PS 191 Principal Lauren Keville and a tiny student (too short to see!) cut the ribbon to new pop-up library.

By Joy Bergmann

Inspired by the dedication of its teachers, parents at The Museum Magnet School (PS 191) launched a drive to transform two drab rooms into a sparkling, 5,000-book library that opened to students on Friday.

“We’re beyond thrilled with the outpouring of generosity from the community,” said Principal Lauren Keville. “Our kids can’t wait to get in here to explore and curl up with a book.”

Inaugural storybook reading of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”

Previously, the school did not have a dedicated library and students relied on individual classroom collections. The school recently applied for and won $350,000 in funding for a library through Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal’s participatory budgeting contest. However, parents knew it might be a while before the actual project got underway.

Katie Miller, a Pre-K parent, and local PTA President Kajsa Reaves had an idea: Why wait? Could parents privately fund and stock a pop-up library in the interim?

Left to right: Parent volunteers Kajsa Reaves, Katie Miller, and Homera Zaman.

They could. And with the support of other District 3 schools, local private schools, volunteers from Muslim Volunteers for New York, area businesses and non-profits, they achieved their goal in a few short months.

“This library is the story of a community united,” said Homera Zaman, the library committee co-chair and a PS 191 parent. “The response was staggering.”

In one week, parents of Pre-K students gathered the funds for shelves and other elements. Another parent, architect Evan Mann, donated his design services. Next, teachers provided lists of books – posted online as an Amazon Wish List – and people from across the USA and Canada purchased the volumes for the school. Other area schools rallied their families to donate books and boxes poured in. Volunteers then spent weeks unpacking, labeling and alphabetizing the library in two collections: Pre-K through Grade 3 and Grades 4-8.

The library also features a cozy area called Ms. P’s Reading Corner, honoring Sharon Pavlovich, a beloved teacher and PS 191 advocate who died in 2015.

The school expects to expand and improve the library when the city monies arrive. “The project is funded, so the design and scoping phase can start right away,” said Helen Rosenthal.

Helen Rosenthal with members of the Muslim Volunteers for New York, who did much of the sorting and shelving for the new library.

NEWS, SCHOOLS | 9 comments | permalink
    1. dannyboy says:

      “This library is the story of a community united”


    2. Javed says:

      So proud of all this work.The grand parents contribution is behind the scene.
      Very well done by all of you.Also of MV4 NY
      contribution is so noticeable.

    3. Ms. Susannah says:

      So proud of my community! As a long time member of the Museum Magnet School I love that we could honor Ms. P by giving her a corner. She was a true learner and loved reading! Thank you to all of our Parents. Our library is wonderful!

    4. Citizen says:

      This is amazing. Congratulations on a job well done!

    5. ursus arctos says:

      Our neighborhood at its best.

      Congratulations and thanks to all involved.

    6. hshds says:

      Really really incredible story. Congratulations to the children at 191 who finally – like the other schools in the district have an actual library – something of a prerequisite in a school!

      I am hoping that this wonderful addition heralds a renaissance in thinking at PS191. Rather than spending the magnet money on tech and other pointless pursuits instead this shows that the basic elements of a school a) should no be overlooked and b) are achievable when the parents actually get together to make a difference in their kids educational experience.

      Hopefully this will inspire more PS191 parents to get involved and make the differences that matter to their children. No more acceptance of educational basics. No more parents saying its “ok” to not have a dedicated library. No more accepting of limits to those children. You CAN do it! Lets keep this momentum going and give those 191 children the school they deserve.

      Oh – and bring that fine library with you when you move to WEA!

    7. Jess says:

      Great, uplifting story. Go 191!

    8. soundman says:

      So glad to see what Principal Keville is doing. The previous principal seemed to feel that a traditional library was no longer necessary in the modern era — glad to see that that idea is now debunked. There is a place for technology — but not at the expense of traditional methods. Well done!

      Is the plan still on to move the school to a new building at the Riverside Center?

    9. Shirley Manske says:

      Congratulations to PS 191 for their hard work for a job well done. Evan great that you could help for your pre-K son Walker. So many students will be able to enjoy and expand their love of books/reading.