Wednesday, April 22, 2020

My Story about the Library During the Covid-19 Pandemic



I have been gearing myself up to writing a blog post for the last couple of weeks. I think that it is important for me to document now what I have been going through in the library because in a few years this will hopefully be just a faded memory. 

Email from the school district
(click to enlarge it)

On Friday, March 13th at about 1:15PM I opened an email from the district to see that our schools would be closed for a month. This is about the time that our high school students were finishing lunch, and I saw a strange excitement in the students outside the day at 2:40PM, so I had just over an hour to get kids into the library to check out books to take home. I sent an email to all teachers to let them know that I was open for business. Students kept coming in to check out books until the end of the day, and I kept loading them down with books. I have no clue how many I checked out that afternoon. Last week, I got an email from a student asking me how he could return his books. The other day I created this graphic to post on social media to let him know as well as all our other students that they could hold on to them. Thank you Shannon M. Miller for the idea from Van Meter Schools



When I posted the above graphic on the school's Facebook page, there were several parents who added comments. I was and am truly touched by what they said. Below are comments from three different parents.



Back to March and the early days of being at home. First, my email inboxes for all three of my email accounts and my social media accounts were being inundated with information from vendors, educators, and librarians about what you could do for free with your students due to the pandemic. It was so much noise that I kept running away from the screen. I couldn't handle it. I live in New Orleans and was working for Orleans Parish Schools during the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Many of the memories of that crisis kept flooding back to me. I became paralyzed with all the information and didn't really know how to help the teachers or the students. I would see so many posts from librarians seeming to accomplish things that sounded like climbing Mt. Everest to me. 

On the library website

Finally, I took some deep breaths and got it together to see what my priorities should be. First, it was wonderful that so many ed tech companies were offering free access to their paid subscription tools, but it takes time to learn new tools. I figured all my teachers were stressed out and weren't looking to add something new that they were not familiar with to their arsenal. I did start to collect some of the databases that were offering free access and shared those with teachers and students. The other thing that I tried to collect were ways to access books online for free. I figured reading and books was the direct milieu of the librarian. So I created a google doc to share with all my teachers and students with links to finding books online. Of course, this means that the students need access to a device to get the books which some of them don't have. Also, I know there are students who hate reading a book for pleasure on a screen, and I don't blame them. I like print books best myself. I created this document on Google because I could easily edit as needed without having to re-share it, but I could also keep it private to my school so that I could add the school specific passwords needed  to access the books. I also shared the links with the librarians in my district that I thought they could use with their students, but since I don't work with elementary students, I only listed ways to find books that were age appropriate for my school (6th-12th grade). I just needed to keep editing the noise, and that was an easy filter for me.

Looking at the calendar, I saw that my regularly scheduled meeting with my middle school book group, BRiMS, was set for March 25th. I offered to have a Zoom meeting with them to keep book group going through our time away from school. They jumped at the chance. Today was my fifth meeting with this group as we decided to meet weekly rather than our usual once a month. I have six members of the 30 that come every Wednesday. Meetings last 45 minutes and have been great ways to check in and share about books and how we are feeling. This has been as much for me as for them, and Wednesdays at 11AM are the highlight of my week. 

BRiMS meets on Zoom
I also have a high school book group, Bookmarked, which is meeting once a week. Though there are many members of this group including seniors who have been in book group with me since 6th grade, they are not as diligent about attending as the middle school. They want to attend only if their friends are attending too, and I get that. They are under a lot of stress, and book group is not on their minds. I do miss them, though. 

In past years, our school has celebrated the YALSA sponsored Teen Tech Week (TTW) every March. For 2019, YALSA changed its yearly celebrations. Instead of two with Teen Read Week in October and TTW in March, there would be one celebration that would be scheduled by a library some time during the month of October and be called, TeenTober. We did that in 2019, but I wanted to do something in March, too. I liked having two celebrations a year. I decided to call my special March event Batteries Not Included. It was originally scheduled to begin March 17th, and I have all the prizes, treats, and supplies in the library ready to go for this event. I regrouped once I was home and altered all the activities so that they could be held online for the week of April 6th. Okay, there wasn't enough participation, but I did try. The one event that was truly fun was our watch party on Zoom. For TTW every year, we always watched animated shorts to kick off the week, and I would show as many of the shorts nominated for an Academy Award as I could. This year we watched Hair Love which won the 2020 Academy Award as well as four other shorts that had received some type of award. I think the favorite video of day was Hair Love.

Here was another of our activities:

Book Face photos
I can tell you that if we had done book face pictures in the library, I would have dozens and dozens of pictures to share with you. It is an activity that is way more fun in person. 

Now, school is closed for the rest of the year. What I want to remember most about this time is that I tried to engage the library's stakeholders the best that I could while still keeping my own sanity. No, I am not the best librarian that I can be right now, but then, nobody is asking me to be that. I need to remind myself that the positive feedback that I have received from teachers, parents, and students means that I must be on the right track. 

Also, I am going to truly miss the class of 2020 and being able to send them off in the way that I would want to do so. There are 16 members of the class who are also members of my high school book group. I have gifts for all of them ready to go in my library. I will try to find a way to give them their gift, but it won't be the same without the senior awards night that we have for each class every year. 

We say that this is the new normal, but I hope this normal will end soon and that we will be able to start the 2020-21 year as we did this year with so much promise and so many things to look forward to. 

This is my new normal


















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