In September, the plan is to head back to in-person learning. Since I work with elementary students, the goal is to provide fewer transitions to different locations in the building. The homeroom class will be their cohort to help limit exposure. This means that the physical library space will not be in use, but that does not mean the instruction and access needs to stop. So after some reading, learning, and reflection about what this might look like it was time for me to figure out the best and safest way to make that happen.
My school is hoping to provide in-person learning as well as a family selected remote learning option. Additionally, they are planning for remote learning for all students if our school or state should need to. For the school library, this means that I will be traveling using a cart to classrooms where instruction will happen.
I have been going into classrooms using the push-in or embedded librarian model for years, but this year the library will be a part of the special rotation. This will allow for consistency and make it easier for families to transition from remote to in-person learning when needed. Therefore, I will have more classes on a fixed schedule then I have in the past. Students will receive library instruction once or twice during a seven-day rotation depending on the grade level. I will also continue to provide projects and reading support during the flexibly scheduled time. I am not sure how all of this will look, but I am working on that!
My school has used Canvas as its learning management system for several years. In order to help support those families that have chosen family selected remote learning all lessons will be posted there. This is where they have access to library resources as well. I plan to use the tools in Canvas more effectively this year in order to keep things simple and organized.
Connecting with Kids
I also plan to start a program called “The Buzz in the Library.” (Our school mascot is the yellowjacket.) This is modeled after a program by Melissa Thom called “Live in the Library” that I heard about while listening to the “School Librarians United” with Amy Hermon podcast. I am modifying her idea, but once a week each grade level will tune into a Zoom meeting with me from the library during a given time. I would share a read-aloud with younger students and book talks with older students. This would also be something the families at home could be a part of and a supplement to their scheduled library time.
Bringing Books to Kids
Our library will continue to provide access to its digital collection in any learning model. I also want students to still be able to check out print materials. Students will have an opportunity to check out books each week. Below are the basics of how I plan to do this. It should be mentioned that I am fortunate to have a bit of money to allow me to purchase what is needed to make this transition.
Since I will need to take the books to the students I have purchased two new book carts along with one of my current shelving carts. Here is an example from Demco. These are double-sided with six shelves each. Here is another option on Amazon that Shannon McClintock Miller shared in a recent blog post. There are 13 classes in preschool and kindergarten for the coming year, so this will allow each class to be assigned a shelf on the cart.
Each week the shelf will be filled with books that will be available for that class to choose from. When arriving at the classroom those books will be placed on a table and students will be able to choose from a book there. When the class is done, any remaining books will be placed back on the assigned shelf. These will then be placed in the return bin to be quarantined. I realize this limits the selection for students, so these books will be changed each week to provide variety.
With first grade students, I wanted to provide an opportunity for them to pick some books by topic. There have been several librarians sharing their book choice boards on social media, which I loved! However, I was trying to limit the amount of paper being used so I created a Google Form for students to make requests. This can be embedded directly into the library Canvas page. In this form, they can request topics they like to read about. Then I will pull books for them based on the chosen topics. This form will be filled out by students once per week and the books will be delivered to them during their scheduled library class.
Second and Third Grade:
With the other students, I will be teaching them how to put books on hold through Destiny. This will be one of the first lessons I teach with students instead of a traditional library orientation. These will be brought to their classroom once per week during their scheduled library class.
For those students who have chosen family selected remote learning, they will have access to a Google Form where they can request materials one per week. These would be made available to them in the main office for pick up.
If we should transition to remote learning for our entire school population, the hope is to provide a book drive-thru once per month depending on what is allowed.
In addition to the carts above, I have also purchased five wagons. They will be labeled for each day of the week. When books are returned they will be placed in the wagon for that day. Then that wagon will only be emptied and books checked in the following week. So Monday’s wagon will be filled with books on Monday and not be emptied until the following Monday. This way books are being quarantined for a week at a time and allow me to easily track when books can be safely handled.
This wagon can also be taken easily to classes around the school to collect books students have brought back. Our students are not going to be able to travel freely in the hallways, so I will want to pick up the books from them. This will also make it so teachers are not handling the books before being quarantined.
There are three main hallways in my school. Each hallway will be assigned a day where I collect books. If books are returned before that assigned day, they will be collected in a safe location in the classroom. This way I am not trying to get to everyone every day.
I will continue to communicate with the school community about what the library is providing to students. I created a graphic using Canva to help share what the library will be able to offer. This was shared with parents as part of the back-to-school information. Additionally, monthly newsletters will also allow parents to see that even though students are not using the physical library that their child can still receive the library instruction.
Sure I have concerns about this plan. Is it safe enough for my students and myself? Will I be able to pull materials that children will like? Is the workload beyond my ability? Yet, I think I have reached the point where I have to give it a try in order to see what is possible and what is not. This plan may last for one week, one month, or one semester. I know that this year I will need to be flexible and willing to accept the unknown. For now, this is my plan and we will pivot when needed so that learning and book access can continue in any form.
Hermon, A. 2020. “School Librarians United: Virtual Culture of Reading.” https://schoollibrariansunited.libsyn.com/virtual-culture-of-reading (accessed Aug. 5, 2020).
Miller, S. 2020. “We Are Putting Our Library on Wheels to Make BOOKHUB Deliveries, Promote Library Programming, Bring Fun, and More!” https://vanmeterlibraryvoice.blogspot.com/2020/07/we-are-putting-our-library-on-wheels-to.html (accessed Aug. 5, 2020).
Author: Kelly Hincks
I am the librarian at Detroit Country Day Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I have worked as a school librarian for the past eleven years. I was a classroom teacher for four years prior to that. I have worked in charter, public, and private schools. My favorite thing about being a school librarian is the opportunities I have to work both with students and teachers. I love the co-teaching opportunities and connections I have been able to make! I have served on AASL committees as a member and chair. I currently serve as secretary of my state association, Michigan Association of School Librarians (MASL).