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Library in Whitestone school receives new tomes, flat-screen

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Less than a year of diligent planning, fund-raising and elbow grease has transformed the library at PS 193 in Whitestone from a dingy meeting room into a cutting-edge media center.

The revamped library reopened last week with a new, fresh look, a new stock of books and a range of high-tech equipment to help students get the most out of their education.

In May, Vicki Benjamin, mother of a kindergartner and a fourth-grader, was attending a School Leadership Team meeting in what had once been the school’s library, which had fallen into disrepair and disuse ever since the school lost funding for a librarian about seven years ago.

She decided she was fed up, so she enlisted her mother-in-law, Harriet Benjamin, who was in the process of retiring from the Queens Library System, for expert help and the two of them recruited and formed a library committee at the school.

One of the parents who was instrumental in running the committee was PTA Co-President Harriet Demetriou, whose kindergartner and second-grader attend the school.

“It had been neglected, the books hadn’t been sorted, reference material was outdated, it was old, there were no nice TVs or media equipment. It was just dreary and old,” she said. “The library was pretty much untended for about seven years, so the parents stepped in and created a committee.

Bringing in a number of parents, and with the help of teachers, administrators and community leaders, the group made quick work of overhauling the library, demonstrating what a few dedicated individuals can achieve when they put their mind to it.

One key aspect of the effort is an ongoing fund-raising campaign called “The Giving Tree,” named for the classic Shel Silverstein children’s book. Anyone who contributed $35 to purchase books for the new library had their name printed out and posted on a leaf of a painted tree on the wall of the facility. So far, the drive has brought in $2,500 for materials, according to PTA Co-President and library committee member Athena Pappas.

Benjamin’s fourth-grade son, Michael, who enjoys books by Judy Blume and Lincoln Peirce´╗┐, said he is excited to use the new library.

“I like how the books are placed in letter-order and how Ms. Bartolini’s class’ art is up on the wall ´╗┐and the leaves with all the names of the people who helped with the library and I like that it just opened,” he said.

Last week’s ribbon-cutting drew a range of dignitaries and community leaders, including state Sen.-elect Tony Avella, representatives of the offices of state Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza (D-Bayside) and City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and George Isaakidis, owner of Harpell Chemists in Whitestone and this year’s “Principal for a Day” at the school. Isaakidis donated a flat-screen television and DVD player to the library.

A ribbon-cutting was held to celebrate the opening, then the school’s principal, Joyce Bush, thanked the library committee and spoke about the benefits the updated center would have for students and teachers.

“This means the library’s now alive again and the children can come in and get books for research projects and book reviews, and children will be able to take books for the classroom and for home,” Bush said.

Fund-raising continues for the library. To make a donation, call the school at 718-767-8810 or mail a check made out to the PS 193 PTA at the school, at 152-20 11th Ave.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 6:27 pm, October 10, 2011
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