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        It's the very end of the year and my principal just handed me
something I'm trying to digest.  I am in a brand new school serving
k-8.  There were 850 students in the school this year.  Two days
before school is to be out and I still have some 80 books not
returned.  Since I have no book budget (no budget period) there is no
way to replace any of them.  The principal's solution (given as an
order) was "No kids will take books home next year."  I do have
mixed feelings on this.  On one hand, I'll watch my collection shrink.
Our student population is close to 90% poverty level or below and one
major problem is there are few parents or guardians who are paying
attention to the kids' library books, they have so many other things
more pressing to deal with.  On the other hand, how else will I have a
chance of getting these kids interested in reading?  So many are so
apathetic, or focused on TV, sports and Nintendo.  And one of our
middle school teachers pointed out, if the middle school kids take
books out to the classroom, there is no way to monitor them so that
they don't take them home.
         The principal did soften her "no home circulation" to say that a
letter will go home explaining the situation and parents who want
their kids to take out books will need to contact the school (and sign a
contract that they will be responsible for the books).  This may work
in that the parent has to take some initiative in order for the kid to
take out books.  (And the kids who need it the most probably wont
have access to it, to them that hath shall be given.)  But we had all
kids bring back signed letters from parents taking responsibility for
their kids' books this year, but getting hold of the parents and getting
them to actually pay for the missing books is a real difficult task,
usually impossible.  Maybe having the parents request home circ will
make a difference?
        Some of this has to do with overwhelmed teachers who didn't
stay on top of their class overdues, as two grade levels have one class
that is missing lots of books and another that got all their books back.
Some teachers take responsibility for getting the books back (calling
parents, etc) and some just send notes home which never get
answered.  Several teachers borrowed books from the library and
then lent them to the kids to take home (which subsequently got
lost).  I do not have a policy that staff pay for books they have lost,
but if the numbers of teacher books missing are high, I may have to
institute one.
        Can any netters in inner city schools tell me how you handle
any of these problems?  How do you get middle school kids to care
enough to bring back books?  We (illegally) threaten to withhold
report cards but the kids don't care about that.
        All help and advice greatly appreciated!

PS - How is LM_NET in the summer?  Do people take a break and come back in
the fall?  My last school day is July 1 (we had seven snow days).
Johanna Halbeisen, LMS                  We are confronted by
Rebecca M. Johnson School(k-8)          insurmountable opportunites.
Springfield, Massachusetts                              Pogo

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