Building a library through creative means

MANISTEE — CASMAN Academy teacher Lynn Mertz is one of those educators who never stops thinking about ways she can help her students improve.

CASMAN teacher Lynn Mertz and students London O'Neil and Kevin Warren sort books that the school acquired for their library through an exchange program. Mertz heard of a book exchange in Traverse City that gives the opportunity to exchange books. CASMAN officials asked area schools and others in the community to donate books they no longer wanted to the project took the ones that were for younger students and exchanged them for ones of interest to their own students.

CASMAN teacher Lynn Mertz and students London O’Neil and Kevin Warren sort books that the school acquired for their library through an exchange program. Mertz heard of a book exchange in Traverse City that gives the opportunity to exchange books. CASMAN officials asked area schools and others in the community to donate books they no longer wanted to the project took the ones that were for younger students and exchanged them for ones of interest to their own students.

Mertz saw a real need to expand the collection of books at the CASMAN school library. However, tight budgets made it difficult to make a purchase of any consequence that would impact the students.

An opportunity presented itself where CASMAN was able to add to its book collection and do so at no cost to the school. It was a classic example of thinking outside the box to benefit students when Mertz discovered Blue Vase Book Exchange in Traverse City.

“I found it on Facebook and initially I wanted to go just for my family as it is nice to get new books that way,” said Mertz. “When we go there I was thinking about our school and how our library isn’t used that much. Although a lot of the students liked some of the books we have many of them aren’t into what we had to offer in library.”

Mertz said the CASMAN School Library is all donation based, and although they have been very grateful for the books they have in it, the kids weren’t just finding the type of genre they wanted to read.

“Since we are donation based we are kind of stuck with the whim of what gets donated to us,” said Mertz. “So I took what I know about the book exchange and started telling people we wanted to make it more accessible to the kids with something they really want to read.”

Many of the CASMAN student’s families don’t have lots of books and Mertz said the goal was to find books kids that age want to read. By reading more, she said it increases those skills and opens the door for their learning capabilities.

CASMAN officials including director Shelly VanVoorst began getting the word out that anyone who wanted to donate books they school would gladly welcome them. VanVoorst even asked the area school districts if they had some books they were looking to replace in their own libraries, that CASMAN would gladly accept them.

“It was a huge response from the schools in the area, and they were very supportive,” said VanVoorst. “It is really nice to have something like this happen where all these small communities work together in such a great way. We always talk about reading and how important it is, as it is important to everyone. So I think reading is something you can get behind no matter what school or community you are living in.”

Mertz said after VanVorst made the plea to the schools, it really got the books flowing to CASMAN.

“We started getting donations in and the books that were appropriate for kids our grade level were added to the library,” said Mertz.

However, those that weren’t appropriate were taken up to the book exchange where they could select something that was a better fit.

“They have new series, old series and I have got brand new books still in plastic packaging for only a dollar,” she said. “So we have been taking requests from our students and I go up with a list and look for those titles.”

Student Kevin Warren said he is pleased with having an expanded selection of books to read.

“It is great having new books because where I went to school before, they never got new books in,” he said. “I am glad that Mrs. Mertz is doing this so we can get some new books in to read.”

Fellow student London O’Neil looks forward to the addition of more books.

“There is a group of books I like called the Spiderwick Series,” said O’Neil. “We have got in some other books that I are really interested in reading, including something called the Shadow Fall series.”

Mertz said she likes to find the books that appeal to students in a series. Her reasoning is that if students start reading them, they often get hooked on them and keep on reading.

“It’s reading and it’s involved reading with complex plots, but most importantly they like it,” said Mertz.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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