This is a multiple post series. In Part 1, I gave an overview of what my school has been doing during COVID and how my library’s physical space has adapted. In this post, I’ll be sharing about programs I’ve done to encourage reading, plus collaborations with teachers. For Part 3, I’ll share how we’ve adapted our makerspace activities to make them work in our current environment.
COVID Library – Bringing Books to My Students
As I mentioned in my previous post on how my library has adapted to COVID, there’s pretty limited access to the physical collection in our space. Students will come by to browse afterschool and sometimes before and in-between classes, but that’s about it. But that doesn’t mean they’re not reading. With access to the library limited, I’ve been working on other ways to get books into the hands of students.
We started up a Sora eBook and audiobook collection last spring. This had actually been in the works since before the pandemic started. I’ve spent about half of my book budget this year on eBooks and audiobooks. At the beginning of the school year, I visited every middle school language arts class to talk about our Sunshine State Young Readers program, Battle of the Books, how to use the catalog and how to access our Sora eBooks collection.
My middle schoolers have embraced Sora and I’ve seen consistent growth in the number of students using it to checkout books and audiobooks. This has been an incredibly effective way to get books into the hands of my students. They only have access to the physical library space two days a week, but our eBooks are available 24/7.
I’ve also been trying to find creative ways to get physical books into my students hands during the two days a week each student is on campus. Focusing again on the middle school, I bring a cart full of books down to the hubs (where the middle school classrooms are) each day. Originally this was during lunch, but since most students eat outside on the field now, I’ve switched to the transition between 1st and 2nd period. (This was based on input from a student survey).
I have all the Sunshine State Young Readers Award books (our state awards program) on the cart. I’ve also got a selection of new releases, graphic novels and popular titles. I bought a mobile scanner from Follett (they no longer stock the one I have, but this one is comparable). With my laptop and the scanner, students can checkout and return books at the cart.
I also started up a classroom holds delivery we call UberReads. When a student places a hold on a book in Destiny, I pull the book and deliver it to their classroom on their next in-person day. While I’m not seeing a huge spike in checkouts from all this (usually a handful of checkouts per day) it’s given me a great opportunity to get to know my students and have conversations with them about books and what they’re interested in.
Reach out to teachers, visit classes
I mentioned earlier that I visited every single middle school language arts class at the beginning of the year. Twice, since we have two cohorts of students, then twice again at the start of the new quarter. I’ve also been trying to work with as many teachers as possible, supporting their curriculum.
I’ve worked with multiple departments to select eBooks for research projects since students have limited access to physical books. Digital reference was a long term goal of mine for research resources, so the pandemic has helped to speed that up. I’ve worked with students from 6th grade all the way to seniors, both in classes and one-on-one (sometimes in person, sometimes via Zoom) to help them find resources, refine their research, and cite things properly. While it’s a little more challenging to schedule things this year, I’ve found that I’m working more with classes and individual students this year than I do in a traditional year.
With conferences going online and large blocks of time where I’m not working with students, I’ve been able to pursue more professional development. I’ve been signing up for webinars specifically focused on skills and programs I use with classes and for everyday library management. There’s been focused time working on polishing up my Follett Destiny catalog. I’ve been getting more skilled at how to teach students Gale Students in Context. I’ve read book reviews and worked on potential book order lists for the future. I’m currently taking Library Journal’s course on Fostering an Antiracist Library Culture. This year has been a great time to really work on myself professionally and prepare to hit the ground running once things go back to “normal”.
What are some creative solutions you’ve found for getting books into the hands of students this year? Have you been able to take advantage of virtual PD?