The Good of Remote Learning for School Librarians

I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I never see another overly sentimental, cloying, pull-at-my-heartstrings commercial about COVID-19, it will be too soon.

Who knew car companies cared so much about us?

I don’t want to be cynical because then you might stop reading. But let’s be honest: things are terrible and may get worse. I don’t want to pretend everything is fine. It’s not, and I think it’s insulting to those suffering to act otherwise.

But what we can do is support our students, teachers, parents, and one another to learn as much as possible in this remote environment so that when we can stand next to one another again, we will be stellar professionals in-person and online.

Now You Know What You Don’t Know

For many of us, the switch to remote learning made our lack of technology skills all too apparent. When you interact with students in-person to recommend books, help with assignments, schedule events, and try and track down busy teachers for collaboration, having a website can seem like an afterthought. Now, your website is your school library. Your library website is your virtual space for access to e-books, curated resources, programming, and communication. Fortunately, it is easier and faster than ever to create a sleek, dynamic, easy-to-update site with Google, Wix, or WordPress. And with widgets–Forms, Wakelet, Smore, Twitter, Instagram, your library catalog–you can update, edit, and post new content without ever having to log into your site again.

Teachers Come to You

How many of us tried for years to collaborate with teachers, balance scheduling the library while working to attend classroom or department meetings, or sent out e-mails into the digital abyss? But now, as one librarian put it, “the barriers are gone.”

Teachers come to us for resource equivalents of their go-to subject-area sources; for interactive, digital learning ideas and tools; and most of all, for books (yes, e-books). They may not know you can’t get unlimited copies of a popular fiction title for free, and if you can’t, assigning books by theme or nonfiction is the way to go for class reads. They may not know every single vendor offering free content until June is not of equal quality. They may not recognize students can sign up for public library cards online to access thousands of books, databases, and excellent virtual programming. They may not know until they reach out to us, and now they do.

And of course, we know copyright too.

Passivity Is Not an Option

We can no longer wait around for people to come to us because they won’t online. So set up Google Classrooms and join the classes of teacher colleagues. Invite students to book clubs, gaming sessions, Zoom maker classes, contests, virtual tours. Support parents with literacy and technology resources and learn-at-home activities and ideas.

Think Long-Term

No one knows for sure what school will be like in the fall. But we know we have to plan for continued remote learning (may be longer for at-risk students and teachers). To that end, we have to think about:

  • How to do social distancing in shared spaces for classes and events;
  • How to do circulation (distribute to classrooms, retrieve student holds and deliver them, focus more on e-books, self-checkout);
  • Decide what blended-learning instruction and collaboration looks like; and
  • Advocate with vendors and districts for equitable access to resources for our students and schools.

How to Do More with Less

The good thing is, we’ve always done that, haven’t we?



Author: Leanne Ellis

I am a School Library Coordinator for the New York City Department of Education’s Department of Library Services. I plan and deliver workshops, provide on-site instructional and program support to school librarians, coordinate programs, administer grants, and am program coordinator for MyLibraryNYC, a program administered with our three public library systems.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Professional Development, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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