Elysian Valley school parents follow a DIY approach to reopen library

Principal Susan Schmidt reads to kindergarten class./Blaire Lennane

The reopening today of the library at Dorris Place Elementary resembled the reveal at the end of an HGTV home makeover  show, with students at the Elysian Valley school oohing and aahing as they gazed at murals of clouds hovering over book shelves and a tree, fashioned from cardboard tubes and artificial leaves, spreading its branches across a corner of the room. “Can I sit under the tree,” said one student as his classmates gathered under the branches for a reading in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday. The fabricated tree and the reopening of the library, which had been shuttered last year by budget cuts, was orchestrated by a new group of school parents and supporters – Partners of Dorris – that made restoring the library its first priority. Not only did the parents and volunteers redecorate the library and arranged for donated furnishings and materials, members of the group underwent training to help staff the library and keep it open.

The library closure was “unacceptable to our young students, especially when they are at such a crucial stage in their learning process,” said Blaire Lennane, President of the nonprofit support group. “Developing a love for reading during these formative years is essential to the success of each of their futures.”

Unlike nearby Atwater Elementary, which launched a fundraiser to rehire a library aide, Lennane said her fledgling group was not in a position to raise the estimated $15,000 needed to pay the salary of a library aide. Instead, Lennane and her fellow volunteers decided a Do-It-Yourself approach was more practical to get the Dorris library up and running again.  Crate & Barrel donated furniture, Home Depot provided supplied paint, Mission Renaissance Art School provided volunteer painters, and a former Disneyland Imagineer and current designer/3D model maker helped spruce up the functional but bland library interior.

Lennane, who approached parent support groups at Ivanhoe Elementary and Mt. Washington Elementary for advice, said Partners for Dorris is also busy with fundraisers to buy musical equipment, hire a physical education teacher and establish a community park next door to the school. Parents or residents who want to volunteer or  help the group can contact Lennane at [email protected]


  1. What an inspiring story! It is amazing what people who truly want what is best for their children can accomplish. The parents are to be commended, as well as the businesses who donated.

  2. What a story! I love hearing that great things can happen when people truly care about a good cause!

  3. Craig Hollinger

    Way to go Blaire. Given the state of education and cutbacks going on all over the country our schools and young people are really suffering. All it takes it one person to take it on as a mission and enroll other parents who want to make a difference but don’t know how. This project needs to be set up as a roll model for other schools all over the nation. If kids don’t learn to read in the primary grades our schools are just bound to continuing to decline. If people don’t want to vote to raise the tax base to support education for kids or to allow for government bonds to be issued then we have to encourage others to find ways to make a difference and not make it an additional burden for the teachers. Too many parents set and blame the schools and teachers for not helping their kid to excel. Most of them are doing the very best they can but if parents can find ways to partner with the schools and support them in their mission it gives the teachers new found energy to go on with what they can do so well.

    Kudos to you Blaire and all the others you have been able to partner in to make a difference with our Young People!

  4. What an inspiring story to know the many parents and volunteers are out there doing great things to enhance the library which is a major component for continuing education for the future of Dorris Place Elementary students. You go Blair and parents, continue success in getting many more sponsors and dollars to keep this beautiful library open for the students always!

  5. Well done Blaire and the enlightened parents of Dorris Place Elementary! It is worth remembering that a partnership of an effective and flexible school administration and a dedicated group of parents can have such a positive impact in a community.

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