Concerns raised over empty library shelves at some Houston schools

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Not many books remain in Cullen Middle School library

Inside the libraries at Cullen Middle School and Jack Yates High School in Houston, good luck finding a great read.

Photos from inside the schools show empty shelves and few books.

Community activist Gerry Monroe took the pictures last week. Monroe said he was at Cullen Middle School for a conference. Lunch was held in the library. Monroe said the other participants couldn't believe the sight.

"At that point, they were like, 'Is this the library?' 'Yeah, this is the library.' 'Where are the books?' I don't know. This is the normal," said Monroe. "It's empty. It's flat-out empty."

Eyewitness News asked the Houston Independent School District for access into Cullen Middle School's library. The request was denied. HISD would not allow our cameras in for a tour of the facility.

HISD released the following statement to abc13 when asked for comment:

"All HISD middle schools recently were equipped with classroom libraries to provide more access to literary resources thanks to Literacy in the Middle, a district-wide initiative that aims to increase literacy among middle school students. HISD administrators are aware that some middle schools still need books to supplement their school libraries and are searching for ways to meet that need despite significant financial challenges resulting from the state's school finance system."

HISD Trustee Jolanda Jones spoke with us at length about the issue. She said she was made aware of the issue last Thursday and is working to fix it.

"I literally called the superintendent on his cell phone and said, 'We need to deal with this.' I also asked the principal, 'Why didn't you tell me?' We're working on the issue," said Jones. "It's the historically disadvantaged schools that don't have resources. It's sad. It makes me feel sad that things in HISD are not equitable. They're not equitable. There are a lot of things that aren't equitable not just library books. We have schools that doesn't have nurses. We have schools that don't have counselors."

Jones said with limited funding, schools often prioritize needs.

"The Yates principal said, 'Yes. We don't have books but right now we need projectors and calculators so we can teach our kids higher level math,'" said Jones.

Jones said HISD is working on a system to allow for book donations to help stock the shelves. Books must fit and aid the curriculum.
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