Librarians are leading learning across the nation, in districts that have moved instruction and resources online in the wake of a global pandemic

Leading eLearning: A Future Ready Library opportunity

Librarians are leading learning across the nation, in districts that have moved instruction and resources online in the wake of a global pandemic

One of my colleagues is known for regularly reminding us that a crisis is a terrible opportunity to waste. The COVID-19 crisis has forced districts to redefine the manner in which they are delivering education.

In the best-case scenario, district leaders had a week to develop and roll out an eLearning strategy to students. Most teachers had a weekend to prep, and sent their students home without a defined plan or resources to help parents who became teachers overnight.

Related content: 10 reasons school librarians are more important than ever

Anyone who says they predicted the scenarios that have unfolded in the last four weeks in the United States and around the world over the past four months is being less than honest.

Developing an overnight plan for eLearning takes the best minds in a district working together in ways we might have previously thought impossible. At Follett, we’ve spent the last few weeks working with districts across the country and have witnessed the best from educators–like mobilizing to make sure students are fed, continue learning, and have the resources they need.

Yet, there is one (often underutilized) role within the education ecosystem that has the opportunity to emerge and be seen in the manner in which they’ve desired—as a leader. During this crisis, now’s the time for every district to sit up and take notice of the school librarian and their expertise.

Five years ago, Follett facilitated an opportunity for a group of library leaders to partner with the U.S. Department of Education and the Alliance for Excellent Education to design the Future Ready Library framework. As you look at the components of a Future Ready School, like robust infrastructure, a good librarian can help deliver robust infrastructure by “Ensuring Equitable Digital Access.”

In fact, nearly every edge of the wedge in the Future Ready Library framework describes ways in which a librarian can be a sought-after strategic partner as districts dive into eLearning:
• Cultivates Community Partnerships
• Invests Strategically in Digital Resources
• Ensures Equitable Digital Access
• Facilitates Professional Learning
• Curates Digital Resources and Tools
• Builds Instructional Partnerships
• Leads Beyond the Library

As schools and districts scramble to identify resources to share with parents and students, I’d encourage every media specialist and librarian who reads this article to use this as an opportunity to have a conversation with your principal. And every district leader researching eLearning resources should call your librarian.

This is a time of uncertainty and fear, but educators can have confidence in that many of the resources and tools you need, you already own, and chances are your librarian can help you uncover them and what they can do. Students can access eBooks, databases, and safe-search tools districts have already purchased. Even if you haven’t yet invested in eBooks, we’re seeing examples of schools getting creative, including those that offer drive-up library services where students place a print book on hold and come pick it up at the school so they have books at home.

In a world where the future is uncertain, it’s up to all of us to maximize the resources we have at our fingertips. Let’s use this crisis as an opportunity to maximize the content in the library your school has already purchased… and the person already on your payroll who can provide teachers, parents, and students with the right tools to navigate a new world.

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Britten Follett
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