Learning is hard when you don’t have the basic tools.
As summer was winding down, a regular patron at Aloha Community Library asked Katie Patterson, youth services librarian, about resources to help families get school supplies. Patterson couldn’t find anything in Aloha and didn’t want to assume that patrons were able to travel to Hillsboro or Beaverton to access supplies. Instead, she took matters into her own hands and spearheaded a school supply pop-up shop that benefitted more than 140 local kids.
Patterson compiled supply lists from school websites and solicited donations from the community, unsure of what would happen next. She posted on Facebook and Nextdoor, and created a wish list on Amazon. “The response was overwhelming. The community completely stepped up,” she says.
After the first successful week of collecting supplies, it was clear that the library would be able to host a pop-up shop rather than having to partner with another organization to distribute items. “It was important to give the kids the experience of shopping and choosing things themselves, which is why we wanted to do a free store,” she says.
The store opened on Saturday, September 4, welcoming many families who had never visited the library. Kids of all ages picked out backpacks, notebooks, pencils, rulers and more. They also had the opportunity to take home books that remained from the summer reading program. On their way out the door, students proudly showed off their new backpacks full of supplies and books. Meanwhile parents expressed heartfelt gratitude, and some shared that they did not know how they were going to afford school supplies this year.
“We fully believe in championing literacy and fighting information poverty through our collection, technology and programs. But that only goes so far,” says Terri Palmer, library director. “If someone does not have the basic tools to learn – school supplies, food, warm clothes, a safe clean place to gather and study – books and computers won’t have the same impact. When we discover a need, and we can’t find other remedies, we do all we can to take care of it. Our community is worth every bit of the effort.”
The library kept the store open for the rest of September for families to shop for supplies. The staff hope to make the school supply store an annual tradition.
Aloha Community Library (ACL) was created in 2012 to fill a physical gap in the county’s library services. Those without cars had to take at least two buses to reach the nearest library in a neighboring city. ACL is a nonprofit that relies on volunteers and donations.