Librarians Are the MVPs of This Back-To-School Season

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September is in full swing, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this back-to-school season is brand new territory: many students are staying home and learning online, while others are spending part of the week on campuses that have transformed to meet safety guidelines. School libraries may not be the busy hubs of activity they are in typical years, but librarians are still working hard to support the learning process while maintaining social distancing.

A recent survey from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) revealed that school librarians have been getting the word out about online library materials, teaching remote classes, and helping educators and families master digital meeting platforms like Zoom. Many are also hosting virtual library activities like storytimes, book clubs, and makerspaces.

School librarians have also found creative ways to safely distribute physical books to students, from curbside pick-up to classroom book carts. Texas’s Brushy Creek Elementary School, for example, is distributing five books each to all 800 of their students through curbside pick-up.

“We’re really trying to focus on giving them books that were their level, that will increase their reading speed and accuracy, and just for the parents to have something to really work on while the kids are at home,” librarian Laurie Kent told KXAN.

Staff at Virginia’s Shenandoah County Public Schools have teamed up to host an open-air pop-up library for students. Kids can place books on hold online, then stop by in-person to pick up and return the items they’ve reserved.

“Our kids are watching us, and how we handle this pandemic, and support one another sets the example for how they will handle other challenges in their lives,” Strasburg Mayor Brandy Boies told Northern Virginia Daily. “I am proud that Strasburg is setting a great example for the community through this partnership.”

Also in Virginia, the Montgomery County Public School district has gotten particularly creative to distribute books over the summer: they partnered with drone delivery service Wing to drop books off at students’ homes. Students could request a book online or ask librarian Kelly Passek to pick out a recommendation; Passek would then package the book and bring it to Wing to be flown to its recipients.

“We wanted to provide the resources that are needed for the students and we also wanted to provide free-choice options because that’s how our students become even stronger students,” Passek told New York Times. “Any way that we can get students to read is a win for us.”

How has your school library transformed during the pandemic? Email ilovelibraries@ala.org to let us know.

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