Libraries may be closed in many districts, but school librarians are using resourcefulness and determination to make sure students are reading, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How school librarians are getting creative in a pandemic

Libraries may be closed in many districts, but school librarians are using resourcefulness and determination to make sure students are reading

Leave it to a librarian to come up with an inventive makerspace-style solution: hang plastic shower curtains from the dollar store in front of the bookshelves to protect the books.

Other school librarians who have in-person instruction in their schools are wearing out their book carts as they wheel books from classroom to classroom to ensure students have materials they are excited about—even if they can’t visit their library in person. Massachusetts librarian Kerry Roche Ferguson said she decorated “a cart, aka ‘book bus,’ and [am] lugging it down two flights of stairs to the other end of the building to make checkout fun for the kids.”

For those with all-remote learning, taking their library online is a challenge—but is also rewarding.

“I’m creating a lot of digital content, which takes a long time but is pretty fun!” said California librarian Christine Jensen. “I just started doing unboxing videos when book shipments arrive and I read first chapters from four different books every week. I’m running four virtual book clubs and doing book talks in a way I never have before.”

Librarians are even thinking ahead by having students fill out surveys about the books they like to read, so if a student can’t be in school due to COVID, the librarian can easily select books to send home.

“We are trying to get physical library books in rotation, and are figuring out logistics and safety,” said Washington librarian Traci Plaster Chun. But in addition to getting physical books to students, Chun says librarians are also playing a greater role with families. “We have been supporting parents in this pandemic, which has been a shift. Teachers and parents are working so hard; I feel it’s my role to help make their jobs easier with tech, resources, eBooks, and whatever they need. We know our students, our curriculum, our teachers, and so it makes sense that we jump in. We can personalize for our families.”

To combat the COVID-slide, another district is strategizing how to get parents reading more and is planning a book club for Spanish-speaking parents.

For those “virtual librarians,” Future Ready Librarian spokesperson and Van Meter Community School District librarian Shannon McClintock Miller is hosting webinars to spark ideas and share best practices across the country because the reality is no one has done this before. But it’s an opportunity to define that future job description.

“I think the part of my job that has changed the most is the amount of collaboration I am doing with teachers, administrators and families,” Miller said. “I have always done a lot of collaboration, but now we are planning, creating and teaching together more than ever. And they are so open to all ideas I bring to the table—resources, technology, innovative ideas and projects. A wall has been taken down. It’s one of the best things.”

Whether in-person, hybrid or remote, one thing has not changed for school librarians is their desire to connect readers with books. While there’s no book with answers on how to be a librarian during a pandemic, there is resourceful community of peers who are eager to share ideas and solutions. And when school librarians collaborate, one thing is certain: we will figure it out together!

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Britten Follett
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