School Librarians Make Sure Students Have Books During Closures

With schools closing across the country due to COVID-19, many school librarians are lifting checkout limits and sending students home with as many books as they want.

As more schools and districts across the county announced closings, school librarians are working hard to do what they do bestput books in kids' hands.

On Thursday, Captain Elementary School librarian Tom Bober tweeted that with the likelihood of an extended break, he "drastically" expanded the number of books each student could take home from his Missouri library and brought the entire student body through to checkout what they wanted. 

"The shelves are a mess," he tweeted along with pictures of smiling kids holding stacks of books, "but these kids have some great books going home."

Bober said they have been wiping down the books with district-approved cleansers for a week already but now he is working on a plan for sanitizing the books as they come back to R. M. Captain Elementary School.

"Our challenge now, when students come back, is a holding place for the potentially thousands of books we’ll have coming back in a single day," Bober said. "Prior to this past Thursday, we had only been dealing with 200-300 books a day which itself was a lot. I’m also thinking now about the pages in the books, which is not impacted by a wipe down of course, so the other option is a book quarantine for the recommended number of days given the best information we can find."

He was not alone. Social media showed something of a mission mentality on the part of librarians as educators, administrators, and students deal with this unprecedented situation and immediate, and, they hope, short-term school closings. Governors of Illinois, Ohio, New Mexico, Maryland, Oregon, and Michigan announced school closures statewide. The large urban districts in Atlanta, Austin, TX, Cleveland, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. will be shutdown, too. New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio was facing pressure to close the largest school district in the country, as well. 

Meanwhile, the governors in New Jersey and Kentucky have recommended that schools in their state close as well. On Friday, many local districts around the U.S. were notifying parents they would do just that.  

Tuscaloosa City Schools special programs director Andrew Maxey saw Bober's tweet and put public pressure on his district to do the same.

"This seems like a fantastic way to spend tomorrow," Maxey tweeted Thursday. "Can we lift check-out limits for one day? If everyone works together, I bet every kid could make it through the library. I'll personally help straighten your shelves if that's a barrier."

He was successful in making it happen at a few schools in the district.

Here's a sampling of what other librarians shared:

 

 

Author Phil Bildner, a former public school teacher, tweeted his support of the idea as well. 

Next comes mass remote learning, unchartered territory at this mass level. There are many issues to contend with including technology and attention spans. Some elementary school librarians are concerned about possible copyright violations of reading books aloud online, and a virtual storytime for younger kids was being made available from the Brooklyn Public Library. The library programming through the end of March, but announced it would be doing virtual storytimes on its Facebook page. 

Educators gathering ideas and resources, or those with information to share, can follow and contribute to #covid19lib and #remotelearnlib on Twitter for crowdsourcing with their peers.

 

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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