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One of the most successful campaigns in the history of libraries actually. happened by chance, over an order of tofu pad thai. In May 2007, Lisa Layera Brunkan stopped by a Thai restaurant for lunch on her way back from teaching a yoga class at a nearby Air Force base in Spokane, WA. It was there that she picked up a copy of the weekly Inlander and saw a photograph of Ginny Pounds, the school librarian at Roosevelt Elementary, where Brunkan's daughter Isabel was a second grader. The accompanying story reported that Pounds, a 17-year teaching veteran, was about to have her hours slashed by the cash-strapped school district.
The news hit Brunkan hard. As a volunteer in the media center, she saw firsthand the difference Pounds made in students' lives. "The library is one place in the school that's dedicated to providing the skills that are so central to the modern age," says Brunkan. And without certified librarians heading them "our children were going to be riding an apple cart on the information highway."
Ten days later, Brunkan found herself testifying to the board of directors of the Spokane Public Schools. "I am here representing concerned citizens of Spokane who oppose any further cuts to librarians," she told them. "We cannot afford to cut our information specialist." But her words had no impact.
From that day on, Brunkan went from a concerned citizen to a grassroots activist. "It was a cause I couldn't ethically turn away from," explains Brunkan. But she had to act fast. In three months, the board would decide whether or not to halve the hours of 10 elementary school librarians to offset a $10.8 million budget shortfall. While the savings amounted to a measly $350,000, a drop in the bucket compared to the district's $293 million budget, it would be the third significant cut to Spokane's hard-pressed media centers over the span of four years.
So the former executive headhunter immediately reached out to Susan McBurney, whose son Owen was a classmate of Brunkan's seven-year-old son, Jack. Denette Hill came aboard a few weeks later, when Brunkan, a neighbor and friend, asked her to review the massive school budget to see if there was any wiggle room to avoid cutting the hours of the full-time librarians. "Lisa never misses an opportunity to recruit someone," says Hill, a CPA who at the time was in the middle of a yearlong hiatus from work.
And that's how the dynamic trio began: Brunkan, the great researcher with exceptional people skills, McBurney, the master organizer with a Ph.D. in linguistics, and Hill, the numbers lady with fantastic business acumen. "We were like a three-headed monster," says Brunkan. "Each of us brought a different …