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New School Library (by Aimee Wienstein)

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!00 Yen Stores
7 Day Itinerary
Baby customs
Culture: At the Shrine
Culture: Azelea Festival
Culture: Hagoita
Culture: Kabuki with kids
Culture: Moon Festival
Culture: Nihon Minka-En
Culture: Setsubun
Culture: Tori no Ichi
Decoded: BBQ Spots
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Decoded: Ordering Takeout
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New School Library
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Sports: Climbing Wall
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Struggle of sponsership
Terry Fox Run
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Tokyo Theatre for Children
Toy Museum
Yokohama: Anpanman Museum
Yokohama: Landmark Tower
Yokohama: Raumen Museum
Yokohama: Sea Paradise
Yokohama: Time Travel

The Journey for Learning

One School’s Story Of The Building Of Their Library

The books call invitingly to youngsters from the warm, wooden shelves. On the floor there are throw-rugs, cushions and a small, child-sized sofa. But make no mistake; this is not just a place for kids to relax or rest. This is a real, working library designed for children with love and attention by their parents and the school that they attend.

In the spring of 2004, seventeen dedicated mothers who had children attending the Montessori School of Tokyo (MST) met for the first time to discuss building a library in the newly expanding school. When we first went to look at the room proposed for the library, it was barely four walls; we had to imagine where some of the separations of rooms would be. Even though it seemed more fun to talk about colors, furniture and ordering books, there were more serious issues at hand. First of all, who was going to pay for the building of this library?

With the guidance of the chairperson, Jennifer Milazzo, the women of the library committee decided they would raise the necessary funds: 15 million Yen. The committee worked tirelessly, organizing a parents’ night out, a bake sale, and even a large cocktail party where everything, from the champagne to the food, to the music was donated by various people of the school community. It took about nine months, but within the year, the committee was able to furnish the room, order the books, and even buy a computer system that allowed the books to be scanned when checked out, just like a proper library should have.

One of the most interesting parts of the process involved setting up an organization to receive the donations. Many people, when faced with the prospect of a donation of money, worry about the possible tax implications of such a gift. We looked into incorporating the official parents’ group of the school into a non-profit organization. It turned out that meeting the criteria to incorporate that way proved to be very difficult, since an official non-profit organization (NPO) under the law must operate so that the general public benefits. Other laws regarding NPOs include the need to fall under one of their seventeen designated categories of charitable organization, which a parents’ group of a school does not.

Instead of straight NPO, however, we found a new designation that had only been available within the past year. It is called a Chukan Houjin, or middle entity. It is a structure that is set up for organizations such as alumni associations and parents’ groups. An article of incorporation was written and then submitted to the government registration office. For the initial setup, it cost the MST parents’ group about 200,000 yen. Although the chukan houjin is not a non-profit organization, the donations will not be taxed if the money is used within the fiscal year. We have to have a bank account, file the appropriate tax documents, and get an audit yearly.

It took approximately four months to get up and running as an official parents’ group and library committee, but it was done by the time school began in September, and we could get on to the fun stuff. Through our fundraising, we were able to buy soft furnishings such as cushions and overstuffed, mini couches. We bought the shelves and set them up according to the plans set by an architect, who also donated her services. The books were painstakingly ordered, registered with the computer system, and then lovingly placed on the shelves by our dedicated volunteers.

By the early spring of 2005, children were using the library regularly. It was absolutely thrilling to see children sitting on the floor or the furnishings and flipping through books before placing them back on the shelves. All of them have been instilled with a healthy respect for books.

Before school let out for the summer, the library committee held an official handover ceremony whereby the parents’ group and library committee handed control of the library over to the school officials. It had taken the better part of a year to create the library. We had many hurdles to overcome. In the future, we dream that our library will be used by other schools in the area so that all children can come together for the love of books and learning. But for now we are grateful - our hard work paid off. Setting up a non-profit organization and putting together a library took a lot of coordination by many people, but the result is a legacy to our children that will be there for many many years to come.