Laura Bush Announces Grants for School Libraries Damaged by Hurricanes

School libraries wiped out by hurricanes Katrina and Rita are getting grants worth $500,000 to help them rebuild, along with a rare magazine collection, first lady Laura Bush and media executives announced Wednesday.

Bush, a former librarian and public school teacher, announced the grants at Chalmette High School in St. Bernard Parish, where every building — including 15 schools — was flooded.

Seven public and private schools in Louisiana and three in Mississippi will receive the money from the Laura Bush Foundation's Gulf Coast Library Recovery Initiative.

"Rebuilt libraries will bring children back to their schools, and rebuilt schools will help bring families back to the revitalized Gulf Coast," Bush said at her second stop, Gorenflo Elementary in Biloxi, Miss.

Of 13,000 books in the library at Gorenflo, only seven could be salvaged after a 6-foot flood, said librarian Holman Hunt Jr. The school is not expected to reopen until January 2007.

"I can hardly talk without crying about it," he said. "It was such a beautiful library, and I was so proud of my collection."

Every school that gets a grant from the foundation also is getting magazines from Time Inc., chairman and CEO Ann Moore announced. Time also will provide books along with German media giant Bertelsmann AG.

At Chalmette High School, Moore brought tears to the eyes of school officials as she announced an unexpected gift — a full set of Life magazines, starting with the first issue on Nov. 23, 1936, to replace a set destroyed by Katrina.

"There's no amount of money you could put on that collection at this point. It's an unbelievable gift," principal Wayne Warner said.

"It made me cry," said Assistant Superintendent Beverly Lawrason.

In addition to the Life collection, Chalmette High's library will get $75,000 from the Laura Bush Foundation.

Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma damaged 25 public library systems in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.