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Ryan School Seeks Community Assistance to Open Library

Got time on Saturday? Come help sort and shelve books so kids can check them out

For many students, taking out a library book is a coveted opportunity, a chance to explore a topic or delve into a magical world. At the Ryan Elementary School, fifth and sixth graders have had the benefit of access to a library for many years thanks to a dedicated team of parent volunteers who’ve been running the space since the twenty-teens.

The McArdle library in the Ryan Elementary School houses over 15,000 books to serve the more than 500 students and staff in the building. A microcosm of the public library, the Ryan’s age-appropriate collection has been curated over the years using input from staff, the public library and book award lists.

However, as the school emerges from the pandemic, the availability of volunteers has changed.

“We used to have parent and senior citizen volunteers,” said Jen Burke, the parent volunteer currently managing the space. “We really need to weed the collection, get books on the shelves and get the library ready for students to start checking books out this school year.”

As more parents have gone back to work, it has been increasingly difficult for all types of groups to find help. Burke is spearheading a volunteer day on Saturday, Oct. 7 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is seeking the community’s help.

Burke, a library professional herself, is calling on the public to help get the space ready.

“We are going to have some help from staff at the Andover public library, and we’d like to have some Tewksbury parents come help,” said Burke, who works with parent Tiffany Troxel to schedule volunteer time.

Burke is also looking for ongoing assistance, such as a parent or two whose passion is decorating the space.

“We’ve got some bulletin boards and walls that are perfect for some reading-themed ideas,” said Burke. “Or maybe you can come one day a week after school and just shelve. That would be very helpful.”

Burke would love to see full or part-time staff manage the space as is the case at the Dewing, Heath Brook and Center Elementary Schools, but that is dependent on budget. And for now, volunteers are critical to keep the library open.

Tasks go beyond just checking out. Books need to be checked back in, shelved and maintained.

“Kids love graphic novels, and they are well-loved, but that means we have to do a lot of repairs,” said Burke. Maintaining inventory is another big job. While the school does provide supplies and helps fund new book purchases, staffing the space appropriately during the school day is critical.

A signup form has been created for this Saturday, with all ages welcome and volunteer hours available. Burke said that even an hour of time will be helpful. Residents can sign up here or come to the Ryan library at 135 Pleasant St. Burke said anyone interested in volunteering can also email her at

“The kids are so excited when they come into the library,” said Burke. “They love to read!”

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