Corporate Community: City National Helps California School Libraries
Kuehner-Hebert, Katie, American Banker
California's school libraries are woefully short of books as a result of prolonged cuts in government spending, but at least one banking company in the state is trying to do something about it.
School libraries in the state average 11 books per student, far below the recommended 16 to 25 books, according to the California State Library. Moreover, many California school libraries are stocked with outdated books -- such as a circa-1950 book that teaches kids about computers that require "miles of wiring," or one that informs young women about seven occupations open to them, including airline stewardess, beautician, and ballet dancer.
So last year the $12.4 billion-asset City National Corp. in Los Angeles launched a "Reading Is the Way Up" program to supply new books to school libraries statewide. The company has given more than $200,000 to libraries, as well as more than 7,000 books collected in branch book drives.
"California is the worst in the nation for the number of books per student, and that has a direct correlation on how well kids do in school," said Samantha Davies, a senior vice president at City National. "Corporations have got to step forward to help fund school libraries, because the money is not necessarily going to come from the state."
The company, the parent of City National Bank, has also adopted 10 elementary schools in low-income communities across the state, to which it has given at least 100 books each.
City National is working through the Governor's Book Fund, spearheaded by Gov. Gray Davis' wife, Sharon Davis. More than 200 companies have donated more than $750,000 to the fund, which has provided 50,000 books to California school libraries, said Hilary McLean, the fund's spokeswoman. …