Former graduates use sweat and smarts to reopen Benton Harbor High School library


It's been years since any new books had been put on the shelves of the Benton Harbor High School library.

That's because it had been closed for two years.

Money struggles have kept the Benton Harbor High School library closed. The doors were locked with a chain.

But thanks to a former librarian and some friends, the library is back open.With a sparkly Tiger pin on her shirt, Enid Goldstein is a proud graduate from Benton Harbor High School."I don't know when...they did not have calendars back then," laughs Goldstein.When she and fellow alum, Tiffany Butzbaugh, also a retired librarian who spent 20 years running the St. Joseph High School student library, discovered their former school library was shut down, they went to work."We just rolled up our sleeves. We've been cleaning, tossing out the old books," Goldstein said.For a month, they scrubbed the tables and walls and sorted and then cleaned and organized some more, moving hundreds of books around.

"We thought, 'I don't know if we can do this,'" admits Butzbaugh.

But they did and without any money.They started by opening up just one day a week, but word spread. Volunteers came forward.

"Those of us who were born and raised in this community want to give back. They've knocked on my door, my phone is ringing, emails going, "What can I do?" explained Butzbaugh.

The shelves are now filled with donated books.They also have tutoring available and are starting a book club.

Students, like junior Mark McAfee, who has become a fan of science books, are thankful.

"I'm just excited and glad it's been open now," expressed McAfee.

Principal Tim Reese, who took over the school last October, says the district doesn't have any money to pay staff to run the library, so the volunteers are invaluable.

"It has made a major difference in our building, attitude with our students," said Reese.

When asked why Goldstein is spending her golden years stamping books and cleaning off shelves, she answered, "My roots are here, and this library helped me to succeed, and I think it's the least I can do to return the favor," she said smiling.

And after all the long hours and hard work, Butzbaugh says she'll never stand by and let the library again close.

"Over my dead cold dead body!" Butzbaugh says sternly.Volunteers staff the library Tuesday through Thursday during the school year, but it's open during school hours for students to use any time for self check-out.

It will be closed for the summer starting next week, but they are installing a drop box outside by the school marque where students can take a book and leave a book.

Recently, American Electric Power gave a $500 grant to the school for the volunteers to buy brand new books for the library.

And the district is looking for more help, because 4 out of the 5 elementary school libraries in the district are closed without money to pay for any staff to run them.

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