The literature section of Melissa Jackson’s library at Ballou Senior High School had 63 books one morning last week, not enough to fill five small shelves. In the area marked “pure science,” there were 77 volumes.
This is not because the students at the Southeast Washington school had scoured the stacks and checked almost everything out. Ballou’s entire collection consists of 1,185 books, about one per kid. “What you see is what we have,” Jackson said. “Keep in mind, this is a high school. We should be flooded with books.” …
Jackson’s biggest challenge is the extraordinary shortage of books. Small, outdated collections plague virtually all D.C. public high school libraries, which are chronically underfunded. Only three of the city’s 16 regular and specialized high schools have library media centers that meet the the 11-to-1 ratio, said Pat Brown, director of library media services for D.C. schools, a position that was also empty for three years before she arrived in 2009.
Jackson did her own research when she took the Ballou job. Banneker, a selective, application-only high school with one-third of Ballou’s enrollment, has three times the number of library books. Spingarn High School, with half the number of students as Ballou, has double the book collection, Jackson said.