Lincoln Avenue School students show Target officials what they want in a library. Photo by Patti WenzelImagine designing a school library. What would you put in it?  Cozy easy chairs to curl up in while reading a favorite Nancy Drew? A large screen projection TV to watch educational videos? Bright colors, more books or a nicer desk for your librarian?

This was an exercise that 20 Lincoln Avenue Elementary School second graders completed after they learned their school was one of 32 nationwide that would receive a complete library makeover, courtesy of the Heart of America Foundation andTarget Corporation.

Librarian Lewandowski and Principal Janine Graber spent much of the last year preparing the application to make over the basement library, no bigger than a master bedroom, into a modern and functional learning center for the school’s 621 students.

Oak Creek Target team leader Tony White had the honor of telling the students that their schools had won the makeover. The project will begin when the school year ends, as 200 employees from local Target stores; the Heart of America Foundation and Langford Construction descend on the library and transform the space.

In addition to a fresh coat of paint, the library will be completely redesigned within its existing footprint, and receive new furniture, shelving, carpeting, technology and 2,000 new books.

“The current shelves are not designed for elementary books,” Lewandowski said. “They weren’t made for picture books. I’m also hoping to mount a flat screen and simply just clean up the aesthetics in the room.”

Heart of America Foundation staffer Karla Mae involved the students in the design and layout of their new library. With paper and crayons at the ready, Mae had the students close their eyes and imagine how their new library would look. After visualizing it, they drew their dream libraries with some containing turtle and cow shaped seating, plenty of flowers, soft rugs and more than one wide-screen TV.

When the new and improved library opens in October, each student will receive seven books to take home and start their own libraries. Cheers and hollers came from the kids, excited by the prospect of having books of their very own.

Lincoln Elementary was one of three Milwaukee Public School finalists for the award. Hayes Bilingual Elementary and Maple Tree School were also considered. The Target School Library Makeover focuses on school where at least 65 percent of the children are considered low-income and the library is in need of new books, renovations, new technology or resources.

Lincoln met the criteria in spades, with 92 percent of its students receiving free or reduced lunches and a library that hasn’t been remodeled since 1976 and with average age of the books on the shelves between 11 and 20 years.

And while MPS is forced to cut librarians or close libraries in many of its schools to meet budget constraints, at least the students at Lincoln Elementary will have a fresh new facility to read and learn. Hopefully, the efforts of Heart of America and Target will not go to waste as the future of MPS unfolds.

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