So over the weekend I went back into that elementary school currently being scrapped, headed straight for the library and recovered another pile of books. Shining my flashlight on the shelves I realized that though I'd said the library was intact, in fact someone had gone through and removed most of the newer books. What remained on the shelves were books from the first 6o of the school's 80+ year history. Now I regularly scour thrift stores and used book stores for rare treasures like these; in my zeal I failed to notice the lack of newer books. So either the budget did not allow new books over the past 20 years, or someone moved the newer books to a different school four years ago when the school closed, or someone like me had already gone through and removed the newer books. I dislike the vast majority of kids' books published these days, so to me it felt like they left all the best ones. Others would certainly disagree. You can click on this image to get a big version to see just some of the books I salvaged:

There are enough terrifying Nixon-era children's books in there to sustain that blog feature for another year. I only took picture books that my four-year old would enjoy; there are still hundreds---maybe thousands---of books on the shelves of the library. I also took a set a wooden blocks from a classroom with an exterior window being used as an entrance/exit by the scrappers. I am concerned that the elements will quickly ruin everything in that classroom. But I made the mistake of letting the kid see them:

Also on this trip I took stock of what else remained. Since the last post I have located a non-profit community organization that would love and appreciate some of the items inside, particularly the high-quality Community Playthings wooden kitchen sets (stoves, sinks, refrigerators, washer/dryers), art supplies, books, furniture and computers. I hope to organize an effort to recover some of these items before they get ruined or scrapped. I've already received several e-mails and comments from some folks who went out and done a bit of this themselves over the weekend. If anyone in the area still wants to help, e-mail me ( I may also put some of the better books on eBay or etsy and donate ALL proceeds to the Georgia Street Community Garden. Mark just e-mailed me to say that due in part to the unsolicited generosity of Sweet Juniper readers, the garden was able to pay the fee to file the paperwork to become a 501(c)(3) non-profit, which will allow greater access to grants and allow donations to be tax-deductible.

I really appreciated all the nice things said in the comments to the last post, but I want to emphasize that I'm just an old vulture in this whole mess. Every day better people than me are working with the kids in this school district: teachers, social workers, volunteers, and even responsible administrators. But they too are victims of the overall system. I am of the same cynical belief of The Wire creator David Simon, who compares institutions like the public school system in Baltimore to Olympian gods in a Greek drama: unstoppable, unquestionable purveyors of tragedy. In Detroit, our institutions are more like a pantheon of even-crueler Scandinavian deities bent wholly towards the destruction of the human spirit, the limitless potential in each child. But even within these institutions, there is always some room for small human triumphs, and I want to commend those working within the system to do good. In the future, I hope to write more about the small triumphs amid all this tragedy.

Look at me. You people are going to turn me into some kind of community activist. Please stop me before I buy a pair of Birkenstocks.