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Donations to replace ruined library books pour into Rock Springs Elementary

Kingsport Times-News - 

KINGSPORT — Donations continue to flow into Rock Springs Elementary School, which lost more than 1,300 books valued at upwards of $20,000 when a sprinkler head burst, flooding the library last month. The school’s insurance policy has a $50,000 deductible on damages, which means no money to replace the library’s ruined books and cushions.

However, thanks to a growing list of book drives, a fast-food fundraiser and monetary donations, the Sullivan County school is on track to have all those books replaced by May, before the end of the school year, according to librarian Beth Geno.

“I just never dreamed that there would be such an outpouring of support from the community,” she said Friday morning in the library, which was flooded early on the morning of Feb. 8. She said metal shelving was easily salvaged but the cushions students sat on were ruined, as were all those books.

Geno said the $20,000 replacement cost of the books would be larger than the original purchase price. Most of the lost volumes were picture books for younger students. Although donations of all children’s books are accepted and will be put to use, she said the need is for hardback picture books and money to order new books. Her plan is to have the picture book collection back to its original level by the end of the school year.

“I’m going to be close to the $20,000,” Geno said, although with inflation she estimates the replacement cost likely will be closer to $25,000 plus the cost of the cushions. She had tracked the 1,359 ruined books through their bar codes and made a master list for ordering new copies, although she said some likely are out of print and will be difficult to obtain. In those cases, comparable titles will be ordered.

Donations are coming in from folks with a connection to the school, including parents and grandparents, from librarians at other schools and from the general public as well as various groups.

Donated paperbacks are not suitable for library use but are being used in classrooms by teachers and students and sometimes given to students, Geno said.

“Our need is for hardcover books. The paperbacks just don’t last in a library. 

“The library should be like the heart of the school,” Geno said, adding that the outpouring of community spirit shows a support for reading and literacy not just for Rock Springs but for the community at large.

 “People do care about books and literacy.”

During a Parent Teacher Association meeting Tuesday night at the school, the United We Read program of the United Way of Greater Kingsport is to present the school a check for $10,000, with another $2,500 coming from the South Community Chest and $1,000 from Eastman Credit Union, according to Geno and Rock Springs Principal Josh Davis.

In addition, at least four schools in the Kingsport system are supporting the Rock Springs library: Washington Elementary, through a fundraiser, and Jefferson Elementary, Sevier Middle and Dobyns-Bennett through book drives.

In addition, the Fairview community is having a book drive for the school, as is Brookdale Senior Living Solutions in Rock Springs.

“We’ve probably got over 800 books here,” Suzy Cloyd of Brookdale said. “We like to kind of sponsor Rock Springs Elementary.”

The Jefferson drive produced 723 books, which were delivered to Rock Springs last month. Jefferson librarian Kristy Williamson-Jackson said the book drive fit in with a Thirst Comes First campaign to help get wells dug for South Sudan communities in Africa.

“It was a great tie-in,” Williamson-Jacskon said. “Water can help and it also can hurt.”

Jefferson also got $200 in books donated to Rock Springs from Scholastic, which had a book fair at Rock Springs last week. 

The Jefferson effort, in turn, sparked the Sevier book drive, which ended Friday. Those books will arrive at Rock Springs this week, Sevier Principal Holly Flora said.

Geno said a fundraiser at five local Wendy’s on March 1 generated $3,000 as well as 100 books donated by customers. Moreover, the Greater Kingsport YMCA gave 50 books and the Greater Indian Springs Community Chest $690.

“We’ve asked for books that might be appropriate for an elementary school child,” Flora said of the effort led by the Sevier Student Council in a move to give back and make a difference. “We have a theme about being world-changing Warriors this year.” 

Also, Geno said, the Dollywood Foundation donated 104 books, and a retired librarian from Washington Elementary gave more than 100 picture books from her own collection. 

Book donations may be brought during regular school hours to Rock Springs Elementary, behind the Sullivan South High School campus. Checks with “library book fund” in the information line may be mailed to the school at 1238 Moreland Drive, Kingsport, TN 37664. For more information, call the school at (423) 354-1380 and ask for Geno or Davis.