales and histories and adventures.

“I feel like a kid in a candy store,” said Jewell, librarian at Swartz Creek Middle School.

Thursday, May 21, the Friends of the Perkins Library donated 18 crates – hundreds of books – to the Middle School Media Center.

“Our ultimate purpose is to encourage reading,” said Rose Keen, president of the Friends of the Perkins Library.

The volunteer group sponsors used book sales throughout the year to raise money to support the library. Through sales of books that have been donated or culled from the Genesee District Library collections, the Friends have purchased new furniture, lighting and carpet.

The Friends also maintain the flower garden in front of the library, underwrite special library programs and sponsor Doris’ Popcorn Reading Club, which rewards children for reading.

Friends of the Perkins Library Secretary Mary Anne McCarthy, Treasurer Jan Elmore, and President Rose Keen help Middle School librarian Jessica Jewell and her husband, Mike, sort through the books. Keen’s niece and nephew, Faith and Cody Keen, also helped load crates of donated books. Photo by Lania Rocha

Friends of the Perkins Library Secretary Mary Anne McCarthy, Treasurer Jan Elmore, and President Rose Keen help Middle School librarian Jessica Jewell and her husband, Mike, sort through the books. Keen’s niece and nephew, Faith and Cody Keen, also helped load crates of donated books. Photo by Lania Rocha

But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Friends canceled their book sales for the rest of the year.

“We were not going to put our customer base, or ourselves, in jeopardy,” Keen said.

Still, they wanted to continue to do what they could to nurture the love of reading they all share.

“I had been talking with (fellow Friends volunteer and city Councilman) Dennis Cramer about doing a bookmobile,” Keen said. “But then the state shut down.”

On Wednesdays, Keen picks up food at Elms Road Elementary school, where she noticed the little lending library outside, and it inspired her to reach out to the district and offer to donate many of the tomes held in storage.

“What a wonderful gesture,” said Jewell. “I’m extremely excited about this. It’s just so amazing.”

Jewell said she and other Middle School staff will disinfect the books. Some will go to the library shelves, and others will be set aside as incentives to encourage students to reach their reading goals. Four crates of children’s books will go to the Elms Road school library.

Jewell usually has about $2,000 to buy new books annually. State and local education leaders have said the pandemic will have a significant impact on funding for the 2020- 21 school year. That means the district may not have the budget for new library books.

That’s not good news, especially for a school where many students seem to enjoy reading, and often take the initiative to learn more about the subjects they’re discussing in the classroom.

“Although we do not know what the fall school year will look like, we will have plenty of books for our students to read,” Jewell said. “Thank you to the Friends of the Perkins Library for such a generous donation.”