For most of us in school libraries, this year’s back-to-school season is unsettling. My administrators have designated our high school library as a special education testing center, a place for overflow classroom students, and a computer distribution site. In order to fulfill social distancing requirements, they have no choice but to utilize the large spaces of libraries, gymnasiums, and cafeterias. Much of the concern is understandably centered around the students, who “will lose out whether they are in the buildings or not” (Yorio 2020). But school librarians, whose roles are no longer clearly defined, are worried about their jobs. Because of this, we’re challenged to find innovative ways to reach students and staff members.
In addition to my library duties, each day I teach a seventh-grade computer literacy class in a computer room. For the rest of the day I’m in the shool library. I’m lost without the onslaught of students browsing the stacks and coming to my desk to ask for help with homework, college essays, technology issues, and book selections. I miss walking around the room giving impromptu book talks and conversing with students about their lives and current events. I think longingly about the days when entire classes engaged in discussion after a presentation I gave about research or independent reading choices.
I’m doing my best to think of creative ways to keep busy, make use of my talents, and share the information I have with the school population. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
- Newsletter: I’ve continued my monthly newsletter, substituting the usual photos of readers and library patrons with digital book displays, articles, and other information.
- Hallway Book Display: We’re not allowed to put up any book displays in the library, but I’m lucky enough to have a glass display case in the hallway outside of our doors. I constructed a color-themed layout to brighten up the mood as people walk by.
- Reaching Out to Teachers and Department Heads: A large part of my job is collaborating with subject teachers for research projects, database lessons, reading motivation activities, and essay help. Since we’re not inviting any classes into our room, I’m actively reaching out to teachers and department heads, offering to help with research, writing, and anything else they may need through Zoom or e-mail.
- Work with the Counseling Office: Each year I help students brainstorm college essay ideas and work with them as they edit their final essays. Without library signs many students won’t know about my service. I sent an e-mail to the head of guidance reminding her that I’m here to help and asking her to relay the message to all the counselors.
- Digital Book Talks: I did a few of these during the quarantine and though they’re not easy to produce (at least not for me!), it’s helpful to have videos to share on the website until we can do in-person book talks again.
- Facilitating Safe Book Check-Outs: As we continue to discuss the procedures for checking out books to students and faculty members, the information keeps changing. I’ve been staying on top of the latest studies and working actively with district librarians and directors, working through the hurdles to ensure that we can successfully get our books into the school community. I’m also planning on making a libguide for students, showing them how to sign into their Follett Destiny account, browse the catalog, and put books on hold.
Yorio, Kara. 2020. “School Libraries Getting Repurposed in Reopening Plans.” School Library Journal (July 20). www.slj.com/?detailStory=school-libraries-getting-repurposed-in-reopening-plans-coronavirus-COVID-19.
Author: Karin Greenberg
Karin Greenberg is the librarian at Manhasset High School in Manhasset, New York. She is a former English teacher and writes book reviews for School Library Journal. In addition to reading, she enjoys animals, walking, hiking, and spending time with her family. Follow her book account on Instagram @bookswithkg.