The school librarians in Georgetown ISD, Texas, have been hard at work these weeks supporting our students and our staff in every way we can. As central figures in a school building who work with multiple departments, school librarians are in a unique position to help many faculty with the tools and resources they need to get their students learning and engaging in these difficult times.
Our district was on spring break when the decision was made to close schools. However, many school librarians were already mentally preparing for that decision, making sure that students had extra books to check out in the days before spring break, and ensuring staff had access to resources they might need over the next few weeks. By the time our district made the official decision to close, I had already sent all of my staff a Padlet listing over 150 educational remote learning companies that were waiving fees and subscription costs. Over the next two weeks, my Padlet grew to 200 companies, with more being added every day.
With many of our students living in rural areas of our county, access to technology quickly became a major issue. Our students and teachers were ready to continue with their lessons, but how could we ensure that all our students would have the same access? Fortunately, Georgetown ISD quickly surveyed families as to their needs. During breakfast and lunch pick-ups, our school librarians and technology specialists distributed Chromebooks and WiFi hotspots to each family that signed up for one. We also distributed learning packets, and at Frost Elementary, librarian Denise Mozingo gave away over 75 paperback books to her students to keep at home.
Our digital learning coaches (DLCs) have been invaluable during this time. They have created and curated dozens of videos helping teachers learn how to create remote learning lessons, using Screencastify, utilizing their Google Classroom, creating assignments in Flipgrid, Quizzizz, and more. Our district used Eduphoria to post professional development opportunities for teachers, librarians, and digital learning coaches to go over some of the resources during Google Hangouts, and we had hundreds of staff members sign up to attend those sessions. Elementary school librarian JoAnne Smith at Pickett Elementary, worked with thecu DLCs to create a list of library resources, which were posted on our district website’s “Distance Learning” page for parents.
As teachers frantically try to find access to books, e-books, film clips, experiments, websites, and documents that would normally be in their curriculum guide, teachers in our buildings have turned to the school librarians for help finding resources that still fall under Fair Use and Copyright standards. While many publishers and authors have relaxed the requirements for using their works, as school librarians, we still want to honor the hard work of the creators, and we want to encourage faculty and students to use best practices during these trying times. Realizing that six minds are better than one, the secondary GISD librarians have created a shared Google spreadsheet listing each of the resources that we are recommending to teachers, along with their passwords and log-ins. This document will also aid us next year, when we determine which resources to spend our limited budget on, versus which resources proved less useful to educators.
With only one other high school librarian in my district to turn to for senior high questions, I have turned to the online community of school librarians to data-mine great ideas. When I’m not e-mailing back and forth with teachers in my own building and with the secondary librarians in my district, I endlessly scroll Library Twitter to see what new ideas some of my favorite librarians such as Library Girl (@jenniferlagarde) and TeenLibrarianToolbox (@tlt16) are suggesting. I’ve also found the Facebook group “School Librarians/Library Technicians” to be a huge help, with over 5,500 members (in fact, it was from this group that I got the original Google spreadsheet listing the remote educational resources, which became my Padlet).
As we forge ahead into week three of remote learning, the school librarians in my district are still going strong. In addition to finding and curating specific lessons in collaboration with teachers, we’re continuing the fun activities we are known for in our libraries. Head elementary librarian Janae Pierce got us all to pose (separately) for a message to our students. We’re playing Library Bingo with our students, with their favorite literary characters, as well as with our staff, with new and familiar web resources. We’re holding office hours, available through our websites and by e-mail link. Twice a week Susan Cooper, librarian at Georgetown High School, is hosting a Virtual Book Club open to staff and students. In short, every school librarian in my district is making sure that just like when school is physically in session, our staff and students can always count on their librarians.
Author: Deah Hester
Deah Hester works at Georgetown ISD in central Texas as a high school librarian. This is her seventh year as a librarian and her eighteenth year as an educator. She received her MLIS from University of North Texas