Above, murals adorn the walls of the library at Meyler Streeet Elementary school, encouraging students to read.

When Tikisha Harris arrived at Meyler Street Elementary School at the beginning of this school year, she gazed at the library, and one word came to mind. 

Outdated.

School Board Member Richard Vladovic presents a Heroes in Education Award to Tikisha Harris for her work in renovating the Meyler Street Elementary library.

The oldest novels were written in the 1950s. Tomes on technology were printed in the ’80s. And science publications still listed Pluto as a planet. 

“I wanted to see how we could update our collection to reflect what students are learning in class,” said Harris, the school’s teacher librarian. 

Now, 6,000 new books – including popular fiction, modern science and award-winning non-fiction – line the shelves. New furniture allows students to work in collaborative groups, and the library has a projector and screen. There are also murals decorating the walls, inspiring students to read.

Harris, who recently received a Heroes in Education Award for revamping the library, is credited for the dramatic turnaround and for bringing the students a joy of reading.

“This couldn’t have happened without her,” Assistant Principal Flora Obie said.

Upon arriving at the school, Harris’ goal was to raise the library’s standards to that of the 21st century, but there was no budget for it. She started searching for ideas, and came across Access Books, an organization whose mission is to provide quality, high-interest books to school, classroom and community libraries. Meyler was then partnered with the Water Buffalo Cluba charitable organization dedicated to fostering the well-being of under-served children in Los Angeles.

Access Books has serviced and renovated school libraries throughout L.A. Unified, and Harris applied to the group for help. She was overjoyed to receive the books, along with brand new tables and chairs, a ceiling mounted projector and electric screen.

Students and staff celebrate the renovation of the library with a Mardi Gras-style parade.

“These were some of  the resources we needed to make the library  a more instructional space,” Harris said.

There were enough books, from different genres, to not only resupply the school library, but to restock books in classroom libraries and for students to take some home as well. There are new popular fiction titles, a large number of books on science, animals, biographies and autobiographies of historical figures.

There are more award-winning titles than I’ve seen in other collections,” she said.  

The new library gives her an opportunity to bring books to life for students, connecting life to learning. For example, she had been teaching students about Trombone Shorty, a jazz musician from New Orleans. When the books arrived, she invited parents, students and community members to the library beautification service day. The walls were painted with murals, books were processed and sorted so that student could begin checking them out immediately. This event drew in about 100 helpers. After the work was done, they celebrated with a New Orleans-style lunch followed by a Mardi Gras parade around the school.  

Of the remade library, she said, “Hopefully, it will increase the desire that kids have for reading and lifelong learning.” She already believes this to be true, as kids have been coming to the library during recess, staying after school and coming before school to read. This was not happening before the remodel occurred. 

“We have an awesome book collection,” Harris said of the donated items. “Our library is amazing.”