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SILS, libraries join forces to support Build a Block

It has been more than a year since former student Megan Jones came up with the idea for what would become UNC Build a Block – an effort that by the end of the summer will result in 10 University employees moving into new homes.

But from the beginning, it had another objective: to enlist the support of the campus community to make it happen, and to create a more inclusive, closer community in the process.

While the entire campus has supported the project, the group that has come to be known as the Carolina Library Community has responded with incredible enthusiasm and unifying spirit, said Adwoa Asare, Build a Block coordinator with Habitat for Humanity of Orange County.

That group consists of staff members in the library system as well as faculty members and students in the School of Information and Library Science (SILS).

“What continues to impress me about the library group is their resilience and dedication to UNC Build a Block,” Asare said. “They assembled a very diverse leadership team from all areas of the library system and they rely heavily on teamwork to meet their fundraising goal. They still have a way to go to reach the $35,000 goal, but their enthusiasm and commitment have never wavered. The synergy they have created is the epitome of Build a Block.”

Library staffers and SILS students and faculty have joined forces to support UNC Build a Block, the project to build 10 homes for University employees in the Phoenix Place subdivision. Among the participants are (front row, from left) Alison Murray, Liz Garner and Christine Stachowicz; and (back row, from left) Tyler Dzuba, Karen Crowell and John Loy.

Ask members of the group why they stepped forward to raise $35,000, and the answer is something similar to: None of us knew what we were doing, but we wanted to try it anyway because we believed so much in this cause.

The group was enlisted by University Librarian Sarah Michalak and SILS Dean Gary Marchionini who, after hearing about Jones’ idea during a deans’ meeting last fall, thought it would be appropriate to join forces to respond.

“Libraries are built upon the principles of sharing information resources,” Marchionini said. “It was an easy decision to ask our library community to share time and treasure to help members of the UNC community who are in need of a home.”

Build Days at Phoenix Place, the subdivision in the Rogers Road community of Chapel Hill where the 10 homes are under construction, have brought together SILS students, faculty and staff along with library staff members and student employees.

Besides Marchionini, SILS faculty members Reagan Moore, Brad Hemminger, Brian Sturm and Arcot Rajasekar have spent time hammering nails and sawing wood at the construction site, while students Tyler Dzuba and Ashlee Edwards have helped with the coordination and website communication efforts, respectively.

Members of the UNC library staff have swung their share of hammers, and have stepped up to the plate in different ways, Michalak said.

Liz Garner, Alison Murray and Christine Stachowicz are part of a six-person team that enthusiastically embraced the challenge of raising funds and engaging the library’s staff of approximately 350. They readily acknowledge the teamwork that has let their group accomplish so much since coming together in January.

Stachowicz, head of e-resources and serials management at Davis Library, said she initially got involved because she wanted to form a build team. She had become interested in fundraising only after learning the project had too many volunteer workers and not enough cash.

Not only does the team work well together, each person brings a special skill, outlook or talent, they said.

Garner, a microforms and scanning coordinator at Davis, and Murray, office manager at Wilson Library’s North Carolina Collection, are two of the group’s idea people. Both women have pounded the pavement on Franklin Street soliciting gifts that could be used for various fundraisers, including an online auction planned for June.

John Loy, with the Southern Folklife Collection, joined Garner and Murray to make “Beach Bingo” night happen at Carrboro Century Center.

Karen Crowell, from the Health Sciences Library, saw an opportunity to sell snacks in the library on the last two days of spring break when the Friends Café was closed.

Her initiative and quick action brought in more than $300 for Build a Block.

Kate Barnhart, from the SILS library, has worked quietly behind the scenes, hammering out the logistics for contacting retired members of the community to invite their contributions.

Michalak said it has been wonderful to see the group’s efforts.

“Our staff have been generously giving time and money, raising funds in truly creative and successful ways, and really demonstrating the spirit that makes Carolina’s staff so exceptional,” she said.

As of last week, the group had raised $14,559, much of it coming from an ongoing “Four-Dollar Friday” event that Garner initiated to meet a challenge from Michalak to match her $1,000 contribution.

On two consecutive Fridays in February, they raised $1,077, Garner said, and it worked so well the collection jars have been put out every Friday since.

“I have people who are continually handing me checks for $4 and that is really neat to see,” she said. “So many people are doing what they can. They may be doing it in small chunks, but if they do it 10 times, that ends up giving $40. It is really encouraging to see people step forward like that.”

Up next: a cupcake walk planned in front of Davis Library on April 27 at 11 a.m. They may end up calling it “Calories for the Cause.”

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INSIDE THE PRINT EDITION: March 30, 2011

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TOP STORIES

* *Carolina hosts national innovation and entrepreneurship council meeting

* *Veteran faculty members Jan Boxill, Vin Steponaitis vie for faculty chair post

* *SILS, libraries join forces to support Build a Block

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