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Covid-19 Rocked My School Library ... Now what??

Holy Moly!! If anyone had told us back in January of 2020 that we would end the academic school year trying to "library" while quarantined in our homes, would we have believed them?? I most certainly wouldn't have!! But, friends, somehow with very little preparation, we did it!! I am NOT saying that I slayed it; however, I did it! And, I am sure that you absolutely did too.

Many of us were hoping and praying (even though deep in our hearts we knew better) that everything might normalize as we head back into the 2020-2021 school year. COVID-19 is laughing in our faces. Unfortunately, it is NOT done with us. And, now, educators everywhere are facing some of the most challenging days we have seen in our careers.

How do we as librarians build the heart center of the school when many of us are not even allowed to open our doors? How do we carry around a library on a cart as we go from room to room? How do we have engaging and meaningful relationships with our students and teachers if  our only interactions are digital and from a computer?

I wish that I had ALL of the answers! Honestly, I feel as if I have way more questions than I do answers. The best that I can do is to share with you what I have learned from last Spring's wild ride and what I plan on emphasizing as I go back to school this Fall (or some version of it)

KNOW YOUR STUFF WHEN IT COMES TO THE VIRUS AND YOUR LIBRARY MATERIALS  ⭐ If you haven't already been asked how you will disinfect your materials, you absolutely will be! Do your research on the virus. Know how to best keep you, your kids and their teachers safe. Be able to cite reputable sources and research when speaking to your administration. Go into the school year armed with facts and evidence! Here are three websites that I found extremely helpful ...
  1. Institute of Library and Media Services ~ Research Shows Virus Undetectable on Five Highly Circulated Library Materials After Three Days
  2. ALA ~Guidelines for Reopening Libraries During the COVID-19 Pandemic
  3. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions ~ COVID-19 and the Global Library Field
 RIGHT NOW, YOUR SCHOOL LIBRARY'S WEBSITE MAY BE THE BEST LEARNING COMMONS THAT YOU CAN ACHIEVE   I am sure that, just like me, one of the first things that you did was take a look at your less then remarkable website. (Okay, at least for me, it was less than remarkable! I had kept meaning to update it, but there just never seemed to be enough time.) You updated it with all of the FREE resources that you could find: ebooks, learning opportunities, databases, audiobooks. You might have even jumped onto the Bitmoji bandwagon. (I did. I am so much cuter in cartoon!)

That website is going to be just as important now ... if not more so! This year is going to be SO UNPREDICTABLE. Will we be open? on a cart? virtual? An updated and easily edited website will be your best friend. Just as your physical library used to be (and will return to), your website will become the new hub of digital learning. Make it the best that it can be!

Go back and update all of the links. Make sure that links are still free, relevant, and working. Spotlight your favorite books, resources and website. If kids cannot physically come into your space, communicate with them through your website! And, this year especially, it certainly should NOT be a stagnant repository of resources. It should be an evolving and dynamic document. Now, get to it!

 YOUR KIDS NEED TO SEE YOU! GET THAT VIDEO CAMERA ROLLING ⭐ Keeping it real here ... I was an epic failure at this for most of last Spring. First of all, I have really lousy internet (country living at its best), so joining Google Meets was challenging. And, honestly, I did NOT like the way that I looked on camera. I was so self conscious about my double chins, my crazy two-tone hair, well, all of it actually that I was reluctant to join meetings and to create videos with me in them. I worked like crazy behind the scenes, but I wasn't very visible.

BUT, after two months of isolation, I ventured out there. And what a difference that it made!! Not only for me, but for my kids. After joining a Google Meet or two, I realized how much that my kids needed to see me ... double chins, crazy hair and all!! So, if school goes virtual again, I am committing to creating videos of myself reading books (copyright approved of course), of sharing stories, and of teaching literacy skills. Here are three video recording tools that I have found easy to use ...

📹 Flipgrid
📹 Screencastify
📹 Screencast-o-matic

Now is the perfect time for you to create a few videos of you reading aloud!! If you make them now, you can have them on the back burner for when you need them. The School Library Journal put together a COVID-19 Publisher Information Directory. Just be super careful with that directory as it was created last Spring and much of the information may only be relevant to the end of the school year. However, there are links to publishing companies that you can use to dive deeper into their current policies.

 CREATE A SPACE FOR YOUR STUDENTS TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU  One of my biggest takeaways from last Spring's adventure was that being a librarian without a library and without kids is NOT my idea of fun! Honestly, the kids are the very best part of my job, and I missed them terribly. In retrospect, I wished that I had created more opportunities for us to interact online. Yes, I encouraged them to email me, and a few did! However, I found that if kids didn't have a pressing question, then I didn't hear from them. If I have to go back to distance learning, it WILL absolutely be different. I will create more opportunities for them to share and communicate with me.

It is my intention (because we are a Google School) to create a Google Classroom for the library. I am still working out the specifics of this in my mind. Will it be one for the whole school? One for primary and one for intermediate? One for each grade level? Not sure yet! But, there will be one. During our time at home, I was added on as a co-teacher to several Google Classrooms because we were working on projects, and I realized how easily that the kids were able to communicate with each other and with their teacher. I want that for my library!

And if you don't already have a FlipGrid account, it's time to look into it and get one! Flipgrid allows you to pose questions to kids, and then the kids respond with their own video messages. I definitely plan on using it this year (whether we are in person or digital). There are so many opportunities for kids to talk about books and to share their creations in a safe environment.

 SHARE AND LEARN FROM OTHER LIBRARIANS  As librarians, we have a truly unique role in our schools. We are "one-of-a-kind" and that can be isolating at times. We don't have the opportunity to walk across the hall and ask a colleague ... What are you going to do?

So, as we teach (and learn) from home, it is especially important for us to stay connected with other librarians!! These connections give us that chance to walk across the hall and ask a colleague! Here are a few websites that you need to checkout ...

💻 One of the places that I love to hangout (sometimes stalk quietly) is Cari White's, Learning Librarian Facebook Group. It's absolutely worth joining. There are tons of great discussions, insights, and ideas and NOT a lot of drama (ain't nobody got time for that).
💻 The Trapped Librarian has a post titled "Back to School in the Library During COVID-19". There are some great tips there!
I would also love to hear from you! Seriously ... send me an e-mail (sonya@librarypatch.com) with your questions, comments, and ideas.