City Nearly Doubles Percentage of Kindergarteners with Library Cards

Cambridge Public LibraryDirector of Libraries Maria McCauley (back left) and Superintendent Kenneth Salim (back right) help kindergarteners at the Amigos School celebrate their new library cards. Photo courtesy of CPS / Bethany Versoy.

A new initiative to bring young children into the public libraries has upped the portion of kindergarteners with library cards from about 50 percent to 94 percent, according to the city.

For the first time, five-year-olds and their families have to opt out of receiving a library card rather than opt in. Just 37 out of 649 families opted out.

Director of Libraries Maria McCauley says she hopes the new system will help draw families that might not know about the library and its resources into the fold.

“The heart of it is to make sure that everyone has the availability of knowing about and using the public libraries, which are really for every single person in Cambridge,” she says. “It’s an equity, diversity, and inclusion question, and that’s something that’s a priority for the schools and it’s also a priority for the public libraries, to make sure that we reach out and are inclusive of everybody.”

The new procedure grew out of a challenge from the Urban Libraries Council to work with local schools to increase the number of library cards in the city, according to McCauley.

“We’re always looking for ways to provide resources and opportunities to enhance student literacy, among particularly our youngest students as they make the transition into the Cambridge Public Schools, and this partnership with the Cambridge Public Library is a really wonderful way to both share the library as a resource with our families, as well as really align and strengthen our efforts to teach our students early literacy skills,” Superintendent Kenneth Salim says.

City librarians are going into schools to dole out the newly minted cards, making a celebration out of the process.

“One of our librarians read a book and then she was talking to them about a library card, it’s just the enthusiasm,” McCauley says after distributing cards at the Amigos School on Thursday. “And then there was this library party at the library to celebrate everybody getting their library card, and they’re just so excited about it, it’s so cute.”