School Librarians Take the Lead During the Pandemic

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April is School Library Month—a time to recognize school libraries and librarians as information and technology experts in their schools and communities. Schools across the country are closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, but teaching and learning continues. School librarians are meeting the challenge in  innovative ways, keeping their learners and fellow teachers connected and engaged from afar. 

As schools transition to distance learning, librarians have played a key role in making sure the online materials, resources and tools needed by educators and students are readily available. In Dare County, North Carolina, school librarians worked to ensure every student in need of a Chromebook was able to borrow one starting during the first week of school closures. School librarians are also working closely with teachers to help them manage the technological challenges of transitioning to online learning. Dare County Schools librarians have also teamed up with the district’s technology staff to host webinars and offer professional development sessions to support teachers as they got the hang of remote instruction.

School librarians are finding creative ways to keep students excited about reading during these unprecedented times by promoting digital access to online materials like eBooks and audiobooks. Some have also found ways to safely disseminate physical books while maintaining social distancing: Blake Hopper—school librarian at Powell Valley Elementary School, Powell Valley Middle School, TNT Primary School, and Forge Ridge School in Tennessee—left boxes full of donated books outside his school buildings that students could take home.

Many school librarians have also hosted digital book clubs and other online programs to promote a culture of literacy in their communities. Erika Long, school librarian at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Nashville, Tennessee, has been hosting livestreams on Instagram in which different guests discuss books and the arts. Some school librarians have even hosted digital programs for the whole family: Manteo Middle School in North Carolina organized virtual trivia competitions and an upcoming family lip syncing night.

School libraries have long been an essential part of the learning environment. “School libraries are the heart of the school. Many times students and staff need a safe place. We are that place. We can offer them a place to read, create, study, or a place to just relax and take a moment to reflect,” Blake Hopper told I Love Libraries. “As school libraries evolve, it is becoming more apparent how important we are.”

Jennisen Lucas, District Librarian for Park County School District #6 in Wyoming, adds: “We live in an information economy, and our learners need to be well-versed in how to locate and use information. School librarians are experts at teaching others to engage with the information in an efficient and ethical manner. Information literacy is vital for our students to create our future.”

An easy way to support School Library Month in your community is simply spreading the word about why school libraries are so essential. “Members of the public can offer support by sharing the importance of libraries and librarians with anyone they meet and by advocating for funding for school library programs,” Chelsea Bradley, Media Coordinator at Nags Head Elementary School in North Carolina and AASL School Library Month 2020 Committee member, told I Love Libraries.

Erika Long adds: “Funding for school libraries across the country is an issue of inequity. Access to high-quality, current materials is not a privilege; it’s a right. In order for school libraries to see the gap in equitable funding begin to close, it will take community members helping to speak for this to make it happen.”

To learn more, visit the School Library Month webpage.