Librarians become go-to resource during school closures

Dive Brief:

  • School librarians’ roles have been evolving for years, but now they’ve become the go-to resource for innovative ideas and new distance learning technology, District Administration reports.
  • Shannon McClintock Miller, district teacher librarian and director of innovation at Van Meter Community School District in Iowa, gives presentations on these changes and also administers the 26,000-member Facebook group Future Ready Librarians, giving others in the field a chance to connect and share best practices. In her district — where all 1,000 K-12 students have devices — librarians have been instrumental in helping students and teachers use technology.
  • Miller also touts the Destiny Discover management system, which connects students to books, audio books and ebooks. The platform also allows librarians to embed databases, digital tools and other resources so students have easy access.

Dive Insight:

As of October, only 17% of district libraries were fully operational at the beginning of the year, a fact that throws another wrinkle in the role librarians play in schools. In some schools, libraries were converted to additional classroom space to increase social distancing. Ever adapting, librarians were left to provide services through carts and online platforms.

When most of the country’s schools closed in the spring, librarians also stepped up efforts to curate books for their homebound students. Julia Torres, a teacher librarian with Denver Public Schools in Colorado, told Education Dive audiobooks can be just as valuable as physical books, expanding access for all learners and allowing students to read along, just as they do when teachers read to them.

Even before the pandemic, librarians were often tasked with supporting teachers with online learning platforms. They are often included in department meetings so they can keep their fingers on the pulse of school initiatives and curriculum. Librarians also help teachers update lesson plans to make the most of evolving online learning platforms and to increase student engagement when using tech tools.

At the end of the 2019-20 school year, Nina Livingston, librarian at North Shore Middle School on Long Island, New York, made it her mission to get hardcover books in the hands of her students before summer break. With $5,000 in funds from the school’s teacher-parent organization, she allowed students to select one of a handful of titles and found a local independent book store to fill the orders. Due to safety concerns, students were not able to check books out for the summer but by the end of June they each had their own hardcover summer reading book.

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